Hydrogen is having a moment when it comes to consumer vehicles and air travel. Clean Tech themes had a busy week with the auto and airline industry making plans to introduce hydrogen solutions. We also capture activity in the metals and mining sector with regard to circular economies.
This week was a busy one for Clean Tech on our ESG Safeguard platform for some familiar names and use cases. Our Five Themes for 2022 highlighted clean technology beyond wind and solar and an increasing emphasis on efficient materials usage. This week we see both themes taking shape.
Hydrogen technology has long been seen as a pipe-dream for consumer vehicles with electric battery technology being the premier solution. Hydrogen in recent years has found a home in decarbonizing industrial applications, but has yet to gain traction in the consumer space. Flying in the face of Elon Musk’s famous “fool cells” quote from 2019 more automakers are opting to incorporate hydrogen into their zero-emissions options as the market for hydrogen expands.
Similar to Renault’s hydrogen fuel cell and electric concept unveiled in May, Honda (HMC) announced plans this week for a North American hydrogen-electric hybrid that will begin production in 2024. Production would take place at their Marysville Ohio plant. This is part of the company's goal to sell and manufacture 100% zero-emissions vehicles by 2040. The hydrogen-electric vehicle hybrid makes sense as it greatly increases the range of the vehicle, a problem that many consumers point to for purely electric vehicles.
Toyota (7203:JP), the steadfast supporter of hydrogen for consumer grade vehicles, revealed progress this week on their concept of retro-fitting combustion engines with hydrogen fuel-cells. Toyota opts for a more pure-play hydrogen concept that has been in the works for a while now. Removing batteries entirely from the concept not only eliminates some of the complexities that come with sourcing lithium or cobalt, but also would rely entirely on hydrogen being available for consumer fuel.
Airbus (AIR:NL) and Renault (RNO:FR), who have been developing novel and innovative solutions in their industries, are collaborating on battery technology for airlines. Last year Airbus announced plans to develop a hydrogen aircraft that they want to have on the market by 2035. Will they take a play out of Renault’s playbook and develop a hybrid electric-hydrogen method? Time will tell as this partnership grows.
Glencore (GLEN:GB) plans closure of coal mines over the next 12 years. The company plans to reduce emissions by 15% for 2026 and 50% for 2035. This comes amidst the $180M settlement of bribery charges dating back to 2018 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Glencore also signed an agreement with metals recycler ACE Green this week that will provide circular economy capabilities for lithium, nickel, and cobalt in Thailand, India, and North America.
Expanding supply chains for minerals used in electric vehicle production is a valuable capability to have. As companies are scrambling to move operations into North America to capitalize on recently passed subsidies for electric vehicles, producers of raw materials sourced in North America will have an advantage.
We can begin to see the transformation to the zero-emissions vehicle industry start to shift towards including hydrogen fuel cell concepts as well as supply chains moving towards North America to cash in on new subsidies from the Inflation Reduction Act. While hydrogen as a pure-play may not be the ideal solution for consumers, the hybrid concept has a lot of merit in solving the distance limitations of pure battery electric vehicles. Honda is the third major manufacturer to include hydrogen elements in their future plans, and both Renault and Honda plan to have these hybrid vehicles ready for production by the middle of the decade.
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