New Mexico regulators are considering adopting clean-car standards that require up to 10% of new cars sold in the state produce zero carbon emissions in 2025. So it makes sense that hydrogen fuel cells for powering trucks and vehicles are gaining renewed attention, particularly when considering that transportation accounts for about 40% of all U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Fuel cells provide all the benefits of electric power, including zero emissions from the tailpipe, and offer extended ranges and shorter refueling times, which is better for heavy trucks, trains and airplanes. A few technological challenges (e.g. refueling infrastructure) have hindered widespread adoption of this clean power source, but 40-plus years of research by New Mexico-based Los Alamos National Laboratory, with funding from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck consortium, is on track to solve them.
Collectively, long-haul trucks account for about a third of the GHG emissions from transportation. As a transitional step, converting the fleet to run on hydrogen produced from natural gas would slash those carbon emissions by 40%, and those emissions can be captured and permanently stored underground to reduce the emissions to near zero. Producing hydrogen from renewable energy would also reduce emissions to zero.
On the practical side, trucks run on regular routes, simplifying the initial build-out of hydrogen fuel stations. Those filling stations would make it easier for car drivers, as well, which would help develop the market in personal transportation.
“The durability technological problem stems from degradation of the platinum-coated membrane in the middle of a fuel cell. To address that, at Los Alamos we are developing materials to make fuel cells more viable for long-haul trucking. It’s part of our work as co-leader of the Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck consortium, which is aligned with DOE H2@Scale vision for clean and affordable hydrogen across multiple sectors in our economy,” said Rod Borup, Fuel Cells And Hydrogen Program Manager, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
New Mexico is in a great position to benefit from a hydrogen economy. In the short-term, natural gas facilities could be tapped to make hydrogen, keeping jobs in energy-producing communities. In the long term, the state’s abundant solar and wind resources can be harnessed to separate hydrogen from non-potable water, with no negative environmental impacts. Making this transition can help reverse global warming while building a strong, sustainable energy sector for the state’s economy.
Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory
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