July 24th, 2024

Province sees road to a hydrogen-powered future


By Lethbridge Herald on January 12, 2024.

The hydrogen powered Toyota Mirai on display at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto on Thursday, February 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

With the federal government calling for all vehicles sold in Canada by 2035 to be zero-emission, the provincial government has its eyes on a solution to reducing the impact of emissions on the environment.

But its eyes are on hydrogen, not electrification.

Dave Nally, Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction, said in an interview recently that electric vehicles are not a realistic alternative to gasoline and diesel-powered cars and trucks in Alberta.

But hydrogen power is.

Alberta is the biggest hydrogen producer in Canada, said Nally who adds the 2035 goal of the federal Liberals is unrealistic and not in tune with the 2050 plans of other nations.

The electricity system, he says, also isn’t capable of handling more than four to 12 electric vehicles per neighbourhood in Alberta because sufficient distribution infrastructure doesn’t exist yet.

“It’s incredibly challenging,” he said of the conversion to EVs.

“We know that battery-powered electric vehicles lose their efficiency the colder that it gets. It’s just not realistic in a population of 4.3 million in Alberta. With a province the size of ours and the cold temperatures, it’s just not realistic, said Nally.

The province isn’t saying EVs are irrelevant or a poor option but rather “any illusion that we’re all going to be driving a battery powered vehicle by 2035 is child-like optimism and nothing more,” added Nally.

Farmers generally have 27 combustion engines, mostly diesel, at their operations said Nally, who knows that from personal experience with his family’s three-generation farm. He represents the electoral district of Morinville-St. Alberta.

“Any illusion that you’re going to convert all of those vehicles over to battery power is not realistic.

“We’re not suggesting that there’s nothing we can do because certainly there are.” 

For people in warmer climates such as California, electric vehicles may be a better option than gasoline-powered cars, said the minister, adding that may be the same for people in communities such as Edmonton or Calgary who don’t have long distances to travel.

“But in addition to them not being a great fit for many Albertans, it’s not a great fit for our electricity grid. We can’t support wide-scale adoption of battery-powered electric vehicles because our electricity grid could not support it.”

To upgrade the electricity grid and get transmission and distribution infrastructure built would cost multiple billions of dollars, suggested the minister.

“It’ll be billions of dollars to upgrade our electricity grid to the point where we could have wide-scale adoption.

The UCP, said Nally, is excited about the future of hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles instead.

“Alberta is the biggest producer of hydrogen in Canada. We already have a hydrogen economy and our experts are telling us that by 2050 we can expect hydrogen to be an $11 trillion industry. We are positioned well in Alberta so we are taking a serious look at hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.”

The province did an expression of interest last January, asking what the private sector needs for them to invest in infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles.

If fueling stations existed, everyone could drive one and it wouldn’t affect the energy grid, he said.

The minister has driven one and he calls them fun to drive. And they don’t come with the challenges of battery-powered electric vehicles, he said.

Fueling stations are the biggest challenge, he noted. A couple exist in Alberta with one mobile station by the Edmonton airport and a second one is coming to the provincial capital. A third station is also being planned in Edmonton.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are facing the same challenges electrics did a few years ago with a lack of infrastructure but as the infrastructure grows and more stations are built, Nally said more people will be adopting them.

One of his responsibilities is the government vehicle fleet which has 3,000 units and the province is looking at how many could be realistically converted to hydrogen fuel cells.

“We know we can’t convert all 3,000 of them but there is a number we can convert” and the government wants to find out what that number is and move forward.

“We’ve got a handful of mobile fueling stations in Alberta right now and more will be coming online.”

Electric vehicles have their supporters who are willing to deal with the lack of winter driving range but many Albertans “aren’t as enamoured,” and not just farmers, he said.

He said Edmonton’s electric bus fleet hasn’t been overly successful and that city has taken possession of its first hydrogen fuel cell bus and is looking at converting the fleet to hydrogen.

“There’s a lot of different groups that very bullish of hydrogen. There’s a lot of work to do but we’re moving forward with that work to make it happen.”

Nally believes the federal government has shown a lack of strategic vision with its 2035 plan. 

“The only way it can be done is through great pain and cost to Albertans and increased liability issues. We’re not thrilled with the date of 2035. It comes with some challenges for sure.”

Alberta doesn’t have the hydro power of B.C. and Manitoba to produce electricity so it relies on “the most reliable form of electricity generation that we have and that’s natural gas-fired generation,” said Nally.

Because of the 2035 ambitions, the private sector isn’t stepping up to invest in reliable natural gas generation for the electricity grid, he said.

“So we’re going to have a challenge come 2035 but the federal Liberals have been obtuse to this fact. All the experts are saying we’re going to freeze in the dark if we continue down that path.”

According to American website driveclean.ca.gov, hydrogen vehicles “are powered by compressed hydrogen gas that feeds into an onboard fuel cell stack that doesn’t burn the gas, but instead transforms the fuel’s chemical energy into electrical energy. This electricity then powers the car’s electric motors. Tailpipe emissions are zero, and the only waste produced is pure water.”

The website says hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are quiet, energy-efficient and have equivalent range and performance to gasoline vehicles and they produce no emissions.

The Natural Resources Canada website shows fuel economy for the 2024 Toyota Mirai XLE has city fuel economy the equivalent of 3.1 litres per 100 km and highway economy of 3.3 litres per 100 km. That means 0.8 kilograms of hydrogen used per 100 kms in the city and 0.9 kg on the highway.

Edmonton International Airport and Toyota Canada entered a partnership last year to have a fleet of 100 Mirai sedans put into operation.

The Mirai, according to Toyota Canada’s website, is currently only available at “select authorized dealers” in B.C. and Quebec.

Share this story:

41
-40
11 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
buckwheat

It’s a one laner to a dead end. A pipe dream, more foder for the climate cult.
One needs to go to the site the Manhattan Contrarian and read about using hydrogen as fuel and the costs. After about four paragraphs, this is just another subsidized pipe dream cooked up by those in the climate business. Well worth the read.

Last edited 6 months ago by buckwheat
SophieR

Perhaps you misread this, buckwheat. It is the government of Alberta lead by the UCP party that is advocating hydrogen powerer automobiles.

The plain reason is that it is a backdoor for the fossil fuel industry. Methane to plastics plus hydrogen. The energy to do this is attributed to
the plastics, while the hydrogen becomes a ‘useful byproduct’.

So, just another shell game by the usual con artists.

buckwheat

Didn’t misread anything and I could care less about the political drive behind flogging this dead horse. Ballard power Systems was flogging hydrogen fuel cells 50 years ago in B.C. in 1974. A dead horse is a dead horse.

SophieR

Sorry about your horse.

Actually I don’t disagree with you about hydrogen as a fuel for automobiles. I was simply correcting your attribution from the ‘climate cult’ (aka science) to the politicians who advocate for it (aka the UCP in Alberta).

Say What . . .

At a time when corporations are fighting for their ‘piece of the pie’ in the green energy market, one must be very careful who and which article they believe. Time and time again we have seen corporations push their products using studies which are skewed for their benefits. All you have to do is ask questions in a specific manner, ignore certain variables, etc., and you have your desired result.
After watching the growth of hydrogen vehicle research, I am interested in seeing progress. There are some negatives, but many positives.
Last night we had the threat of rotating power outages across Alberta, due to energy grids being maximized.
We were told not to charge EV’s, not to plug in vehicles, not to use our ovens or stoves but use a microwaves and cut all non-essential usage.
How many of the almost 20,000 EV’s complied? I would guess maybe 20% would be a good average.
EV’s had to increase their charging to replenish the batteries over 250% some stated on the news. So now it was like have 50,000 EV’s sucking down the grid.
When your power is cut, you no longer have heating in your home because the furnace has no fan or electricity for operate other forms of energy!
We are not set up for increases in EV’s on our highways yet, and it will take years to upgrade the grid to do so!
Many of us remember the propane run vehicles and how low the price was to operate them, until many converted, then the price of propane per liter increased 3-4 times the cost, while gas/diesel remain low.
I question just how long these EV’s will be a realistic replacement! They are very expensive the maintain and the batteries only last up to 5 years. The generate a larger carbon footprint that are create a fire hazard in enclosed parkades. Will they be banned from parkades as propane vehicles are?
I for one will not be purchasing an EV at this time, but would consider a hydrogen vehicle. That may change as more research and development continues, but I will not buy an EV until I see some changes to the cost of operating and maintaining them!
Maybe instead of bikelanes downtown we should have golf cart lanes . . . LOL! Just kidding!
One thing is for sure, after last night, the threat of have no power should be a wake-up call to many, that we just do not have the power grid set up to maintain power during cold periods, when EV’s are sucking 2 to 3 times more power due to the batteries’ reduction in holding power at those temps.
This is Canada, not California!

SophieR

Wow. Somebody is sure wetting his pants. Maybe a deregulated electricity market for the past thirty years has left our growing province short of generation. Maybe a little planning would help.

Silverback

It was interesting that when the Alert went out, they mentioned one of the reasons besides the renewable energy suppliers were not contributing during this cold weather, but they mentioned that another contributing factor was they had a planned electrical provider down for a planned maintenance, who in the world plans for a downtime in the middle of winter, that person should have been fired. Down times of planned shutdowns happen during a time when you can have planned days of excess electricity like sept oct, or march and April.

buckwheat

They have due dates. Like your car. Planned maintenance. Maybe they can adjust the next one for a spring

SophieR

Yes, the Edmonton Journal had a good article explaining the difference between an energy-only market (the keep costs lower) to a capacity market (that encourages more capacity as insurance for times like we just experienced when generation is down or taken down).

The AESO recommended the capacity market but the UCP government chose the energy-only, ignoring the risk. But who cares about risk when you can blame renewables, EVs and Ottawa?

https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/albertas-utilities-minister-defends-energy-only-power-market-amid-blackout-scare

Last edited 6 months ago by SophieR
IMO

How can the current provincial government “see the road” when it is drunk on the slippery slope of power and authoritarianism?