Market Developments

The Short on Hydrogen Vehicles

Fuel Cell electric vehicles (FECEV). What is that? Aren't those all electric vehicles? Why does this matter?Hydrogen fuel vehicle

No, FCEVs are not your typical electric vehicle. Where electric vehicles require plugs to charge up, FCEVs run on gaseious hydrogen that you fuel like traditional motor vehicles. When hydrogen stored in the vehicle reacts with oxygen being pulled in from the outside air, electricity is created to mobilize the powertrain of the vehicle, running like an electric vehicle that creates its own electricity.

Like EV, this results in no harmful tailpipe emissions. Actually, what is emitted from an FCEV engine is water vapor, which, as show in this video, can be recaptured and utilized as a water resource if the proper equipment is attached to the tailpipe.

Critics worry that hydrogen fuel cells are an unnecessarily complex and more expensive way to offer the same service that electric vehicles provide. Plus, like other electric vehicles, when looking at the upstream processes for hydrogen creation, emissions are increased due to energy-intensive processes or from where the hydrogen is taken from (such as natural gas). But it is important to recognize the important storage (quick to fuel), distance, and weight benefits that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles offer over their plug-in electric counterparts.

Their most relevant benefit to the average consumer is their capability to drive long distances. The average FCEV is targeted to travel about 300 miles per fueling, which is on par with traditional motor vehicles that have a 20-gallon tank. This eliminates the "range anxiety" that the market has been feeling toward regular electric vehicles. Although some battery electric vehicles, such as General Motors' Chevy Bolt, have been hitting astoundingly longer ranges of more than 200 miles, batteries and their future are still unclear as to how much more storage and range we can pull out of them.

FCEVs also are a good option for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. They successfully have penetrated the forklift market and are in the developmental and early release stages for commercial vehicles such as transit buses, shuttle buses, delivery vehicles and refuse trucks. There already are transit buses in use in California, one bus exceeding 20,000 hours of service in 2015.

FCEVs are a very nascent market in Colorado. Barriers such as only one hydrogen fueling station (located at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) campus and the non-existent vehicle purchase options in Colorado have highlighted the "chicken versus the egg" dilemma. Though this industry is just starting to gear up, there are many stakeholders, such as the Colorado Hydrogen Coalition, working on solving supply and market barrier issues for these vehicles

There is No Time to Idle

December is the time for snow in Colorado, and it means colder temperatures. When temperatures drop, car owners often idle their vehicles to warm up before driving or to keep themselves warm while their car is not in motion. Idling is a necessary evil while we are at stop lights, but running a vehicle's engine is an expensive, climate-unfriendly, avoidable, and often an illegal option for warming up your car in the winter.Car idling in the snow

Shocked that puffing (warming up an unattended car) is illegal? In 2012, the state of Colorado enacted the revised "Puffer" Law that allows officers to ticket individuals (for between $15 and $100) who have left their vehicles running for any period of time. Plus, municipalities such as Denver, Aspen and Winter Park have passed their own idling regulation that fine citizens based on facts such as the idling vehicle being unattended and/or the duration of the idling (usually excessive is considered between five and 15 minutes).

Not only is idling illegal, but it also is detrimental to both the environment and your wallet. Emissions from a vehicle tailpipe include greenhouse gases and harmful air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and criteria air contaminants (CAC) that are know to contribute to air pollution and climate change. One of the most detrimental emissions from your tailpipe is ozone, which is recognized as one of the most potent threats to human health. Impacts from ozone include increasing asthma cases and severe lung damage among other things. Cash flow wise, idling your vehicle for 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more CO2 than restarting your engine. Estimates from idle-box, a toolkit for idling reduction projects, note that personal-vehicle idling generates about half of all idling emissions, which results in a cost of more than $10 billion nationwide each year. According to idle-box, idling your car wastes about .3 gallons per hour for a passenger-sized vehicle, and about one gallon per hour for a big truck, which is money flowing out of your tailpipe.

There are a few options for individuals who want to eliminate their excess idling. Studies show that your car actually warms up much more quickly when driving than it does idling because driving engages the engine in your car more, which is where your car pulls the heat to warm the vehicle. When you are waiting in your car outside of regular traffic, such as when you are picking up your children from school, it is more environmentally and economically friendly to turn off your vehicle while you wait and to restart it when you are ready to go. When going out to eat, instead of idling in a fast food line, go inside to order your food.

Cities such as Fort Collins are pledging to reduce idling and improve community health in their areas. Denver police have started their own "Don't puff your vehicle" initiative, which also is drawing attentiont to the fact that idling vehicles are at high risk for being stolen.

Preventing idling is as simple as choosing to warm up your car by driving it or choosing to walk into a restaurant instead of going through the drive-thru. Small decisions like these very day prevent cars from being stolen, prevent billions of fuel from being wasted annually and prevent corresponding emissions impacts.