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Toyota Trolls Hydrogen Car Skeptics With Yaris & Corolla Racers

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There they go again. Toyota has suffered a steady barrage of slings and arrows over its commitment to hydrogen-powered passenger cars, but the company just keeps coming back for more. Toyota has just introduced its new GR Yaris car to the racing circuit, following the launch of its Corolla Sport earlier this year, and both of them sport a green H2 internal combustion engine.

Toyota To Hydrogen Skeptics: Lalalalala I Can’t Hear You

To be clear, the GR Yaris and Corolla Sport are not simply racing versions of Toyota’s much maligned Mirai fuel cell car. They are combustion vehicles, not fuel cell electric vehicles. Instead of deploying chemistry to tease an electrical current out of hydrogen, the Yaris and Corolla do it the old fashion way: they burn it.

“The hydrogen-powered experimental GR Yaris and the Corolla Sport both feature the same G16E-GTS, 1.6-litre, in-line 3-cylinder, turbocharged engine that is found in the award-winning GR Yaris, but with a modified fuel supply and injection system for use with hydrogen as fuel,” Toyota explains.

Other than that, Toyota is leaning on the Mirai to support the combustion venture.

“The hydrogen fuel, fuel tanks and refueling process of the experimental [GR Yaris] vehicle are the same as found in the Mirai, Toyota’s commercially available flagship fuel cell electric vehicle,” Toyota says.

Why — Or Why Not — Burn Hydrogen In A Car?

Why, indeed? The short answer comes from Paul Ronney, a University of California Viterbi School of Engineering professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering:

“First and foremost, internal combustion engines are cheap to make and can easily be modified to run on hydrogen. As with fuel cells, the main waste product is water, not carbon dioxide. Also, unlike gasoline, hydrogen burns well in “fuel-lean conditions,” where there’s a lot more oxygen than fuel. That’s good for fuel efficiency and also vastly reduces nitrogen oxide emissions,” professor Ronney explained in a 2019 USC interview.

If you caught that thing about NOx emissions, that’s a problem in need of a solution. NOx emissions do not occur when hydrogen burns in the presence of pure oxygen, but they are indeed a problem when burning hydrogen in ambient air.

Toyota seems to recognize that hydrogen combustion engines will not ready for the mass market until the NOx problem is solved, among other obstacles. Nevertheless, the company argues that it’s worth investing in the technology and working to solve the problems, rather than dismissing it out of hand.

Toyota Actually Does Have A Plan…

The picture comes into sharper focus when you consider that fuel cell cars are just the tip of the iceberg in Toyota’s master plan for electrifying the global economy with hydrogen fuel cells. After all, Toyota is a manufacturer, and if global decarbonization is the name of the game then factories need to be dealt with, not just the cars that roll out of them. In that context, the new racing cars are aimed more at juicing the global hydrogen market and a bit less at selling ICE cars that burn hydrogen.

“Towards achieving carbon neutrality, Toyota has been strengthening its efforts, such as by aiming to promote the use of hydrogen through the popularisation of FCEVs and numerous other fuel-cell-powered products,” Toyota explains. “By further refining its hydrogen-engine technologies through motorsports, Toyota intends to aim for the realisation of an even better hydrogen-based society.”

…And It’s Green.

Toyota has been hammering away at the idea of a hydrogen-fueled society practically forever, but it makes no sense in the context of the impending climate catastrophe — or at least it didn’t, until recently.

On the plus side, hydrogen fuel cells emit only water, so using them to power buildings and vehicles would go a long way toward cleaning up urban air pollution.

It’s the supply chain that gums up the works. Currently, the global supply of hydrogen is sourced almost exclusively from natural gas and, to a lesser extent, coal.

Ouch!

That’s where the “even better” part comes in. As part of the hydrogen ICE race car promotion, Toyota is zeroing in on the emerging green hydrogen market, which mainly refers to hydrogen sourced from water through electrolysis, with renewable energy providing the electricity.

The green H2 angle emerged last July, when Toyota entered the Corolla at the 5-hour Super Taikyu endurance race in Autopolis.

In support of its “hydrogen society” vision, Toyota emphasized that green H2 can be produced locally, for local consumption.

Toyota also made it clear that the backstory is promoting green H2 production.

“By entering a hydrogen-powered vehicle that uses green hydrogen produced locally in Kyushu, Toyota intends to further strengthen the hydrogen-centered partnerships it enjoys with other industries in Kyushu,” Toyota explained, adding that the company will “contribute to the use and production of green hydrogen, increase energy choice, and thereby contribute to the realization of carbon neutrality.”

Green Hydrogen Rising In Japan

Parsing out the language, it appears that Toyota is being careful not to ruffle any domestic energy policy feathers as Japan considers restarting its nuclear program after the Fukushima disaster.

The company is also wary of upsetting overseas trading partners that keep the economy going in a nation that depends on imported oil, gas, and coal for more than 80% of its energy needs.

However, now that green H2 is a real thing, Toyota has spotted an opportunity to pitch the hydrogen society concept more aggressively as a driver of zero emission economic development, with Kyushu serving as the showcase.

As of last summer, Toyota’s own Toyota Motor Kyushu accounted for about 20% of the company’s green H2 supply for the two race cars, through an electrolysis system deploying solar power.

Another 30% comes from the construction and engineering firm Obayashi Corporation, which has been an early green H2 adopter. Back in 2018 the company engaged with New Zealand to deploy geothermal energy as part of a port cleanup effort, and things have been moving along at a nice clip since then.

Last April Obayashi announced the formation of an in-house “Green Energy Division.” It also embarked on a second green H2 venture in New Zealand, and launched a geothermal electrolysis operation in Kyushu, in the town of Kokonoe-machi.

The third source is FH2R, and that’s where things get interesting. FH2R is short for Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field. It is Japan’s green H2 showcase, intended to demonstrate the business case for the hydrogen society. The 10-megawatt facility is supported by Japan’s NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) in collaboration with Toshiba ESS, Tohoku Electric Power, and Iwatani Corporation, which is even more interesting considering that Iwatani’s core business is natural gas.

Built practically in the backyard of the defunct Fukushima nuclear facility, the FH2R plant leverages solar energy for its electrolysis system. Construction began in 2018 and the plant was ready to roll in March of 2020.

Part of the plan is to use FH2R to maximize the use of renewable energy in the region, without relying on battery storage systems.

The other part is to sell green H2 into the local market. The problem is that demand for green hydrogen has yet to hit stride, and it won’t until costs come down and/or government policies incentivize green H2 use.

That’s where projects like Toyota’s hydrogen race cars come in. They’re promotional projects, not bottom line ventures, so fuel cost is not an obstacle.

Seen through the promotional lens, Toyota’s global cheerleading for fuel cell street-legal cars takes on a new hue. After all, if Japan wants green H2 to become its fuel of choice, domestic sources are not enough. The country will have to rely on imports, which means that green H2 costs need to come down globally.

As a manufacturer, Toyota has its eye on the big picture, and that means decarbonizing its factories as well as its vehicles. The more it talks, the more interest in hydrogen it stirs on the global market, and the more prospects improve for increasing supply and pushing down prices.

That’s all well and good if green H2 replaces fossil sources. Biogas, wastewater, industrial waste gas, and waste plastic are also being talked up as non-fossil sources, but natural gas stakeholders are on high alert for opportunities to hold onto their share of the global market.

Otherwise, anyone thinking that Toyota will eventually shut up about fuel cell cars should probably think again.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: Experimental GR Yaris race car courtesy of Toyota.


 

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Tesla’s Policy Lead Testifies at PUCT Open Meeting As Tesla Focuses on Supporting the Texas Grid

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Tesla’s US Energy Markets Policy Lead, Arushi Sharma Frank, was recently asked to testify at a Public Utility Commission of Texas Open Meeting. A photo of Frank wearing an LFDECARB tee shirt popped up on Twitter. The tee shirt itself is a message focused on decarbonization by the group Bros for Decarbonization. You can learn more about the group here.

Frank confirmed that it was an impromptu request to testify. She also shared exactly what she talked about.

The document Frank shared was a filing receipt for supplemental comments from Tesla signed by Frank. There’s also a video of her testimony which you can watch here. In the document, Tesla said that it appreciated the opportunity to share its comments regarding PUCT’s discussions that were held on June 16, 2022 — the open meeting regarding Tesla’s proposal OBDRR041 as well as its prior work demonstrating how virtual power plants (VPPs) work.

I recently published an article about Tesla’s VPP workshop, which was related to OBDRR041. Tesla also said that it appreciated the Commission’s comments related to its Distributed Energy Resource (DER) pilot projects. Tesla especially supported the conversation between Commission representatives and the staff at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), as well as with the market participants. The conversation covered the real implementation of the system through a pilot as opposed to a task force approach. The latter, Frank noted, could unnecessarily create delays in implementing a grid service solution for DERs.

Looking At The Document & Tesla’s Statements

The Commission’s decision to encourage ERCOT to get stakeholders together and develop a pilot project allowing the market solution of exports from VPPs to be tested is also something Tesla expressed its appreciation for. This allowed for addressing issues raised by utilities and other market participants that have concerns about the potential impacts of site-exporting DERs on distribution facilities. It also allowed for a discussion of the net impact and benefits to the transmission grid.

Tesla also clarified and provided information as a response to a few discussion topics and questions that were raised at the open meeting. These topics included the OBDRR041 status, the ERCOT Pilot Proposal, and a question posed to Tesla by Chairman Lake at the open meeting.

OBDRR041 status

Tesla noted that since the OBDRR041 is currently tabled at the ERCOT Technical Advisory Committee, it would not seek a vote until there was further development of issues and positions from ERCOT and the potential members of the committee.

“At this time, Tesla believes that OBDRR041 may remain tabled at the Technical Advisory Committee pending consideration of the feasibility of a Virtual Power Plant pilot as the Commission proposed at the Open Meeting.”

ERCOT Pilot Proposal

Tesla expressed its views on the formal ERCOT Pilot Proposal that was introduced at the Open Meeting. Tesla noted that for a formal ERCOT pilot approach to be a feasible alternative to OBDRR041, a pilot should :

Have ERCOT’s support and the market’s acceptance and approval from ERCOT’s governing board.
Be amenable to commercialization in that sufficient participants could be aggregated across sufficient distribution service areas (more than one, but in capped quantities, in each service area as described in a proposed pilot framework).
Adequately capture data addressing clearly identified distribution utility concerns, in parallel to or as part of the pilot’s scope.
Have provisions to ensure market services compensation commensurate with grid services provided by pilot participants
Have an identified “start date” and “end date” which are technically feasible for involved parties.

In addition to that last point, Tesla added that the following are requirements in Section 25.361 (k) regarding pilot development and approval:

“ERCOT may conduct a pilot project upon approval of the scope and purposes of the pilot project by the governing board of ERCOT. Proposals for approval of pilot projects shall be made to the governing board only by ERCOT staff, after consultation with affected market participants and commission staff designated by the executive director.

“The ERCOT governing board shall ensure that there is an opportunity for adequate stakeholder review and comment on any proposed pilot project.”

Tesla noted that pilot  project proposals approved by the ERCOT governing board should include the following:

The scope and purposes of the pilot project;
The designation of temporary exceptions from ERCOT rules that ERCOT expects to authorize as part of the pilot project;
Criteria and reporting mechanisms to determine whether and when ERCOT should propose changes to ERCOT rules based on the results of a pilot project.
An estimate of costs ERCOT will incur attributable to the pilot project.
An estimated date of completion of the pilot project.

Tesla’s Response To Chairman Lake

Tesla expressed its appreciation for Chairman Lake, who stated that “nothing teaches like experience, so the sooner you get something in the field, the more you learn faster.”

Tesla also responded to a question posed by the chairman and said that it’s concerned that it will not be able to scope a pilot program in a Non-Opt-in-Entity (NOIE) area. Currently, Texas homeowners are unable to participate in VPPs due to the law. Tesla said:

“Primarily, this approach may not be economically rational as it could mean a substantial resource investment in a pilot that is not scalable to a commercial retail offer where Tesla could continue to directly serve those customers and grow the program’s strength and viability.

“The customers in a pilot should be able to continue to benefit from the value for their systems beyond the end-date of the pilot, in a commercially viable solution – but with a NOIE-only pilot, Tesla would have no control, legally or otherwise, over the continued participation of such customers once the pilot closes, even if a viable market participation framework is implemented following that pilot’ s conclusion.

“Any formal program participation of those customers would be solely at the option of the NOIE serving those customers. More simply, the purpose of a pilot is to study a solution that can be scaled following adoption of market rules based on pilot learnings. To build a program off the learnings of a pilot, the customer base involved in the pilot should be able to continue service under that formalized program, so that parties involved are not running the risk of raising a wholly new set of unstudied issues in a new distribution system type that was not part of the pilot.”

Frank also shared a link to over 60 pages of data from Tesla. Deep dive coming soon.

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Coalition Calls for EU Hydrogen Quota for Shipping

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Energy providers, shipping companies and NGOs call on the EU to introduce a minimum quota of 6% sustainable and scalable hydrogen fuels by 2030

A broad coalition of energy providers, shipping companies and NGOs — including Siemens Energy, Viking Cruises, Green Power Denmark and Brussels-based organisations Hydrogen Europe and Transport & Environment (T&E) — has called on the EU to introduce a minimum quota of 6% sustainable and scalable hydrogen fuels by 2030.

Last year the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, proposed a shipping fuel law (FuelEU Maritime Regulation) aimed at increasing the uptake of alternative marine fuels. Unfortunately, the law fails to guarantee the competitiveness of sustainable and scalable e-fuels, and risks promoting cheaper, unsustainable fuels. The coalition therefore calls on the European Parliament and EU Council to improve the proposal by including a dedicated e-fuels sub quota in the proposed regulation.

Delphine Gozillon, sustainable shipping officer at T&E, said:

“An ambitious shipping fuels law will be key to set the shipping sector on course for full decarbonisation. Sustainable e-fuels are currently too expensive compared to other alternatives such as fossil LNG and biofuels, holding back investments in production facilities, refuelling infrastructure in ports and zero-emission ships. However, with a bit of a push e-fuels produced from renewable hydrogen can be scalable. That’s why we need a quota to get the ball rolling and encourage companies to start investing in clean shipping fuels. Shipping does not need to be a dirty industry forever.”

A list of all the coalition’s demands can be found here.

Download the letter.

Courtesy of Transport & Environment.

Featured image courtesy of Maersk.

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Diving Into Tesla’s 60+ Pages of PUCT Filings (Mostly Data)

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Tesla has over 60 pages of Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) filings that have recently been shared publicly, and we’re about to dive into them. Grab some water and a coffee and let’s go.

Tesla and its team, including its US Energy Markets Policy Lead, Arushi Sharma Frank, have been working hard to help Texan Powerwall customers be able to take part in virtual power plant (VPP) pilot programs. In May, Tesla held a VPP workshop for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Frank was one of the key leaders hosting the meeting.

Recently, Frank was asked to testify at an open meeting of the PUCT, and there she shared Tesla’s comments and statements addressing questions and other concerns relating to VPPs.

Frank tweeted a thank you to the PUCT for the opportunity of allowing Tesla to provide comments. In addition, she followed up with two more tweets, with one mentioning her favorite part of the filings — Tesla describing a phenomenon called “clumping.” Clumping is a reference to capturing the full value of distributed energy renewables capacity in an aggregate load resource (ALR).

63 Pages Of Data For PUCT

In total, there were 63 pages. I’m only going to go over some of the data briefly. I think it’s important to highlight Tesla’s hard work because if Texas allows its residents who own Powerwall batteries systems to participate in VPPs, this opens the door for other states in the Deep South to at least consider clean energy solutions for various problems, especially grid-related. Texas is well known for its grid instability, and if it allows Tesla Powerwall customers to take part in VPPs, this could mean saving lives during disasters.

Included in the filings were comments from Tesla, a request from Tesla that the Commission direct ERCOT to prioritize several actions such as allowing ALRs (Aggregated Load Resources) to provide injection capacity from individual sites in a framework by December 2022, an informal narrative of Tesla’s VPP demonstration in ERCOT, and 47 slide pages detailing the ERCOT/Tesla ancillary service demonstration.

I think the most important part for us outsiders observing here is the 47 slides, because they highlighted a lot of data that shows just how the Texas grid will benefit from VPPs. The 47 slides showed several key meetings between Tesla and ERCOT about the demo program.

Key Meeting Between Tesla & ERCOT Shows Tesla Has Been Working Hard Trying To Convince Texas To Allow VPPs

In March, there were four meetings in which Tesla defined clumping, Frank’s favorite part, as well as two telemetry signal approaches. Following that were weekly meetings around the demo results with the last demo result being April 15, 2022. On April 9, Tesla and ERCOT revisited clumping and the two telemetry signals approach.

This tells me and anyone paying close attention that Tesla has been quietly working with ERCOT to help the Texas grid for quite some time. This, I think, is a good thing, especially for Texas.

Tesla Seeks To Register The First ALR In ERCOT

According to the documents, Tesla wants to register the first ALR in ERCOT and participate in services that are currently unavailable. These services include non-spin and sCED load reduction dispatch. Tesla wants to do this with the full value of grid services that injecting devices can provide in an ALR.

Tesla said that it will lead efforts to modify the utility’s ALR Policy Other Binding Document to make it fit with practical operational, registration, and qualification issues. It clarified that ERCOT can exchange two telemetry points with an aggregation-qualified scheduling entity (QSE).

Tesla ERCOT Demo Tests

Tesla’s first demo looked at the comparison of battery and premise-level telemetry. Below is a chart showing the initial conditions, test steps, data collected, and pass criteria.

Table courtesy of Tesla

This first test results show that VPPs work beautifully in Texas. According to the results, the load decreased during the evening while in the morning it decreased while exporting to the grid. And during the daytime, the exporting of energy to the grid only increased. Tesla explained further:

“Discharging from the customer’s battery using a step function can clearly be identified in the premise-level data.

“At different times of day, premise-level data will look differently, depending on the current load:

1. Evening time: during the evening peak, user load is typically high, and discharging the battery will show up as a decrease in premise-level load.

2. Morning time: during the night/morning time, user load is typically lower, and discharging the battery will both decrease load, and export energy to the grid.

3. Daytime: during the daytime, solar is exporting to the grid, and discharging the battery will increase the export.”

You can view the full demo, test results, and all of Tesla’s comments here.

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