Biofuels Digest

By Jim Lane

In Sydney this week, a number of US and Australian leaders gathered at the Australian Technology Park to debate the models and options offered by the cleantech revolution in decarbonizing road transport.

“Road transport represents 40 percent of our overall emissions,” said conference convenor Dr. Susan Pond, the founder of the Australian Initiative for Sustainable Aviation Fuels, “and it is the sector most related to energy security because it is based in petroleum.”

Let’s look at some of the highlighed options and high-level thinking in Australia.

Fuel Cell Vehicles: Hyundai moving towards a new generation of vehicles that offer “the best of both worlds”

Hyundai’s Scott Nargar presented Hyundai’s growing prowess in fuel cell vehicles, while noting how FCVs could solve the “limited range and the weight and size of electric vehicles”.

“There are great things about gasoline internal combustion engines and electrics — fuel cell vehicle combines the best of both worlds. They have long range, quick refueling, and the technology is scalable and long-range. With our partners — all manufacturers are looking at fuel cell vehicles.

“The upside is zero emissions, quick refueling, quiet,” Nargar said.

“Research began 15 years ago, and the next-gen is on the way, ready in 2018, for the US, Europe and Australia. It is right hand drive in the next gen, gets 800 KM on a tank. Power out of the motors is increasing.

More about Fuel Cells

“You take a hydrogen supply, add an air inflow of oxygen into the fuel cell tank, and the fuel cell stack generates 400V and powers the motor,with no big battery. Power? You get 100 KW and 300 NM of torque – no compromise on performance, and a top speed 160 km/h. The official range is 594 KM, and the next-gen vehicle in 2018 will have 800 km. The only emission is water vapor.

“Is it practical? The inner-city great for electrics. Fuel-cells are great for longer range. H2 refueling is 3-7 minutes using infrastructure. So you have no compromise on refueling time, torque, power and speed.”

Why hydrogen?

“It’s the most abundant element, easy to produce, from a steam reformer at a conventional refinery. Now, we want to make as much green hydrogen as we can. Cleanest, greenest is our goal. It’s easy to store. The tanks are very safe, safer than a petrol tank. You will struggle to fracture a carbon fiber tank.”


“Hyundai has vehicles in North America. In the EU, we have vehicles in the UK, and also throughout Germany. In the US, you pay $2000 down and $499 per month, which includes all maintenance and all hydrogen. In Canada they cost a little more. We have 72 hydrogen stations in US, 80 in Europe, 13 in Korea and 1 in Australia.

The Hydrogen infrastructure

Hydrogen has received €17.9 billion in EU investment in hydrogen technology over the next 6 years. It’s a consortium put in stations. It can’t be just a Linde or Air Products, it has to be a consortium, bringing together a refueling, refrigeration and compression technology.”

Australian Hydrogen Project

“We have spent lot of time talking to the previous government. It’s tough to start a technology when you have no technology to show, so we worked with Air Products and Coregas to demonstrate a refueler, and we have brought a car. Our partner Coregas has 600 outlets throughout Australia which could be suitable.”

How the Digital Age will transform the Physical World of transport

Hugh Bradlow, Chief Scientist from Telstra gave a substantive address on the future of information and its impact on technology.

“We are creating next-gen of digital infrastructure. We are looking at how that digital infrastructure will impact. Next 10 years. The next wave of technology adoptions, over the next 10 years. We will see four major changes.

“First, the way we interact with technology, the technology will be become transparent.

“Second, we will have immersive communication, the ability to connect to people and places all the time, from all devices. Where once we had to “go out” physically, we willl have the option to “go out virtually”.

“Third, everything will be measurable. We will not be omnipotent but we will be omniscient.

“Fourth, is the rise of machine intelligence. Machines are beginning to perform pattern recognition like humans. An early indication of the trend is when Google and Facebook have software that recognizes your friends visually.

The inflection point

“In the future, we may be able to think and translate thought directly into action, without the need for access to a screen. We may find ourselves staring into infospace and making gestures.

“Consider the way we consume entertainment. There is an inflection point today, we have more hours of broadband than broadcast TV. To carry all this video traffic, we will need a new immersive communication system that is completely pervasive.

“Take for an example of how the future will shape up, the Microsoft Hollow Lens, which overlays the digital over the physical. Imagine helping your daughter fix the plumbing because a device enables you to “be there” when you are “far away”. These immersive solutions that enable work from anywhere, telehealth, virtual branches. Already today, speaking for myself, I can do everything an office from my home in the suburbs.

“Where this could go? There is quite a discussion about what is called the the internet of things. Where things are connected to and through the internet, not just people. Today, more than 99% of things are not yet connected. 1% of the things that can be measuring are being measured.

“Today 10 billion devices are connected to the internet, that will increase to one trillion in time, and we will have to cater for mobility, latency and quality of services. Networks are expanding capabilities to deliver low-power devices like mobile devices and long-range networks.”

Abundant computing

“We will see abundant computing, abundant data, new analytics and artificial intelligence, through cloud services. Today, we take the data mainly from human sources. But now, we can expect more and more data from devices, with streaming analytics and data lakes.

“In the future, we can expect to see digital infrastructure for transport, which will substitute for physical infrastructure, instead of being simply additive. Take for example, the opportunities in starting to digitize access to car parking space. 30% of urban congestion, we are told, represents people hunting for parking. In the future, technology will allow us to hook up, reserve and pay for a space.”

Self-driving cars?

“And we can expect to see self-driving cars and being connected for car share. This will impact our road capacity. Take Australia’s car ownership; today, we have 7 cars per 10 people, but we are heading for one car per person. Given population increases, we’ll need 2.5X increase in roads to handle the traffic if we stay with business as usual. But we can be connected for car share, and for every share car you put on the road you take 12 cars off the road, because of efficiency.

“By 2040, we may expect that every car will be self-driving. With that, you end up in 2050 with the same road capacity as today. And you eliminate the 90% of car accidents are human error. Here in Australia, you can save 45000 hospitalizations and 1000 lives.

“Taxibots could remove 9 out of 10 cars from cities. Taxibiots in conjunction with public transport would require 1/3 of today’s peak hour capacity. The big challenge is to plant and implement the transition.”

Decarbonizing the electricity grid in Australia

Bruce Godfrey raised eyebrows with a sobering assessment of the options and realities in improving Australia’s grid emissions, but offered optimism with respect to opportunities in distributed power generation.

“I think we are on that verge finally where we have a long-wave economic change, which tends to occur when disruptive technologies moving out of early stage and into broad deployment, and money is starting to flow and take-up is happening.

“One question we have is much of this revolution we are going to see in our economy or are we just a taker and a buyer of this technology?

Greenness of an electric depends on the greenness of the grid

“Another important question? For sure, EVs and Fuel Cell’s have no tailpipe emissions, but beware, the greenness depends on the carbon intensity of your grid.

The best analysis we have is that you need to have a grid generating about 600 tons CO2 per GWh for electric vehicles to have a positive impact on emissions. The good news? The global average is below that. The bad news, not here. From an Australian state-level perspective, if you live in Tasmania, take those EVs, it is fantastic, because there is so much hydro. But if you are looking at an EV in Victoria, it is better to buy petrol or diesel car, and that’s the reality. In most cases, states are well above the line. We have a high dependence on coal and gas, and this does not include generation station and TX + DX losses. We have a long way to go.

Greening Australia’s mix

“Firstly we have to acknowledge it is a bigger, longer and more complex task than often acknowledged. Secondly. that electricity customers will not accept and less reliability or quality in the supply of their electricity, in order to accommodate electric vehicles. Thirdly, and here is the good news, Australia is blessed with some good options for low carbon electricity.

“On the large-scale, the options have problems when it comes to social license or economic feasibility. There are five.

1. High efficiency natural gas generation. We have constrained availability in Eastern Australia and the price of gas is high.

2. Large scale hydro. We have social license, but geographic challenges.

3. Enhanced geothermal. It is technically feasible, but commercially unproven.

4. Carbon capture and storage. It is commercially unfeasible, and there are social license issues.

5. Nuclear. There is no social license

Distributed options

“These are the most interesting for Australia. For example, wind farms and solar, with storage or without. Storage can be provided by thermal, chemical, mechanical, pumped hydro, compressed air means.

“But there are disruptive options. We have consumer-level PV, including PV plus a storage option. These are increasing personal power, and control over options. They feel no longer beholden to that power company. Equally important, costs are dropping. And the more electricity users disconnect, more costs will drop. The factories are getting bigger and the input costs are decreasing. We are starting drive manufacturing economies of scale.

“We are seeing PV plus storage — for example, Tesla walls. What we see in distributed generation is low carbon because the sources are low carbon. And electric vehicles can bring that greener power to transportation.”

The risk?

According to Godfrey, there’s two we should have dialogue around. That is the risk that those least able to make transition to something like distributed generation will end up paying more for power as the customers leave the utility, who will have to charge more to or go out of business.

Second, that we put in an electric vehicle infrastructure at great cost and effort, without a strategy for who is going to pay, and when and how, for the greening of the grid. That’s like building a chain of movie theaters and then not making any movies — expensive and without point.

Aviation advancing

CAAFI’s Executive Director Emeritus Rich Altman gave a lively presentation focused on State Initiatives executed under the “Farm to Fly 2.0″ banner for which the goal was offer up the U.S. F2F2 State model as one that can be executed here in Australia to start up initiatives in Australian states.

“The US model can work in Australia,” Altman said, referring to the CAAFI Private/Public partnership vehicle, the USDA/CAAFI “Farm to Fly” 2.0 structure which is “building a future,”, the F2F2 – Focus on State and Local Projects. Altman offered US state start-up case studies for Connecticut, Vermont, South Carolina and Florida. You can view Altman’s entire presentation here.

Here comes the Navy

Joelle Simonpietri of the the US Pacific Command spoke on US Navy and Defense Department initiatives relevant to the Australian and international landscape, noting (from the Quadrennial Defense Review):

  • “Competition for resources, including energy and water, will worsen tensions in the coming years and could escalate regional confrontations into broader conflicts – particularly in fragile states.”
  • “The pace of technological and scientific innovation in the private sector, particularly in energy markets, has the potential not only to revolutionize entire industries but also to enable new ways of providing for U.S. security in the future.”

“The Department has invested in energy efficiency, new technologies, and renewable energy sources to make us a stronger and more effective fighting force. Energy improvements enhance range, endurance, and agility, particularly in the future security environment where logistics may be constrained.”

Simonpietri highlighted the 2016 Great Green Fleet activities, a year-long event throughout calendar year 2016 that will “highlight deploying ships and aircraft with energy conservation measures (ECMs) or alternative energy for propulsion,” and “ushers in a New Normal”, while working “with existing fleet schedules, therefore no dedicated group or itinerary for 2016″.

Simonpietri noted that the Great Green Fleet will “need international biofuel acquisitions” and said, “we’re coming, get ready.” You can download the entire presentation here.

This article was originally published at Biofuels Digest