Opinion: Let’s take a multi-pronged approach to clean transport – Autoblog -Dlight News

Opinion: Let's take a multi-pronged approach to clean transport - Autoblog

It’s clear that EVs are the way to a more climate-friendly fleet. It’s easier to name many brands that have a planned date to go all electric than brands that don’t. However, there are still some leg-pullers. Toyota, for example, has been slow to move away from reliance on internal combustion engines, and has received plenty of criticism for it. And some automakers have put hydrogen into the mix as an alternative to battery-electric vehicles. Less talked about, but now entering the spotlight thanks to entities like Porsche and Formula 1, is a carbon-neutral synthetic fuel. So what is the right path to take? Why not all of them? Battery electric vehicles certainly look like they’re at the forefront here, and with improvements in both range capabilities and the breadth of EV offerings now and on the horizon, I don’t expect that to change. They have already proven their efficiency as an easy and clean way to complete their daily driving duties. Although public charging infrastructure lags where it should be, it’s easy enough to live with an EV without relying on DC fast chargers, with home charging able to supply the vast majority of EV owners’ needs for most trips. It’s great for homeowner suburbanites and the few lucky apartment dwellers who have a parking space with charging access. But the best option for most people will not be the best option for all people. Many of us don’t have access to a charger at home. Urban environments where EVs operate most efficiently and where range limitations are less of a concern are also where residents have the hardest time charging during off-peak hours. Whether they’re parking in a communal space or, on the street, even less ideal for finding a plug, keeping a full battery requires more frequent use of that poor public infrastructure. Even those who take regular long drives, especially in rural areas, are left behind. Then there are those of us who just love the sound of the engine and the engagement of the clutch, some of us with cars older than ours in the garage, who probably feel abandoned by automakers who seem to want us to just buy one. Their new electric products make our hobbies and passions obsolete. Clockwise from top: GM’s Ultium battery pack; Porsche’s wind-powered e-fuel pilot plant; Bosch hydrogen electrolysis and storage rendering that’s where I find the e-fuel approach interesting, if not entirely promising. It’s easy to dismiss the idea given how quickly EVs are spreading. But it’s not just for the sanctity of the joy of propulsion by controlled explosion that organizations like Porsche are chasing. There are other benefits as well. At many gas stations around the world, the infrastructure for convenient dispensing is already in place. We don’t need to wait for the development of vehicles that can use synthetic fuel, because they already make up most of the things on the road. If automakers want to develop a carbon-neutral liquid fuel compatible with what’s already in your garage, what’s the worry? Even if you think it’s unlikely to succeed, it doesn’t hurt to let them take a shot at it (unless you’re a shareholder worried about the financial risk of such a venture). Finally, let’s talk about hydrogen. Clean hydrogen sounds like even more of a pipe dream. As it stands, it is not easy to produce cleanly. Although tailpipe emissions are only water vapor, hydrogen is currently produced mostly from fossil fuels. Sometimes it involves capturing and storing hydrogen (in which case the product is called “blue” hydrogen), and sometimes carbon is released into the atmosphere (“brown” and “gray” hydrogen, then, depending on whether it comes from coal). or natural gas, respectively). The cleanest “green” hydrogen is produced by electrolysis using renewable energy, which is still limited, and, at that point, why not just put the electricity into a car battery and cut out the middleman for efficiency’s sake? There are two parts to this answer. For one, hydrogen shows promise for transportation beyond the realm of passenger cars. With infrastructure fuel, it is well-suited to commercial transport, especially long-haul trucking, but has potential for industries such as aviation and shipping, where energy density and refueling time are more important. It can also be used in the production of those synthetic fuels that we talked about earlier. Second, in a future where renewables like wind and solar provide more of our energy, hydrogen provides a better long-term storage solution than batteries. Excess energy from these intermittent sources can be used to electrolyze water into hydrogen. From there, it can either be stored for later or transported to where it is needed. Whether it’s used in hydrogen-powered vehicles or stationary fuel cells, that extra energy can be harnessed in situations where batteries aren’t practical due to weight, temperature, storage duration or grid access. Of course, not every vehicle maker needs to follow every path, be it batteries, e-fuels or hydrogen. But I’m glad that despite the current prevailing wisdom that battery-electric vehicles will “win” over others, each of those strategies is in place across the industry. Pursuing alternatives helps future-proof the automotive and energy industries, casting a wider net for practical applications. And, yes, decades from now we can still fill up the gas tank in our classic cars and still hear the engine hum without the carbon footprint of the past.
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