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UKRAINE CRISIS COULD PIVOT THE WORLD TOWARDS HYDROGEN

There’s Opportunity In The Auto Industry For All This

GM EMPOWER Rapid Chargers

If there’s one thing that the ongoing crisis in Ukraine has made abundantly clear is that dependence on natural gas and foreign oil is folly if you’re incapable of sourcing your own production at home. That much is clear after a quick scan of news headlines coming out of Western Europe, natural gas prices have spiked some 60% in just a few short weeks. Germany, in particular, has been hit hard by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Europe’s largest economy is highly dependent on Russian gas–some sources claim Russia is responsible for roughly half of Germany’s current energy need. The German government is currently scrambling to alter its energy policy in order to safeguard national security. It’s possible this could open the door for hydrogen to gain a foothold in the larger energy market, which could prove to be a precursor to hydrogen playing a larger role in the future of transportation.

Wall Street investment bank, Goldman Sachs, believes hydrogen has the ability to turn into a trillion-dollar market in the future. Michele DellaVigna, the bank’s commodity equity business leader for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, told CNBC earlier this week “If we want to go to net-zero we can’t do it just through renewable power. We need something that takes today’s role of natural gas, especially to manage seasonality and intermittency, and that is hydrogen.” Goldman believes hydrogen could account for at least 15% of the global energy market in the future.

Germany had plans to phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022 while coal-fired power plants were due to shutter by 2030. In light of developments, Germany is quickly walking back some of those targets, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and economy minister Robert Habeck even going so far as to float the idea of keeping nuclear power plants running longer, along with mapping out plans to build two new Liquified Natural Gas terminals and increasing the country’s ability to stockpile LNG. The message is clear, Germany is aiming to reduce its reliance on Russian natural gas in a big way. Germany aims for wind and solar to account for 80 percent of power generation by 2030, but those are intermittent energy sources that still lack scaleable long-term storage solutions.

The Opportunity Play For Hydrogen Power

LNG is the least polluting natural gas and has long been considered a “bridge” fuel to net zero, but the dependence on Russian sources may have soured LNG’s future role and alternatives are being sought. According to Oilprice.comhydrogen is quickly becoming a part of the conversation due to its versatility. Hydrogen can be used as an energy carrier, fuel for transport, or used to generate electricity for heating.

The problem with hydrogen is current methods for producing green hydrogen involve using electrolysis, where an electric current splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. If the electricity used is from a renewable source like wind or solar it’s considered green. The other method is termed blue hydrogen and it’s produced using natural gas. C02 emissions are subsequently captured, but the process has been criticized by some as a play by the oil companies to remain relevant.

There are other methods being explored, in particular, Japan is leading the way as it makes big bets on hydrogen to secure its energy sovereignty in the future. A country with little to no hydrocarbon resources, Japan has had a national hydrogen strategy in place since 2017, but the country has been actively researching hydrogen technologies since the ’70s. The country has one of the largest green hydrogen plants in the world located in Fukushima, while the city of Fukuoka is the only place in the world working to create and capture hydrogen from household wastewater and sewage.

If the world begins large-scale investment into developing hydrogen infrastructure and refining existing technology when it comes to sourcing hydrogen but also being able to fuel combustion engines for ground and sea transport, it’s only logical that we start to see the trickle-down effects into the consumer market. And if that means we get more zero-emission 5.0L V8 engines, then let’s do it.

Hydrogen Yamaha Toyota V8 Engine

Written by Michael Accardi

Michael cannot sit still, and has held multiple hands-on automotive jobs through his life. Along with being an investigative writer, Michael has once wrenched on Fords as a dealership mechanic, as well as multi-million dollar boats. He also once help build a certain Canadian supercar. Currently, he's on the pit crew for a Toronto-based racing team.

3 Comments

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  1. Touting an inferior technology with a cost per mile that will make you think twice. Why not mention the costs? Tell me, what source of energy is used to produce hydrogen? Nonsense.

    • Hydrogen can be produced in several different manners. Sure there’s the traditional method derived from natural gas or the electrolysis method that most people love to yell about being inefficient. There are other methods that use the fermentation of organic matter like household waste, rotting garbage, or raw sewage. When it comes to hydrogen, why is H2 produced from natural gas any worse ideologically than charging your electric car with coal or gas fired electricity? Why are energy inputs creating H2 worse than energy required to create LiPF6 or other battery electrolytes required?

    • H2 can be created locally and consumed locally. Whereas battery electrolytes such as LiPF6 or other lithium metal oxides require shipping from South Korea or China on freighters powered by VLSFO, that’s before we mention the transport of lithium and other metals to battery manufacturing plants, which are then distributed to BEV manufacturing plants. The cost of the BEV is subsidized and the cost of public charging networks is subsidized. Munich increased the cost of public charging from 38 cents per kWh to 69 cents per kWh and people complained the cost advantage of BEVs was destroyed.

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