Bridging the infrastructure gap for BEVs using methanol and hydrogen

The Battery Electric Vehicle market (BEV) is soaring, with sales of electric vehicles, including fully electric and plug-in hybrids having doubled in 2021 to a record of 6.6million. With the combination of rising fossil fuel costs, impending sustainability regulation across global industries and a consumer desire for sustainability, this growth looks set to continue. The increased usage in commercial and industrial BEVs will lead to an inevitable strain on the existing infrastructure and, with a relatively long wait for the necessary upgrades, the viability and popularity of BEVs will potentially be negatively impacted.


From commercial BEVs such as heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) through to more intensive industrial equipment and applications, the opportunity for hydrogen to support the energy transition cannot be underestimated. For those wanting to embrace the next generation of clean energy without having to rely on the generally slow-moving infrastructure, new technology, such as our unique hydrogen generation, can provide the answers.


As the infrastructure required to support hydrogen as a fuel continues to develop, there’s a growing need for technology that offers grid-independent, scalable clean energy solutions. Bridging the gap between the demands of the commercial and industrial markets and the current state of the infrastructure is now a crucial short-term objective as we look to move towards a cleaner, greener future.


The infrastructure dilemma


As the adoption and utilization of BEVs continues to rise, the infrastructure isn’t moving at the same speed. For example, for those in the commercial space looking to transition their HGVs, the strain that charging an entire fleet can put on their grid and resources is a major barrier to overcome. For those commercial vehicles or logistics companies with a sizeable fleet, they will often have fossil fuel bunkers on site, but switching to a charging infrastructure proves difficult or impossible as their existing sites/depots don’t have the space or aren’t fit for the charging purpose. So, even as the consumer infrastructure slowly improves and if strains on the existing grid can be alleviated, many of those in the commercial sector will still need an alternative solution.


Elsewhere, industrial equipment powered by fuel cells can drastically reduce emissions, but as they’re often operating off the beaten track, the access to the required charging facilities leads to the continued over-reliance on more traditional fueling methods.


Hydrogen as a fuel source can play a role in helping to bridge the gap between demand and infrastructure. The production, transportation, storage and application of that hydrogen power then becomes the next challenge to address. With on-demand, scalable, grid-independent, methanol-based hydrogen generation, hydrogen becomes a much more viable fuel source and reduces the reliance on the current infrastructure and allows consumer and commercial bodies to take the timeline for their energy transition into their own hands.


Methanol hydrogen production offers a mobile option


The potential for hydrogen to play a significant role in clean fuel adoption is clear. But when it comes to its production, the DoE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy focuses on the more common avenues of natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, solar and wind energy. However, one area that perhaps isn’t getting the attention it warrants is methanol.


Methanol is one of the more attractive methods for making hydrogen, as it offers unique advantages compared to its production counterparts. From logistical issues and clean processes through to scalable production, infrastructure reliance or the financial aspect of producing hydrogen, methanol as a carrier for fuel-cell grade hydrogen generation can help overcome some of the existing obstacles that the world is facing when it comes to clean fuels and broader adoption of BEVs.


With modular technology and methanol and water as the feedstock, our unique hydrogen generation technology is fully scalable to meet the energy demands of each unique situation, helping to remove some of the cost and environmental implications usually associated with hydrogen as an energy source. Grid-independent and futureproof, on-site hydrogen generation technology provides an efficient, more cost-effective, and mobile energy source, allowing for faster progress with your energy transition, without having to be constrained by the current limitations of your available infrastructure.

Methanol facilitates the buildout of scalable hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Alternatively, methanol-to-hydrogen enables the operation of fuel cells to generate electricity for battery charging (and other operations) without reliance on the electrical grid. Being grid-independent allows operations to be scaled in a shorter timeframe and with lower investment costs.


Financial investment is naturally a key consideration when looking to transition to a greener future when it comes to adopting viable, cleaner fuel sources. Compared to other existing methods, the process for utilizing methanol for hydrogen fueling and/or electrical power generation (grid independent) is cost effective. Element 1 technology allows you to make hydrogen via methanol on-site, where it is going to be used, resulting in a 50-70% reduction in cost of hydrogen per kilogram.


The green credentials for methanol are evident. As the discussion regarding hydrogen continues, it’s important that we monitor the methods used to produce hydrogen in the first place. As we continue this sustainable journey, we should all be wary of ‘race to the bottom’ philosophy and instead establish and support practices that truly maximize the clean potential of the fuel. Green methanol is made from carbon dioxide or a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane. This production method effectively removes CO2 and methane from the atmosphere, creating a carbon cycle that achieves low carbon intensity.


Whilst industries keep taking tangible action towards cleaner energy sources, hydrogen generation technology, such as methanol-based hydrogen production must be seriously considered as a viable solution for those wanting to embrace BEVs as a means of speeding up accessibility to allow infrastructure to catch up. Whether it’s to support a commercial vehicle fleet or industrial construction equipment, methanol-produced hydrogen, and technology such as ours can both ‘bridge the infrastructure gap’ now and provide long-term, clean energy into the future.