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Come Clean, Part 7 - How Big a Role Will Hydrogen Play in Transportation?

When most people think about alternative fuels in the transportation sector, they think electric vehicles (EVs): Teslas, Mustang Mach-E’s, F-150 Lightnings, and other zero-to-60 stunners. EVs have certainly jumped to the fore among low-carbon options, but other possibilities may prove to be even better. One is hydrogen-fueled vehicles, which while posing a number of economic and logistical challenges, could eliminate the range anxiety associated with EVs — assuming that a robust, nationwide network of hydrogen fueling stations can be developed. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss hydrogen’s potential as a transportation fuel, including its infrastructure-related challenges and how it qualifies for credits under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

Over the past year, we’ve blogged extensively about low-carbon transportation fuel options as part of our “Come Clean” series. In Part 1, we took a big-picture look at how low-carbon fuel policies are changing the transportation sector. Then, in Part 2, we looked at California’s LCFS and why it matters. In Part 3, we looked at ethanol’s ability to cut gasoline’s carbon intensity, or CI. Part 4 examined whether biodiesel is a viable low-carbon fuel. Part 5 put the focus on renewable diesel’s sudden popularity. And in Part 6 we looked at sustainable aviation fuel’s ascending status. Today, we turn our attention to hydrogen, which has emerged as perhaps the highest-profile alternative to conventional, hydrocarbon-based fuels.

When you come down to it, there are two categories of energy demand: stationary sources and mobile ones. Stationary energy sources provide electricity and heat for homes, businesses, and industries while mobile sources are vehicles, ships, and aircraft that carry their fuel onboard. In both cases, the ideal energy is safe, clean, affordable, and easily supplied and stored. Transportation fuels have additional requirements because, as we said, the fuel must be carried within the vehicle, requiring the expenditure of energy just to move around the onboard weight of the fuel.

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