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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

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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Automotive

How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

It is counterintuitive, but electric vehicles are not possible without oil – these petrochemicals bring down the weight of cars to make EVs possible.

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How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

When most people think about oil and natural gas, the first thing that comes to mind is the gas in the tank of their car. But there is actually much more to oil’s role, than meets the eye…

Oil, along with natural gas, has hundreds of different uses in a modern vehicle through petrochemicals.

Today’s infographic comes to us from American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers, and covers why oil is a critical material in making the EV revolution possible.

Pliable Properties

It turns out the many everyday materials we rely on from synthetic rubber to plastics to lubricants all come from petrochemicals.

The use of various polymers and plastics has several advantages for manufacturers and consumers:

  1. Lightweight
  2. Inexpensive
  3. Plentiful
  4. Easy to Shape
  5. Durable
  6. Flame Retardant

Today, plastics can make up to 50% of a vehicle’s volume but only 10% of its weight. These plastics can be as strong as steel, but light enough to save on fuel and still maintain structural integrity.

This was not always the case, as oil’s use has evolved and grown over time.

Not Your Granddaddy’s Caddy

Plastics were not always a critical material in auto manufacturing industry, but over time plastics such as polypropylene and polyurethane became indispensable in the production of cars.

Rolls Royce was one of the first car manufacturers to boast about the use of plastics in its car interior. Over time, plastics have evolved into a critical material for reducing the overall weight of vehicles, allowing for more power and conveniences.

Timeline:

  • 1916
    Rolls Royce uses phenol formaldehyde resin in its car interiors
  • 1941
    Henry Ford experiments with an “all-plastic” car
  • 1960
    About 20 lbs. of plastics is used in the average car
  • 1970
    Manufacturers begin using plastic for interior decorations
  • 1980
    Headlights, bumpers, fenders and tailgates become plastic
  • 2000
    Engineered polymers first appear in semi-structural parts of the vehicle
  • Present
    The average car uses over 1000 plastic parts

Electric Dreams: Petrochemicals for EV Innovation

Plastics and other materials made using petrochemicals make vehicles more efficient by reducing a vehicle’s weight, and this comes at a very reasonable cost.

For every 10% in weight reduction, the fuel economy of a car improves roughly 5% to 7%. EV’s need to achieve weight reductions because the battery packs that power them can weigh over 1000 lbs, requiring more power.

Today, plastics and polymers are used for hundreds of individual parts in an electric vehicle.

Oil and the EV Future

Oil is most known as a source of fuel, but petrochemicals also have many other useful physical properties.

In fact, petrochemicals will play a critical role in the mass adoption of electric vehicles by reducing their weight and improving their ranges and efficiency. In According to IHS Chemical, the average car will use 775 lbs of plastic by 2020.

Although it seems counterintuitive, petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas make the major advancements by today’s EVs possible – and the continued use of petrochemicals will mean that both EVS and traditional vehicles will become even lighter, faster, and more efficient.

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