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Auto and oil industries want to pit hydrogen cars against EVs

13 companies will form the Hydrogen Council to push the technology instead of electric vehicles.
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A consortium of companies from the car and power industries are teaming up to push hydrogen as the fuel of the future. Plenty of big names are involved, including Toyota, Daimler, BMW, Honda and Hyundai representing the automobile world. On the other side, we have Linde (Industrial Gas), Shell (Oil and Gas), Anglo American (Mining), Total (Oil and Gas) and Engie (Gas). Together, they will form the Hydrogen Council which has the job of positioning "hydrogen among the key solutions of the energy transition."

The announcement was made at the World Economic Forum at Davos and sees 13 companies in total signing up. Their job will be to convince other companies, regulators and the public that switching to hydrogen is essential to our continued survival. Oh, and a big bucket of new subsidies for the oil and gas industry, since the transition to cleaner fuels will only happen "with appropriate policies and supporting schemes." Air Liquide CEO Benoît Poiter adds that the group "cannot do it alone," so governments should "back hydrogen" with "large-scale infrastructure investment schemes." EVs are also subsidized, sure, but then

The announcement describes hydrogen as a "clean fuel or energy source" because it "does not release any CO2 at the point of use." That's not the same thing as being good for the environment, since the emissions all take place at the refinery rather than in the tailpipe. Natural gas will be used to reform methane into hydrogen, a process that releases carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.

Transportation is responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gases, so a cleaner alternative to petroleum is welcome. Hydrogen is an improvement, but certainly not the wonder substance that these companies would have you believe. Don't forget that methane has a tendency to leak from natural gas plants and is a much nastier greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The reasons why these companies are teaming up around hydrogen isn't about saving the planet, but maintaining relevancy. After all, electric cars require far less infrastructure investment than hydrogen and can be significantly cleaner. Not to mention that EVs aren't directly contributing to oil and gas companies bottom lines. When you look at all those pre-orders for Tesla's Model 3, you can see why oil company executives are nervous.

Electric vehicles aren't yet perfect, by any means, since there are still issues around battery capacity and range anxiety that need to be addressed. But all it takes is a little more research into supercapacitors and better fast-charging equipment and any argument for hydrogen falls along the wayside.

After training to be an intellectual property lawyer, Dan abandoned a promising career in financial services to sit at home and play with gadgets. He lives in Norwich, U.K., with his wife, his books and far too many opinions on British TV comedy. One day, if he's very, very lucky, he'll live out his dream to become the executive producer of Doctor Who before retiring to Radio 4.

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