An Update On the Possible Role of Hydrogen

Light-duty vehicles (namely cars and small trucks) are responsible for about half of the oil consumed in the US and about 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.   Virtually all of the analyses performed to date strongly suggest that we have no alternative but to virtually eliminate the use of petroleum for this segment of the transportation industry by mid-century.  There are only three technologies available to accomplish this objective, namely: (1) battery electric vehicles powered by a de-carbonized electrical grid , (2) hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, or (3) conventional internal combustion engines powered by biofuels.  There are significant engineering and implementation issues associated with each of these technologies.

A recent publication by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis entitled “The Hydrogen Transition” provides a very readable analysis of the issues surrounding a transition to large-scale use of hydrogen.  It examines the current status of hydrogen vehicle and infrastructure technologies as well as ongoing early commercialization efforts.

A somewhat more comprehensive analysis of all three alternative vehicle technologies can be found in a document published by the National Research Council in 2013 entitled, “Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels“.