Hydrogen — For Cars, No; For Steel, Yes

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The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland is Queensland’s peak automotive body, and I was both amazed and amused that there is an altercation going on in their “Your Say” section about hydrogen fueled cars. The first writer is pleased that the magazine is providing balance to the “hype” around electric cars — his next car will be a hybrid, then after that a car powered by hydrogen. Well, that gives them 15 years or so to get it right based on some industry forecasts. The second reader looks at the chemistry and physics involved and declares that there is a widespread misunderstanding of hydrogen’s properties. It will not be easy to make it work.

A Tesla owner recently quipped: “Two people I spoke to after being approached to chat about my T3 said they’re going to wait till the hydrogen cars come out. I wanted to tell them they weren’t young enough.”

I do not expect hydrogen to be a fuel widely used in passenger vehicles. It does, however, have its place — or places, and judging by the amounts of money being poured into research and development, industry thinks it has found those places.

Twiggy Forrest aims to produce 15 million tons of renewable energy hydrogen per year by 2030 and believes the green hydrogen industry could be worth 16 trillion dollars by 2050. The Queensland government is planning to unlock 23 billion dollars worth of wind and solar projects that will power a renewable Hydrogen Hub in the state. This will be exported through Dalrymple Bay near Mackay, a major coal exporting terminal, as part of a Renewable Energy Zone. Japan will prove be a thirsty customer.

Bluescope steel has signed up to the new zero-by-2050 pledge. As part of this, it is pivoting away from fossil fuels and towards green hydrogen to use in its steelmaking process. It already purchases its power from wind and solar sources, and in turn, supply steel for the production of renewable energy technology. It is looking for breakthrough technology and it looks like it has arrived, with Hybrit steel (a Swedish company) now supplying “green” steel to Volvo. 

“The goal is to deliver fossil-free steel to the market and demonstrate the technology on an industrial scale as early as 2026.” Hybrit says.

It is not hydrogen or batteries or wind or solar or geothermal or wave power. It is all of the above, and sometimes all of them at once.

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

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