Hydrogen vs. Lithium: Let’s get ready to rumble!
Last year we witnessed a notorious, knock-down-drag-out, public relations battle between two of the world’s most powerful and influential green energy moguls; even though the two billionaire contenders were never in the same room. Now the hydrogen sector of the green energy industry is swinging back hard.
Tesla’s Elon Musk and Australian billionaire and Fortescue’s iron-ore mining magnate Andrew Forrest took swings at each other in a public relations slugfest last spring. Both CEOs presented opposing green vehicle pitches to China, the world’s largest green energy market and battery metal supplier.
In the Red Corner: Elon “Hydrogen is Mind-Bogglingly Stupid” Musk
Tesla’s Elon Musk of course needs no introduction. Elon weighs in as the best-known EV manufacturer. His increasing Chinese affiliations are essential to secure the Rare Earth Element supply chain (not to mention China’s humongous EV market ) that is critical to the company’s future. Musk’s China moves are seen as a “win-win” scenario for the country that holds a conservatively estimated chokehold on 85% of the world’s magnet metal supply chain.
In 2022 EV battery mineral consumption is projected to explode. Experts anticipate that we’ll see 2023 come in with severe deficits in REE (Rare Earth Element) battery minerals such as graphite, cobalt, and of course precious lithium.
Graphite Resources Heading Into Deficit Territory in 2023
How critical is graphite to Musk’s lithium-ion-dependent EV sector? Graphite makes up 95% of a lithium-ion battery’s negative anode alone, as opposed to the positive cathode which can be produced with nickel and cobalt. The global critical mineral production is expected to reach troubling negative territory in 2023 and beyond as EV production ramps up in the ongoing green quest to meet ambitious global zero-carbon benchmarks.
“According to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, there will be a global graphite deficit starting by the end of 2022, and demand from the battery sector is expected to rise 30% annually until 2030. The US has no manufacturing plants that can supply automotive-grade graphite at scale. Meanwhile, China controls 84% of the global supply.” “Graphite will be in deficit from 2022” -Electrek-Michelle Lewis- Dec. 20th, 2021 3:44 pm PT
Round 1 in 2021: Elon Musk’s Strategic Pivot to China
Elon Musk made headlines all year long in 2021 as he shifted Tesla’s operations, shutting down the original Fremont Tesla plant in California to escape what Musk considers the hostile-to-business environment in California, and moving the company’s headquarters to Austin, Texas where the “Giga Texas” plant underway is expected to commence Model Y production any day now in January of 2022.
But the biggest Tesla shift into high production gear was not just one but 3 mega or “Giga” factories underway now or in development for 2022 in China. Considering the supply chain disruptions it’s understandable why Musk wants to keep that chain short and local. And he’s not likely to run into the relentless NIMBY obstacle course that has to be navigated here in the US.
With the typical Tesla style of “over-promise, under-deliver” bravado, an optimistic press release issued by the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government declared the company’s ambition to produce a whopping 500,000 electric vehicles per year, to develop new green R&D projects, and EV sales facilities in the Shanghai region as well.
But did any of Elon’s Red China partners happen to mention that they are also looking to put 1 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2030?
Round 2 in 2022: The Hydrogen Green Energy Empire Strikes Back
While your average green-minded, layman citizen tends to guzzle Tesla’s lithium-ion green battery Koolaid with gusto, those who forget about the marketing and follow the engineering know that if carbon-zero ambitions are to actually be fulfilled, hydrogen makes much more sense.
Fortescue Mining CEO Andrew Forrest swung back hard against Elon Musk’s somewhat foolhardy statement about hydrogen fuel cell technology, declaring loudly that “hydrogen was mind-bogglingly stupid.”
CEO Forrest didn’t pull his counterpunch when he told industry leaders in China why he believes Musk is so anti-hydrogen.
“ Musk had every reason to fear them [hydrogen fuel cells], and his description is perhaps better suited, in my view, to someone who peddles a battery technology as ‘green’ when it runs on fossil fuel.”
The simple stunning fact is that electric cars will consume about 10X the battery mineral resources of comparable gas-powered vehicles. That increase in demand means more powerful loaders, the largest capacity haulers, and increased operating hours at more mines. And they can only meet global demand with good old diesel power since the limited performance of current EV’s could never keep up. So much for “carbon-zero” and green batteries.
Australia’s iron ore baron Andrew Forrest isn’t the only one on a quest to develop actual sustainable, renewable, hydrogen-powered, truly green infrastructure. The traditional energy companies taking the hydrogen initiative are developing the universe’s most plentiful resource to power entire continents, not just EV cars, for a more achievable, sustainable transition away from fossil fuels.
Shell and ThyssenKrupp’s Hydrogen Facility in Rotterdam
The spell check-busting Holland company called ThyssenKrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers has signed a supply contract with Shell for the largescale green energy project ‘Hydrogen Holland 1’ in the port of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.
According to a January 10 report at Energy Projects and Technology, it’s showtime for the Dutch engineers who now have a challenging contract with Shell to “ engineer, procure, and fabricate a 200 MW electrolysis plant based on their large-scale 20 MW alkaline water electrolysis module.”
“We are looking forward to [support] building a major hydrogen hub in central Europe and to contribute to Europe’s transition to green energy”- Dr. Christoph Noeres, Head of Green Hydrogen at ThyssenKrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers.
As the battle of the green giants continues, we’re expecting a spin campaign from the lithium-ion crowd comparing hydrogen fuel cell technology to the Hindenburg any day now.
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