Will your next car talk to traffic lights, apply breaks to help avoid a collision or emit zero tailpipe emissions?
Automobiles are undergoing a big transition — increasingly better, smarter and cleaner. Especially exciting is the expanded portfolio of low and zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) that help protect air quality, increase our nation’s energy security, and reduce our reliance on foreign oil — a win for the U.S. economy all-around.
Automakers at Detroit’s 2017 North American International Auto Show should be applauded for their leadership in introducing consumer-friendly, innovative, and advanced technology fuel cell vehicle (FCV) and battery electric vehicle (BEV) models. Though critics initially scoffed at these vehicles, they represent a small but growing percentage of total vehicle sales in the U.S. Increased consumer adoption shows there is strong interest in the cars and their new technologies.
Additionally, there is growing state-level support for ZEVs. California and seven other states are committed to adding 3.3 million ZEVs, both FCVs and BEVs, to their vehicle mix by 2025.
Some may argue that current reliance on fossil fuels for sourcing hydrogen or charging batteries is a fault. Indeed, the vast majority of all electricity currently generated in the U.S. today is from fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal, as well as nuclear power. Hydrogen production in the United States also is now largely derived from natural gas. However, using these domestic resources drives a better economic position for the United States, keeping American dollars at home, rather than shipping them overseas.
Nevertheless, FCVs and BEVs are at least twice as efficient as traditional gasoline powered cars. ZEVs use our natural resources more efficiently, thereby reducing energy consumed in the U.S and further enhancing the nation’s energy security. In addition, numerous studies confirm that when compared to internal combustion engines, ZEVs using fossil fuels to refuel or recharge still dramatically reduces emissions and improves local air quality. When it comes to limiting carbon pollution, lower vehicle emissions is a major win.
Innovative next-generation electric vehicles will lower emissions and reduce energy consumption, which, after all, are the ultimate goals of alternative fuel cars.
Never content to rest on past accomplishments, the auto industry continues to make FCVs and BEVs “greener” through ongoing development. FCV efficiency and range are expected to improve greatly over the next several years as will battery technology.
Hydrogen production too is becoming “greener.” California requires at least 33 percent of hydrogen fuel for vehicles to come from renewable sources, a standard the industry already exceeds. FCVs today are using renewable hydrogen generated from solar and wind-powered electrolysis, as well as biogas. And when an FCV is fueled by renewable hydrogen, lifecycle emissions from that car are eliminated.
The North American International Auto Show is an opportunity to have one’s imagination sparked and vision lifted by automotive innovation and creativity. Consumers in the United States and around the world reap the benefits of past auto show concepts as they test drive and purchase low and zero emissions vehicles. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. FCVs and BEVs are using fossil fuels today as a bridge to a more renewable and domestically fueled future.
Automakers, fuel cell and battery producers, natural gas suppliers, hydrogen producers, and the hundreds of small and large businesses that comprise the ZEV industry should be commended for building that bridge.
Morry Markowitz is the president of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.