119: Do Hydrogen Breakthroughs Matter?

Matt and Sean talk about hydrogen as a future means of energy storage, or an “also ran” for the memory vault?  Will it every stack up against things like lithium ion batteries?

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “Why this Hydrogen Breakthrough Matters”: https://youtu.be/m0d6iljzzEI?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi7UWp64ZlOKUPNXePMTdU4d

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On Today’s episode of still to be determined. We’re going to talk about whether Matt has been bought by big hydrogen. That’s right, hi everyone as usual I’m Sean Ferrell I write some sci-fi I write some kids books and I am the older brother of Matt Ferrell Matt Ferrell of course is the Matt Ferrell of undecided. But. Matt Ferrell which it’s a good thing that that name for a podcast was available I mean just coincidentally yeah, that’s right hi I’m Matt Ferrell I’m here to talk about undecided with John’s math
Yes, where I would I would been yeah undecided with John Smith
Really doesn’t roll off the tongue anyway, we’re here to talk about Matt’s most recent episode his regular viewers will know that we’re talking about why this hydrogen breakthrough matters this is from may seventeenth twenty twenty two and the reason I believe Matt may have been bought by big hydrogen is because. Matt there’s ah, there’s an error in your episode. Yeah, a little a little thing to some people and you’ll get the pun in a moment. It’s a small detail and you’ll get the pun in a moment.
Oh really? okay.
You make the claim that Hydrogen is the smallest elemental particle that distinction goes to Helium Helium is actually the smallest elemental particle it is it is hydrogen. Yeah.
Is it Oh boy Oh boy, are you sure about that.
I Am sure about this.
Yeah, we’ll play some? Yeah yeah, yeah, oh it’s the small details they get through the cracks. Oh another pun. Oh yes.
Oh you’re right up Tall Doll goal. Oh we did it again.
So other than that your video is great that but that one weakness that one small spot I was just like clearly they got to him and he’s bought their lies hook line and sinker just like spouting big hydrogen. Ironically big hydrogen.
But that’s that tore it all down.
Yeah I’ve been bought I’ve been bought.
Get it another pun. So the None thing that went through my head after watching this video was Matt pretend for a moment that I don’t know anything about metallurgy engineering or physics and just tell me what the hell is going on because this episode.
Ah, yeah, yeah, there was ah a heavy dose of science in this.
Who boy with the Science. It’s a lot of science and it’s absolutely it’s it is interesting and I could look at it and say like I can see that this is in the world in which I live in this is not like. Yeah, I’m going to tell you how a warp engine would work on the starship enterprise that that is not what is happening here. This is legitimate hard science of like I get it I get what is being said here, but it was a little difficult for me to see okay where does this plug In. To the world and so my None question is give me an example of where this could be used where might I be driving down the road and look and see oh I bet they’re using Hydrogen storage in there where might that where might that be.
Ah, this is going to be a hot debate because like there are people that still think that there’s gonna be hydrogen in cars and I’m not in that camp I think we’re we’re gonna most likely see these is Grid Scale energy storage systems or building sized energy storage systems. So think of data centers having power backup. Are using these hydrogen systems as basically just gigangantic batteries. That’s basically what they are so you can generate you can create the hydrogen on the facility using the electoralizer store it and then use a fuel cell to convert it back So You basically just have a big Hydrogen battery. So That’s probably where we’re going to see it the most is probably like. Massive Scale Energy Storage systems.
And is this This is the kind of thing that as you mentioned just now at the beginning of that comment. There are people who think oh this could be shrunk down eventually. The technology could be shrunk down to the size of being able to be a power source for a car for a vehicle.
It technically can I mean it already is today. There’s hydrogen cars already. So it’s like this is totally feasible. Technically the biggest question is how is that for cost and efficiency because it’s not as efficient as a battery electric.
Cost right.
And the cost is crazy expensive. It’s more expensive to go hydrogen car than a gasoline car. So like I’m the cost hierarchy. You’ve got hydrogen gasoline and then you’ve got battery as as the cheapest of the 3 So it’s it doesn’t make sense.
Right? right? So falls into the same category of technically you could have a steam powered car. However, would you want to do that. Is it going to is it going to be the right choice for you.
Of course, not going to be a good choice. But.
It breaking down to efficiency and cost. Let’s ignore cost for a moment. How much efficiency would it need. Like what levels of efficiency improvement would it need in order to be comparable to let’s That’s not even shoot for the moon of like making it comparable to the best option out there just making it on par with let’s say the worst option that’s of currently on the market.
How much would this need to improve in order to get to that goal.
Depends on what you’re talking about if youre talking about cars is for a split second even though I don’t think hydrogen’s good for cars. You’re talking about right now today hydrogen powered cars are more efficient than gasoline just it’s more efficient for the amount of.
Um, yeah, right.
You know the the amount of energy you’re getting out of the system you’re getting more energy out of the system for a hydrogen car already. But then there’s a huge jump you’re talking like maybe 50% efficient at best then you’re jumping over to at a battery electric and you’re talking ninety plus percent efficient. So it’s like they’re. This is where I would say to you and this is a common argument and I’m I’m not the end of my rope Sean I havent I haven’t hit that breaking point quite yet. But I am getting a little frustrated by the efficiency is the. End. All be all of everything for all these conversations. Well it’s just not efficient. It’s just not efficient and it’s like I find that argument ah red herring to me personally, there’s a reason gasoline cars have been the number one source of transportation for like 100 years it’s because it’s so.
Um, sure.
It’s the availability and cost of petroleum.
Dirt cheap to fill your car and drive it around and that’s and it’s one of the most inefficient systems you can have but yet it’s so dirt cheap. So it’s like the idea that efficiency is the thing that we have to be chasing. It’s like we could have a car that maybe is 99% efficient but it could cost None times the cost of something else. So it’s like. Cost and efficiency can’t really be pulled apart completely because the more efficient the system it can actually help drive some of the cost down. But if the materials that it takes to make that thing like in an electoralizer.
Um, right.
Might need platinum and very rare metals. It’s like suddenly it’s super expensive to make the electroizer even though it’s super efficient. So it’s like there’s different things you always have to factor into this so its cost and efficiency are always intertwined. It’s really hard to take them apart.
We’re seeing that right now in gas prices in the Us where it’s It’s the gas prices skyrocketing the way they have um and there seems to be this kind of Knee jerk. Well, the solution here is to fix the prices and I don’t even own a car and part of my response is no wouldn’t this be the perfect demonstration of how you’ve tied an entire industry to something that could fluctuate this easily based around.
Price mainly and wouldn’t this be a better opportunity to say well perhaps then the solution isn’t let’s figure out how to lower these prices. Let’s figure out a different mode of transportation that doesn’t rely on that is the power source. So.
Yeah, yeah.
As you mentioned you can’t really pull efficiency and price apart. Even though, that’s how my question started I said let’s do that. The flip side of my none question and you kind of already answered it is the price point at this point for a let’s say you had None cars. You had a gas car. You had a hydrogen vehicle roughly how much would it cost to drive. You know? yeah on a full tank of gas at today’s gas prices if you have got a twelve gallon tank and you’ve got 60.
Sixty bucks of gas in there. So you’ve got twelve gallons and you can go. Let’s say fifty miles per gallon just so you can go six hundred miles how much is it going to cost you comparably with hydrogen is the power source. If you’ve got a car that could.
It’s it’s hard to say because of all the prices that are out of whack right now. But like when I I did a video on hydrogen cars a while back and it was like 15 to 20% more expensive to to run the hydrogen car to fuel it up. But.
Right? So it may be None
Who who knows what it actually is now because that was like a year ago and things have been shifting around a lot.
Right? And maybe because gas prices have skyrocketed I Wonder if it might actually be on par at this point.
Yeah, but the the 1 thing I would say is that we’ve kind of drifted into the car conversation because it’s a very easy analogy. But.
It is an easy way to it is an easy way to talk about it I was going to pull back just now with my next comment which is let’s now transition to you’re driving down the road. You look to the right and there’s a power storage facility that is currently. Let’s say it is a field of wind turbines that are connected to paracels and on the other side of the road. You’ve got a hydrogen power storage facility based on everything you’ve said so far and what was in your video the cost. The wind turbine and power cell storage is going to be cheaper than what’s going on in the hydrogen plant to my to the other side of the road is that true.
Yes, yes.
Okay, the technology that you talked about in the video is that going to make improvements that are going to put them closer to the same footing. So that they will actually be more competitive with each other or is there still more that’s needed for the hydrogen to become comparably competitive.
There’s still more this needed. Yeah there’s there’s 3 things that you kind of to focus on when you’re talking about hydrogen storage. It’s the how do you make the hydrogen which is what this video was really focused on there’s how do you store hydrogen which I actually have another video coming out soon. I did a video on solid state hydrogen storage. While back that was a very controversial I have a follow up that’s coming out hopefully within the next week or two where I go even more in depth in the debt and then um, the other thing is fuel cells. How do you get? How do you convert that back into electricity and there’s inefficiencies with each step and they all compound on top of each other. So. It’s like this. Breakthrough I talked about in this video gets the efficiency of making the hydrogen almost almost one to None so for every kilowatt you put in. You’re you’re creating. Ah ah, almost one kilowatt of potential in hydrogen. Um, then it comes onto storage compressed compressed ah hydrogen. Is very expensive and has lots of inefficiencies with it. Solid state hydrogen which I’ve talked about before it. It has the potential to kind of answer some of this question specifically for stationary energy storage like for a building or a grid and then you’ve got fuel cells which are also. Haven’t talked about this a lot but there are breakthroughs happening there that are making those more efficient. So as as each one of these 3 categories gets chipped away and gets better and better and better and better. It’s like the whole idea of a hydrogen battery essentially becomes much more interesting and. I talked to a scientist at Lawrence Livemo like national laboratory about solidate hydrogen and the way he described it to me. It makes perfect sense when you’re talking about energy storage and you’re talking about batteries like what Tesla does when you want to scale it up like you want to have one megawatt of storage you want to go to None you are literally doubling the size and the weight and everything. Because you you need to get twice as many batteries so twice as much volume twice much weight to get twice the storage so that’s why um the cost of battery energy storage is kind of linear when you’re talking about like as it kind of goes up but then you’re talking about alternatives like hydrogen. If you need you can create your electroalizer stack and your fuel cell stack for what power needs you need so it’s like you need to have the equivalent of one megawatt creation at None end and None megawatt creation at the other end but you want to have ten Gigawatts of storage in the middle. You don’t have to scale up the electroalizezr stack. You don’t have to scale up the fuel cell stack. You just have to scale up the storage area. So. It’s not a None to one like it is with the battery so you can dramatically write. You’re increasing the volume but you’re not increasing the weight. You’re not increasing the complexity of the system. So. It’s like.
It can be 1 to 10 to 1
It can actually scale in a way that batteries can’t which is why it’s still in the conversation which a lot of people hate hydrogen seeing it as its big oil trying to make it. You know a big play but it’s still a viable alternative for if you need Megawatts and Gigawatts of energy storage hydrogen is a potential. Solution there depending on the storage mechanisms and all that kind of stuff because it can scale in a way that batteries cannot cost-wise even though there’s inefficiencies in the system because he adds up to factor of okay, slightly more inefficient but would it be cheaper to do hydrogen storage with a few extra solar panels to produce a little extra energy that makes up for that inefficiency. That could actually be cheaper than saying trying to be a purist and say I’m going to do solar into a battery because it’s 95% efficient. It’s like yeah okay, this is only 75% efficient but we just can add a whole extra renewable energy generation and overall the whole systems can be cheaper and we can. We can make up for that inefficiency. So it’s it’s all a balancing act.
Um, right.
You kind of have to craft it. So it’s it’s it’s It’s a complicated. It’s pretty complicated which is what I’ve been coming out. Ah, that’s why I’ve been understanding as I’ve gotten more and more into this.
Um, yeah, right is there Any is there. Anyone who is looking at all of these parts all at once because you mentioned there’s the production of the hydrogen. There’s the storage. There’s The. You know the the fuel cell aspect and you’ve talked about like the company that you talked about in your most recent video they were talking about the Hydrogen generation correct and you were talking about that. You know isolation for them are they also looking at the other parts or are other companies doing that or are there multiple companies that are all doing all of this.
Multiple companies there are companies that are focused on fuel cells. There are companies that are focused in electroalizers. There are companies that are focused on storage. There are companies that are doing all of them like I mentioned I keep teasing this video that can be coming out soon. But the sell the state video hydrogen video. That’s gonna be coming out. There are companies that are that literally sell. Like here’s a trailer size thing on None end of the trailer is the electroizer on the other end is the fuel cell in the middle of the storage. It’s like 1 ne-stop shop so there are kind of there are companies creating these hydrogen battery systems. So it’s like they’re they’re doing the whole thing and they’re optimizing the whole thing as a unit. Um, you can get them for your house. It’s like that’s the other thing is like you can get There’s a company called wavo I think how you pronounce it. It’s in Australia. It’s like a powerwall alternative. It looks like a powerwall it this a big rectangular box you install outside your house or in the garage and it’s literally this it’s it’s got an electroalizer a storage system a solid state. Hydrogen storage system and then a fuel so and it acts just as a gigantic hydrogen battery for your house. So like these systems do exist and companies are taking a look at all 3 together to create an optimize system. But this video was specifically focusing on the companies that are specializing and trying to break through on. Cutting edge electrolizers because that’s one of the biggest questions for green hydrogen is the inefficiency there.
And for something like that where they’re pulling up that trailer and it’s got the whole kit in the boodle inside. The trailer is the source of the hydrogen going to be water. Okay, and is. Water one of the outputs at the end of the process when it is converted into energy. So is this another one of those research areas where you’ve talked before it was newm right? The was that the yeah Neil.
Neil yeah Neil. Yep.
Ah, is this another one of those areas that the Saudis might be looking at as a means of having a source for actually cleaning water that would then end up with more drinking water is this one of those technologies that would have a. Ah, role to play there.
I Can’t name who I’ve talked to different companies and some of them have talked about. Yeah we’ve talked to the saudis about doing stuff and it’s like oh you must be talking about Neom So It’s It’s one of those the the saudis are looking at every conceivable angle to try to create optimize systems for. Hey we can create clean water and maybe get some energy and we or we could create clean water and as a side effect we could use some of that for clean energy. It’s like they’re looking at a holistic systems. So yes, they are looking at pretty much everything.
As far as where this technology stands right Now. All things if everything was just static if there were not going to be any improvements in the future. Do you think that Hydrogen has a place right now or do you think it still is just. Falling a few ticks short in that in a way that’s keeping it from being a major player.
My opinion is my opinion but it’s following a few ticks short right now. Um, there are some isolated very niche areas where it’s kind of holding its own but it’s it’s one of those as these improvements get made and they’re coming. It’s like that’s when that becomes a competitive option. But. Again, my opinion. It’s it’s still gonna be a niche player I don’t see Hydrogen ever becoming a major player in the energy Market I Think they’ve kind of see it’s taken them too long I think the industry has taken too long to find those efficiencies and make those breakthroughs. And there’s other options that are super cost-effective that are really good. Nice technologies and I’m not talking about lithingy batteries I’m talking about Pumped Hydro and you know gravity energy storage systems and flywhes. It’s like there’s so much stuff out there that gives you really interesting energy storage solutions for all these different use cases. It’s. Have ah a poturri in front of us of storage options that I think Hydrogen is having a hard time really combating against because it’s taking them this long to really kind of ramp up.
Right? So I think that’s our question to our listeners at this point would you bet on advances in this industry in order to make it a player or do you think it’s already a player. Let us know you can reach out through the contact information in the podcast description. And of course on Youtube you can just scroll beneath this video and leave a comment there. We appreciate all the feedback. Don’t forget you can also review us and you can leave those reviews on Apple Podcasts Google Podcasts or wherever it was that you found this podcast including on Youtube. You’d like to more directly support us. You can go to still tbd fm click on the become a supporter button and you can throw some coins at our heads. We appreciate each and every bruise and don’t forget you can also click the join button on Youtube you can become a member there all of that really does help the show. Thank you so much for listening everybody and we’ll talk to you next time.
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