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The Evolution of Hydrogen: From the Big Bang to Fuel Cells

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It all started with a bang…the big bang!

The explosive power of hydrogen fueled a chain reaction that led to the world we have today.

Now this power is being deployed on Earth to supply the energy needs of tomorrow.

Visualizing the Power of Hydrogen

Today’s infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, and it outlines how hydrogen and fuel cell technology is harnessing the power of the universe to potentially fuel an energy revolution.

The Evolution of Hydrogen: From the Big Bang to Fuel Cells

What is Hydrogen, and How’s it Used?

With one proton and one electron, hydrogen sits at the very beginning of the periodic table.

Despite hydrogen being the most common molecule in the universe, it is rarely found in its elemental state here on Earth. In fact, almost all hydrogen on the planet is bonded to other elements and can only be released via chemical processes such as steam reforming or electrolysis.

There are five ways hydrogen is being used today:

  1. Building heat and power
  2. Energy storage and power generation
  3. Transportation
  4. Industry energy
  5. Industry feedstock

However, what really unleashes the power of hydrogen is fuel cell technology. A fuel cell converts the chemical power of hydrogen into electrical power.

Hydrogen Unleashed: The Fuel Cell

In the early 1960’s, NASA first deployed fuel cells to power the electrical components of the Gemini and Apollo space capsules. Since then, this technology has been deployed in everything from the vehicle you drive, the train you take, and how your favorite products are delivered to your doorstep.

Nations around the world are committing to build hydrogen fueling stations to meet the growth in adoption of fuel cell technology for transportation.

Hydrogen: A Green Energy Solution

Hydrogen fuel and fuel cell technology delivers green solutions in seven ways.

  1. Decarbonizing industrial energy use
  2. Acting as a buffer to increase energy system resilience
  3. Enabling large-scale renewable energy integration and power generation
  4. Decarbonizing transportation
  5. Decarbonizing building heat and power
  6. Distribution energy across sectors and regions
  7. Providing clean feedstock for industry

According to a recent report by McKinsey, hydrogen and fuel cell technology has the potential to remove six gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions and employ more than 30 million people by 2050, all while creating a $2.5-trillion market.

This is technology that can be deployed today, with the potential to transform how we live and power our economies in a sustainable way.

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Automotive

Palladium: The Secret Weapon in Fighting Pollution

The world is in critical need of palladium. It’s a crucial metal in reducing emissions from gas-powered vehicles, and our secret weapon for cleaner air.

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Despite the growing hype around electric vehicles, conventional gas-powered vehicles are expected to be on the road well into the future.

As a result, exhaust systems will continue to be a critical tool in reducing harmful air pollution.

The Power of Palladium

Today’s infographic comes to us from North American Palladium, and it demonstrates the unique properties of the precious metal, and how it’s used in catalytic converters around the world.

In fact, palladium enables car manufacturers to meet stricter emission standards, making it a secret weapon for fighting pollution going forward.

Palladium: The Secret Weapon in Fighting Pollution

The world is in critical need of palladium today.

It’s the crucial metal in reducing harmful emissions from gas powered vehicles—as environmental standards tighten, cars are using more and more palladium, straining global supplies.

What is Palladium?

Palladium is one of six platinum group metals which share similar chemical, physical, and structural features. Palladium has many uses, but the majority of global consumption comes from the autocatalyst industry.

In 2018, total gross demand for the metal was 10,121 million ounces (Moz), of which 8,655 Moz went to autocatalysts. These were the leading regions by demand:

  • North America: 2,041 Moz
  • Europe: 1,883 Moz
  • China: 2,117 Moz
  • Japan: 859 Moz
  • Rest of the World: 1,755 Moz

Catalytic Converters: Palladium vs. Platinum

The combustion of gasoline creates three primary pollutants: hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. Catalytic converters work to alter these poisonous and often dangerous chemicals into safer compounds.

In order to control emissions, countries around the world have come up with strict emissions standards that auto manufacturers must meet, but these are far from the reality of how much pollutants are emitted by drivers every day.

Since no one drives in a straight line or in perfect conditions, stricter emissions testing is coming into effect. Known as Real Driving Emissions (RDE), these tests reveal that palladium performs much better than platinum in a typical driving situation.

In addition, the revelation of the Volkswagen emission scandal (known as Dieselgate) further undermines platinum use in vehicles. As a result, diesel engines are being phased out in favor of gas-powered vehicles that use palladium.

Where does Palladium Come From?

If the world is using all this palladium, where is it coming from?

Approximately, 90% of the world’s palladium production comes as a byproduct of mining other metals, with the remaining 10% coming from primary production.

In 2018, there was a total of 6.88 million ounces of mine supply primarily coming from Russia and South Africa. Conflicts in these jurisdictions present significant risks to the global supply chain. There are few North American jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Montana, which present an opportunity for more stable primary production of palladium.

Long Road to Extinction

The current price of palladium is driven by fundamental supply and demand issues, not investor speculation. Between 2012 and 2018, an accumulated deficit of five million ounces has placed pressures on readily available supplies of above-ground palladium.

Vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) will continue to dominate the roads well into the future. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it will not be until 2040 that ICE vehicles will dip below 50% of new car sales market, in favor of plug-in and hybrid vehicles. Stricter emissions standards will further bolster palladium demand.

The world needs stable and steady supplies of palladium today, and well into the future.

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Animation: U.S. Electric Vehicle Sales (2010-19)

This stunning animation visualizes the last nine years of U.S. electric vehicle sales. We also look at who will lead the race in the coming years.

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It’s challenging to get ahead, but it’s even harder to stay ahead.

For companies looking to create a sustainable competitive advantage in a fast-moving, capital intensive, and nascent sector like manufacturing electric vehicles, this is a simple reality that must be accounted for.

Every milestone achieved is met with the onset of new and more sophisticated competitors – and as the industry grows, the stakes grow higher and the market gets further de-risked. Then, the real 800-lb gorillas start to climb their way in, making competition even more fierce.

Visualizing U.S. EV Sales

Today’s animation uses data from InsideEVs to show almost nine years of U.S. sales in the electric vehicle market, sorted by model of car.

It paints a picture of a rapidly evolving market with many new competitors sweeping in to try and claim a stake. You can see the leads of early successes eroded away, the increasing value of scale, and consumer preferences, all rolled into one nifty animation.

The Tesla Roadster starts with a very early lead, but is soon replaced by the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, which are the most sold models in the U.S. from 2011-2016.

Closer to the end, the Tesla Model S rises fast to eventually surpass the Leaf by the end of 2017. Finally, the scale of the rollout of the Tesla Model 3 is put into real perspective, as it quickly jumps past all other models in the span of roughly one year.

The Gorilla Search

While Tesla’s rise has been well-documented, it’s also unclear how long the company can maintain an EV leadership position in the North American market.

As carmakers double-down on EVs as their future foundations, many well-capitalized competitors are entering the fray with serious and ambitious plans to make a dent in the market.

In the previous animation, you can already see there are multiple models from BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Fiat, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, and Chevrolet that have accumulated over 10,000 sales – and as these manufacturers continue to pour capital in the sector, they are likely posturing to try and find how to create the next mass market EV.

Of these, Volkswagen seems to be the most bullish on a global transition to EVs, and the company is expecting to have 50 fully electric models by 2025 while investing $40 billion into new EV technologies (such as batteries) along the way.

The Chinese Bigfoot?

However, the 800-lb gorilla could come from the other side of the Pacific as well.

Global EV Sales

Source: The Driven

Chinese company BYD – which is backed by Warren Buffett – is currently the largest EV manufacturer in the world, selling 250,000 EVs in 2018.

The Chinese carmaker quietly manufacturers buses in the U.S. already, and it has also announced future plans to sell its cars in the U.S. as well.

How will such an animation of cumulative U.S. EV sales look in the future? In such a rapidly evolving space, it seems it could go any which way.

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