As Hydrogen’s Levelized Cost Projections Fall Toyota Sends It Racing

 As Hydrogen’s Levelized Cost Projections Fall Toyota Sends It Racing

Hydrogen’s potential as an alternative fuel continues to divide public opinion. Yet it’s levelized cost, or the measure of average net present cost of production as a fuel or heat source for a generating plant over its lifetime, especially from renewable energy via electrolysis of water, is likely to fall considerably over the coming years.

For instance, according to BloombergNEF, the costs of producing ‘green’ hydrogen from renewable electricity should fall by up to 85% from the present day to 2050, leading to costs below $1/kg ($7.4/MMBtu) by 2050 in most modelled markets.

To arrive at its latest projection, the analysis firm looked at 28 major markets that account for a third of global GDP. Having focused its modelling on 627 projects in these markets, BNEF not only noted lower levelized costs across the board but opined earlier this month that ‘green’ hydrogen should get cheaper than both ‘blue’ hydrogen (from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage) and even polluting ‘grey’ hydrogen (from fossil fuels without CCS).

The above costs are 13% lower than the firm’s previous 2030 forecast and 17% lower than its previous 2050 forecast, with falling costs of solar PV electricity used in hydrogen generation being the key driver behind the reduction.

Should the forecasts materialize, such “low renewable hydrogen costs could completely rewrite the energy map,” says Martin Tengler, lead hydrogen analyst at BNEF. “It shows that in future, at least a third of the world economy could be powered by clean energy for not a cent more than it pays for fossil fuels.”

Of course, proponents of hydrogen do acknowledge that continued government and policy-supported investment would be needed to get from the high part of the hydrogen cost curve we are in at the moment to the low part in the future.

Automakers and their partner fuel vendors in many quarters remain suitably excited, and none more so than Toyota. The Japanese automaker has consistently nailed its colors to the mast via its Mirai range. It is now going one step further by testing the performance of a new hydrogen engine by installing it in a race car that will compete in one of Japan’s toughest motorsports events.

Toyota said the engine, developed as part of its progress towards realizing a carbon-neutral mobility society, is being used in a Corolla Sport-based car that will take part in the 2021 Super Taikuyu endurance racing series. Entered by ORC ROOKIE Racing, the engine will make its debut at the NAPAC Fuji Super TEC 24 Hours Race on 21-23 May.

This would be quite a move. Currently, Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) such as the Toyota Mirai, use a fuel cell to produce electricity to power the engine through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the air. By contrast, hydrogen engines generate power through combustion, using fuel supply and injection systems modified from those used in petrol engines. Except for the combustion of minute amounts of engine oil during driving, as is also the case with petrol engines, hydrogen engines emit zero CO2 when driven.

The race car engine is a 1,618cc three-cylinder unit, using compressed hydrogen fuel. The plan – revealed on Thursday (April 22) – is for the race car to be fueled during events with hydrogen produced in co-operation with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry at the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field in Namie Town, Japan.

It is in sync with Toyota’s backing of the hydrogen economy as well as the automaker’s help the economic recovery and revitalization of the Tohoku region affected by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Toyota said its “use of motorsport” to further refine its hydrogen engine technologies supports its aim of realizing an even better “hydrogen-based society.”

The jury is out of that one, but the intriguing move is one to watch out for given the rising popularity of electric vehicle competitions such as the ABB FIA Formula-E championship and Jaguar I-PACE trophy.