How GasNinjas could be the catalyst to an emissions-free future
Toyota, the world’s largest car manufacturer, published their “Environmental Challenge 2050” report last year to announce their plans to be emissions free by 2050. In fact, Toyota previously struck a deal with Tesla to produce an SUV battery electric vehicle (BEV), but the partnership fizzled out. Toyota has since shifted their focus away from battery electric vehicles to Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles (FCV). A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is simply an electric car, but instead of having a massive lithium-ion battery to store energy, it has a hydrogen storing gas tank (fuel cell).
Toyota recently launched the Mirai here in the United States — it is their first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Though, Toyota isn’t alone — Hyundai is offering the Tucson FCV, Honda has the Clarity FCV, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are also being developed by Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, Chevy, Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, GM, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Volkswagen… to name a few. There have been some groundbreaking developments in hydrogen fuel cell technology over the last few months that make producing zero-carbon hydrogen from solar energy (electrolysis) a possibility.
Electric vs. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles
Through electrolysis via solar energy (splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using solar), we can produce hydrogen without emitting any greenhouse gasses (GHGs), and reduce our dependency on oil/fossil fuels. Hydrogen, when burned, is a zero emissions fuel — the only byproducts are heat and water vapor. Fuel cells have a higher efficiency than gas and diesel engines, getting you further for less money, and the range is greater than most battery electric vehicles. Refueling your car with hydrogen takes only minutes, while fully charging your electric vehicle could take up to 8 hours.
Even though we have the omnipresent electrical grid infrastructure, the problem with battery electric vehicles is that we’re replacing our dependency on fossil fuels with a dependency on minerals; we need nickel and lithium to produce these very large batteries. Notwithstanding, the grid may not have sufficient capacity for everyone’s electric vehicles. According to BMW, “one hydrogen dispenser is capable of supporting 80,000km of travel a day, versus less than 6,000km for a quick-charge electric point”. Producing batteries get expensive, but what you won’t hear is that recycling a battery, once it no longer holds sufficient charge, can be 5x costlier than producing it in the first place. Not to mention, we might not even a sufficient amount of nickel and lithium to supply enough batteries for everyone! Tesla owners boast that their superchargers can yield a 50% charge in 20 minutes, but another thing you won’t hear is that the faster you charge a batter, the the faster the usable life of the battery is diminished.
The H2 Infrastructure Challenge
One of the main inhibitors for the future of hydrogen vehicles is the lack of infrastructure. Currently, we only have 20 fueling stations in America that offer hydrogen (they’re all in California). The cost to upgrade a fueling station to offer hydrogen can range from $500,000 to $5,000,000. Unfortunately, not many people will want to buy hydrogen cars if they can’t fill up easily. Recall the hesitation people had while considering a purchase of the first Tesla model when there was a lack of charging stations. Furthermore, if there is not enough demand for people to buy hydrogen vehicles, who will invest in building the multi-billion-dollar infrastructure required to sustain them?
This is why we at GasNinjas are investing in research & development to create mobile, hydrogen refueling vehicles. GasNinjas is an on-demand fuel delivery service with a focus on nighttime fueling. Most of our customers request overnight delivery; we’ll come by in the middle of the night to refuel their vehicle, and the customer wakes up in the morning to a full tank of gas. As real estate prices are going up, we’re losing more and more gas stations. We offer an alternative, more convenient way to fill up — while charging competitive prices (often lower) than your local gas stations.
With this new on-demand fueling model, having a network of mobile fueling vehicles can make alternative fuels more accessible. It would take much less time and resources to equip a fleet of vehicles with hydrogen fueling equipment, as opposed to converting enough fueling stations in one city to make hydrogen cars attractive. We could offer an equal or greater coverage area for hydrogen vehicles through an on-demand fueling model. We could build a robust hydrogen fueling infrastructure for a fraction of the cost required otherwise.
GasNinjas could be the biggest catalyst to a hydrogen-fueled future. We’ll explore this possibility with the assistance from government grants and incentives offered by the United States Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office. Also, we’ll explore potential partnerships with the auto manufacturers like Toyota, Hyundai and Honda to help get more hydrogen cars on the road. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is the most qualified competitor to electric, but each path to being emissions free may not be mutually exclusive. It is likely that we will see the use of both technologies, as each has different benefits in different situations.