West Texas is now at the threshold of the hydrogen era. The potential for renewable wind and solar power to split water producing hydrogen offers an economic opportunity for the Panhandle. Hydrogen is being used in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs) to produce electricity to drive the electric motors in these vehicles. FCEVs are now available in California and one vehicle, a Toyota Mirai, is now located in Hereford, Texas to be fueled by the state’s first carbon-free hydrogen fueling station.
Wind power going into the grid for $0.02 or less per kilowatt could be used to produce 1 kilogram of hydrogen for $1 or less. A kilogram of hydrogen has the energy content of 1 gallon of gas and retails in California for $16. The hydrogen technology is already present in the Panhandle as the Walmart Distribution Center in Plainview operates 150 hydrogen fuel cell forklifts.
Standalone hydrogen production units with compression, purification and vehicle fueling system are currently available. Locally operated fleets could be powered by these units and others could be placed to service the public or produce hydrogen for shipment to other markets. FCEVs are being rapidly adopted by China, Japan, and Europe because each kilogram of hydrogen contains 40 times more energy than does a kilogram of batteries now used in electric vehicles.
Trucks with hydrogen fuel cell systems have been developed and have a range of 800 to 1,300 miles per 80 kilogram of fuel. These trucks can maintain 65 miles per hour on a 6 degree grade when transporting an 80,000 load. The Panhandle of Texas has the potential to become a leader in the production and utilization of carbon-free hydrogen.