“It does not naturally occur on Earth, so you either have to split water with electrolysis or crack hydrocarbons.”
Lithium in its pure form also doesn’t occur naturally on Earth, but Musk didn’t address the discrepancy.
Still, Musk’s statement is correct: hydrogen doesn’t occur naturally on Earth. So, while hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth, it must be split from other elements to obtain its pure form.
However, the Inflation Reduction Act, a tax and climate bill announced by Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Machin (D-W.Va.), could significantly reduce the price of producing green hydrogen in the United States.
That could help spur hydrogen vehicle interest, also called Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Green Energy CreditsThe $433 billion Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is not yet in effect. However, with support from previous hold-outs, Manchin, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), passage in the Senate is almost assured. Passage in the House is also likely given the Democratic majority.
If passed, the bill will give U.S. producers of “qualified clean hydrogen” tax credits of up to $3/kg for green hydrogen. That could bring the cost of producing green hydrogen below the price of producing blue or grey hydrogen and make U.S.-produced green hydrogen the cheapest in the world.
Competing ‘Green’ TechnologyElectric Vehicles (EVs) and FCEVs are “zero-emission” vehicles because they don’t produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the point of use. An EV doesn’t have exhaust from a tailpipe, and FCEVs emit water vapor and warm air, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).
Similar to an EV, FCEVs use electricity to power an electric motor. But instead of relying on stored energy in a battery, FCEVs produce electricity using a fuel cell powered by hydrogen. They can refuel in approximately four minutes.
“The greenhouse gas (GHG) implications of charging battery EVs with today’s power grid are serious. Since on average 52 percent of our electricity in the U.S. comes from coal, and since the grid efficiency is on the order of only 35 percent, GHGs would be much greater for EVs than for hydrogenpowered FCEVs, assuming that most hydrogen was made by reforming natural gas for the next decade or so,” reports the DOE.
However, a significant detractor of FCEVs is the cost of fueling.
Price Parity With GasolineA report from the California Energy Commission found that hydrogen must reach price parity with gasoline for FCEVs to take off. The information surfaced in 2020, and hydrogen has struggled with that goal. Accordingly, both Toyota’s Mirai and Hyundai’s Nexo failed to gain consumer traction, despite the billions invested in them.
Still, there are significant benefits to FCEVs, and countries like the United States, China, Japan, and Korea are building out their hydrogen refueling stations with the hopes of more demand, according to IEA.
Manchin’s support of the Inflation Reduction Act could help with the above if hydrogen prices decrease to acceptable consumer levels.