First commercial carbon-capture machine redirects CO2 to greenhouse for vegetable production – from Smithsonian.com

Carbon-collecting machinery is now online in Hinwil, Switzerland

By Jason Daley

The Swiss company Climeworks this week switched on its first carbon capture plant—a machine designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The company hopes to quickly scale up its technology and capture one percent of the global carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels by 2025, reports Bobby Magill for Climate Central.

The company estimates that the plant will remove some 900 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere every year—a tiny fraction of the 10 gigtons that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined must be drawn down each year to halt global warming, writes Tereza Pultarova for Live Science.

 

Located near the Swiss village of Hinwil on the roof of a garbage incinerator, the direct air capture technology uses a proprietary filter to absorb atmospheric CO2 as it passes through the plant, according to a press release. Once the filter is saturated, it is heated to 100 degrees Celsius, causing it to release the gas. The CO2 is then redirected to a greenhouse where it will help grow vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers. The carbon boost could improve the lettuce harvest by up to 20 percent, according to the company’s website.

To achieve their goal of one percent, the company estimates they will need 250,000 plants the same size as the Hinwil unit, Magill reports.

Though the plant doesn’t result in net negative emissions, it is recycling the carbon dioxide for other uses, Magill writes. In order to actually achieve negative emissions the removed CO2 would have to be sequestered via capture in underground chambers or transformation into substances like rock.

In the future, the technology could also be used to capture and sequester carbon dioxide. But for now, the plant is giving CO2 emissions a function, rather than simply letting them go in the atmosphere. The company also sees potential in selling the captured CO2 to the beverage industry to carbonize drinks or producing a renewable hydrocarbon fuel.

“CO2 capture from air has been a very controversial topic in research for a long time,” Valentin Gutknecht, a business development manager at Climeworks tells Pultarova. “There was a belief that the cost can’t get down below $600 per ton of CO2 even at the mass scale. But we have managed to break this barrier.” As Magill reports, the company hopes to get the price down to about $400 per ton.

But the technology is controversial for more than its cost. Last year, leading climate scientists, including Glen Peters, published a paper in the journal Science arguing that the nascent technology directs focus away from reducing overall emissions. And it could cause complacency in some global leaders who believe that a future technological breakthrough could readily solve the climate crisis.

But Climeworks co-founder Christoph Gebald has no scruples about his project, he tells Magill. With effects due to climate change increasingly apparent, we need to use all tools possible to clean up global emissions.

Link to story

 

 

 

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Warming could push Earth’s rains northward – from Climate Central

By Andrea Thompson

The Earth’s rising temperature is expected to knock the global water cycle out of whack, but exactly how it will change is uncertain. Scientists, though, can look for clues as to what the future might bring in the major climate swings that have happened in the past.

A new study that does just that suggests that Earth’s rain belts could be pushed northward as the Northern Hemisphere heats up faster than the Southern Hemisphere. That shift would happen in concert with the longstanding expectation for already wet areas to see more rain and for dry ones to become more arid.

The study, detailed Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, “adds to the large body of evidence that climate change is going to mess with the large-scale motions of air and water in the atmosphere. And this matters, because those patterns largely determine where it’s rainy or arid, broadly speaking,” NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel, who wasn’t involved with the study, said in an email.

These changes in rain distribution could have implications for future water resources, particularly in areas where water supplies are already stressed, such as the western U.S. and parts of Africa.

From the basic physics of the atmosphere, scientists expect that as the planet heats up from ever-mounting levels of greenhouse gases, net global precipitation will increase because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture. But that increase won’t be uniform and is likely to be concentrated in the already moist tropics. And because higher temperatures also increase evaporation, other areas, such as the already dry subtropics, are likely to dry out further.

But which regions are wet and dry are also determined by the locations of the Earth’s main rain belts. The positions of those rain belts, in turn, are tied to that of the so-called thermal equator (the ring around the planet’s middle where surface temperatures are highest). And the location of that equator is impacted by the balance of temperatures between the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Because the Northern Hemisphere has more landmass, it is heating up faster than the Southern Hemisphere, and, as some climate models have suggested, this could push the thermal equator northward, and along with it those key rain belts.

Aaron Putnam, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Maine, and Wally Broecker, a Columbia University climate scientist, looked for clues as to whether such shifts have happened before in various paleoclimate records, including the shorelines of ancient lakes and cave stalagmites.

The lakes they examined are so-called closed-basin lakes, which have rivers feeding into them, but not draining them, meaning that changes in lake levels are governed solely by precipitation and evaporation.

During the Last Glacial Maximum when the Earth was much colder, closed-basin lakes in currently dry parts of western North America, the Middle East and South America were much larger than they are now, as evidenced by radiocarbon dating and other testing of their ancient shorelines. The precursor of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, for example, was more than 11 times larger than the current lake.

Studies of the dynamics of these lakes point to increased precipitation in these regions as the likely reason these lakes reached such massive extents. This suggests more precipitation fell away from the tropics in a colder climate, the opposite of what is expected as the world warms.

Those same lakes, along with other evidence from around the world, also points to the shifting of rain belts after a rapid loss of Arctic sea ice about 14,600 years ago that saw the Northern Hemisphere heat up faster than the Southern.

Layers of sediment off the coast of South America, for example, show changes in the amount of rain-fueled river water dumping into the ocean, while cave stalagmites, which need an influx of mineral-laden rainwater to grow, also show changes in precipitation over time.

These and other paleoclimate records indicate that rain belts shifted northward along with the thermal equator because of the global heat imbalance. Over the western U.S., for example, the Pacific subtropical jet went from providing moisture to southern California and the Great Basin during the glacial era to dumping it over northern California and Oregon as it does today.

While the warming happening now has a different cause than the past periods they studied, the authors think this past change could be a guide to the future and that same Pacific subtropical jet could move further north still.

Kevin Trenbeth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said the study didn’t account for changes in sea surface temperatures, which are the main drivers of changes in the position of the rain belts (as is seen during an El Nino event, when Pacific warming pushes the subtropical jet over the Western U.S. southward). Trenberth was also not involved in the study.

Putnam said the study was more focused on how the difference in warming between the hemispheres impacted the rain belts.

The changes in rain dynamics could also depend on the seasons, as climate records over recent decades suggest that the difference in heating between the two hemispheres is most pronounced during the Northern Hemisphere, or boreal, winter.

What this could mean, the authors posit, is that as the boreal winter continues to warm disproportionately, the thermal equator and therefore the rain belts won’t travel as far south as they currently do during the winter. This could have major impacts on areas, such as the western U.S., which get the bulk of their rain during the winter.

Conversely, in the boreal summer, when the difference between the two hemispheres isn’t as great, the “wet get wetter, dry get drier” effect of warming will dominate, meaning more rain in the tropics and less in the subtropics.

Of course, like any single study, this one is far from the final say. “This will evolve,” Putnam said, as more paleoclimate records emerge and are paired with climate models to “try to see if climate models can reproduce the patterns that we see in those datasets.”

Link to article

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Targeting Food Waste: $5 million available for prevention/rescue grants

CalRecycle (a.k.a. the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery) has announced a new grant program targeting food waste. The Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program aims to lower overall greenhouse gas emissions by establishing/expanding food waste prevention and/or rescue projects in California to reduce the amount of food being disposed of in landfills.

Projects
Eligible projects include:

  • Food waste prevention projects that prevent food waste from being generated and becoming waste normally destined for landfills, with any food waste residuals from the project being sent to composting or digestion when available within the project service area.
  • Food rescue projects that result in rescued food being distributed to people, with any food waste residuals from the project being sent to composting or digestion when available with the project service area.

Funding
$5,000,000 is available for fiscal year (FY) 2016-17. The funding will be distributed as follows:

  • Large Tier: $4,000,000 allocation for large tier projects with minimum grant award of $100,001 and a maximum grant award of $500,000 per application.
  • Small Tier: $1,000,000 allocation for small tier projects with minimum grant award of $25,000 and a maximum grant award of $100,000 per application.

For information about eligibility and other details on this competitive grant program, see the notice on the CalRecycle site.

The Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities.The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. California Climate Investment projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling and much more. At least 35 percent of these investments are made in disadvantaged and low-income communities. For more information, visit California Climate Investments.

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A Climate Change Solution Beneath Our Feet – from UC Davis

From UC Davis

There’s too much carbon in the atmosphere and not enough in the ground where it’s useful.

When we think of climate change solutions, what typically comes to mind is the transportation we use, the lights in our home, the buildings we power and the food we eat. Rarely do we think about the ground beneath our feet.

Sheep from Skyelark Ranch graze a field planted with a cover crop in Brooks, Calif. The grazing encourages plants to grow and capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

Looking across the landscape on a spring day at Russell Ranch Sustainable Agricultural Facility, most people would simply see a flat, mostly barren field. But Scow—a microbial ecologist and director of this experimental farm at the University of California, Davis— sees a living being brimming with potential. The soil beneath this field doesn’t just hold living things—it is itself alive.

Scow likens soil to the human body with its own system of “organs” working together for its overall health. And, like us, it needs good food, water and care to live up to its full potential.

Farmers and gardeners have long sung the praises of soil. For the rest of us, it’s practically invisible. But a greater awareness of soil’s ability to sequester carbon and act as a defense against climate change is earning new attention and admiration for a resource most of us treat like dirt.

Soil can potentially store between 1.5 to 5.5 billion tons of carbon a year globally. That’s equivalent to between 5 and 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide. While significant, that’s still just a fraction of the 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted every year from burning fossil fuels.

So soil is one bite of a big platter of solutions needed to confront climate change.

But the nice thing about healthy soils, Scow said, is that creating them not only helps fight climate change — it also brings multiple benefits for agricultural, human and environmental health.

“With soil, there’s so much going on that is so close to us, that’s so interesting and multifaceted, that affects our lives in so many ways — and it’s just lying there beneath our feet,” she said.

To continue reading, see the original post on the UC Davis site here.

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Boaters can help fight spread of invasive mussels over Memorial Day Weekend

Invasive mussels spread to new bodies of water by attaching to watercraft. They multiply quickly and encrust pipes (above), pumping equipment and other components of water infrastructure. CDFA’s Border Inspection Stations are part of a cooperative, multi-agency effort that has inspected more than one million watercraft entering California over the past nine years, all aimed at preventing the introduction of quagga and zebra mussels into our waterways.

California agencies combatting the spread of invasive quagga and zebra mussels remind boaters to remain cautious over Memorial Day weekend.

Quagga and zebra mussels are invasive freshwater mussels native to Eurasia. They multiply quickly, encrust watercraft and infrastructure, alter water quality and the aquatic food web, and ultimately impact native and sport fish communities. These mussels spread from one body of water to another by attaching to watercraft, equipment and nearly anything that has been in an infested waterbody.

Microscopic juveniles, invisible to the naked eye, are spread from infested waterbodies in water entrapped in boat engines, bilges, live-wells and buckets. Quagga mussels have infested 31 waterways in Southern California and zebra mussels have infested two waterways in San Benito County.

To prevent the spread of these mussels and other aquatic invasive species, people launching vessels at any body of water are subject to watercraft inspections and are strongly encouraged to clean, drain and dry their motorized and non-motorized boats, including personal watercraft, and any equipment that contacts the water before and after recreating.

“The public plays a critical role in preventing the spread of quagga and zebra mussels,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham. “The public should remember to Clean, Drain, and Dry their watercraft to prevent the further spread of quagga/zebra mussels, and other invasive species.”

To ensure watercraft are clean, drained and dry, many local agencies conduct boat inspections. The CDFW website provides a list of these inspection programs (www.wildlife.ca.gov/mussels), along with additional information about the invasive mussels and what people can do to help prevent their spread in California. Prior to traveling, boaters should contact destination waterbodies directly to check for restrictions and requirements.

Take the following steps both before traveling to and before leaving a waterbody to prevent spreading invasive mussels, improve your inspection experience and safeguard California waterways:

  • CLEAN — inspect exposed surfaces and remove all plants and organisms,
  • DRAIN — all water, including water contained in lower outboard units, live-wells and bait buckets, and
  • DRY — allow the watercraft to thoroughly dry between launches. Watercraft should be kept dry for at least five days in warm weather and up to 30 days in cool weather.

CDFW has developed a brief video demonstrating the ease of implementing the clean, drain and dry prevention method, which can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaeAIPLoK-k. In addition, a detailed guide to cleaning vessels of invasive mussels is available on the CDFW’s webpage at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=4957&inline. Additional information is available on the Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) website at http://dbw.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=28996.

Travelers are also advised to be prepared for inspections at California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Border Protection Stations. Over the past nine years, more than one million watercraft entering California have been inspected at the Border Protection Stations. Inspections, which can also be conducted by CDFW and California State Parks, include a check of boats and personal watercraft, as well as trailers and all onboard items. Contaminated vessels and equipment are subject to decontamination, rejection, quarantine or impoundment.

Quagga and zebra mussels can attach to and damage virtually any submerged surface. They can:

  • Ruin a boat engine by blocking the cooling system and causing it to overheat
  • Jam a boat’s steering equipment, putting occupants and others at risk
  • Require frequent scraping and repainting of boat hulls
  • Colonize all underwater substrates such as boat ramps, docks, lines and other underwater surfaces, causing them to require constant cleaning
  • Impose large expenses to owners

A multi-agency effort that includes CDFW, DBW, CDFA and the California Department of Water Resources has been leading an outreach campaign to alert the public to the quagga and zebra mussel threats. A toll-free hotline, 1 (866) 440-9530, is available for those seeking information on quagga or zebra mussels.

See the original post on the CDFW News site here.

 

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Water in Agriculture Forum highlights cooperation between California and Israel

Today, Secretary Karen Ross and Israeli Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel signed a Letter of Intent (see below) on agricultural cooperation furthering the commitment between California and Israel in addressing issues related to a changing climate.

The document was signed during the opening ceremony of the Water in Agriculture – Seminar & Discussion being held in Sacramento, jointly hosted by the CDFA and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the State of Israel. The forum brings together both Israeli and California government officials, businesses and researchers to address water/agriculture-related issues while also exploring opportunities for future innovation and sustainable management of water resources.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross discusses cooperative efforts with Minister Uri Ariel during the opening ceremony at today’s Water in Agriculture event.

At today’s Water in Agriculture event, (from left) Josh Eddy of CDFA, Ifat Weiss, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, Minister Uri Ariel and his wife; Consul General Andy David, and Economic Consul Gili Ovadia.

Dr Jay Lund with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences presenting at today’s Water in Agriculture event.

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Farmers look back at range of impacts from drought – From Ag Alert

By Dave Kranz, Ag Alert

Lessons learned during the multi-year California drought will help farmers and ranchers cope with the next one—and those lessons extended beyond the farm to the realms of policy and public perception, according to farmers who spoke at a water conference in Monterey.

Four farmers from different parts of the Central Valley talked about impacts of the drought during a panel discussion at the Association of California Water Agencies event last week.

Stanislaus County nut grower Jake Wenger said coping with water shortages during the drought required “ingenuity and creativity.”

“It made us stronger, it made us better, it made us more prepared for the next drought, which we know is going to happen,” Wenger said.

Rice farmer Greg Johnson, executive vice president of Far West Rice in Butte County, said he had weathered two droughts during his career—in the early 1990s and the recent one—and that improved technology made “a tremendous difference” in how the farm coped. Zero-grade leveling of rice fields has made water use more efficient, he said, and the availability of online data from the Western Canal Water District allows farmers to keep close track of water usage.

“Now, growers have access to their usage records almost immediately,” Johnson said. “On a daily basis, you can look at what you’ve used and what your allocation has left.”

For Cannon Michael, who grows a variety of vegetable and field crops at Los Banos-based Bowles Farming Co., the drought resulted in an agricultural community committed to finding water-policy solutions for fish and for farms. It also demonstrated to farmers the need to work collaboratively toward those solutions, Michael said.

“I think the overlying understanding is that we all have to work together,” he said. “We’ve got better relationships now between different areas that maybe felt like they were immune to some of the problems that were happening along the west side of the valley for a long time.”

Aubrey Bettencourt, who farms with her family in Kings County and serves as executive director of the California Water Alliance, said the impact of the drought underlined for farmers the importance of communication, whether with water districts, regulatory agencies, county governments, others in agriculture and the non-agricultural public.

“Communication is key,” Bettencourt said. “We’re still learning, still debating how best to do that, but I think we’re getting much better.”

The theme of the ACWA panel encouraged the farmers to discuss what they wished urban Californians knew about farming. More than one participant remarked about the time they must spend in the office, rather than in the field, dealing with the wide spectrum of regulations that govern their operations. They also discussed the constant innovation needed to maintain a successful California farm.

“We’re very quick to adapt new technologies,” Johnson said. “We’re looking for better ways to do our jobs, ways of cutting down on input costs, ways of protecting our farms and protecting the land.”

For California farmers to stay in business, Michael said, “we’re going to have to be at some level recognized for the additional steps we take for paying a living wage, for paying overtime, all these things that even other neighbors in the U.S. don’t do.”

He described himself as “a transformer of water into a useable product that people need and value.”

The drought brought added focus to the amount of water used to produce California crops, and Bettencourt said it showed how the value of water should be based on what that water can produce.

“So long as you value that almond, that’s what it costs in water,” she said. “If you think about water in those terms, the value of that lettuce is the cost of the water to put into it. So as long as you value the lettuce, you have to value the water you put into that lettuce.”

During a discussion of the sustainability of Central Valley agriculture—another topic that arose during the drought—Wenger pointed out that different groups define “sustainability” differently.

“I think the concept of sustainability is being able to produce and do something so you’re not having environmental impacts, so the ground stays available in the way that it was, in perpetuity,” he said, “that the water supply stays available in perpetuity, that you are not making negative impacts on your environment and your surroundings.”

The panelists agreed that to remain sustainable, California farmers will need to adapt constantly with new technology, new crops, sophisticated management and continuous awareness of their status in the political and media spheres.

Michael, whose family started farming in California in 1858, put it this way: “Especially in California, you’d better be a pretty shrewd businessperson if you’re going to be around for one generation, let alone six.”

See the original article on the Ag Alert site here.

(Dave Kranz, editor of Ag Alert, moderated the panel discussion at the ACWA conference. He may be contacted at dkranz@cfbf.com.)

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Video: Secretary Ross joins celebration of the formation of the California Farm Demonstration Network – from UC ANR


The newly formed Farm Demonstration Network is designed to increase the adoption of improved-performance conservation agriculture systems in California.

Founding signatories, including CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, gathered on May 5 to launch the network with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): the California Farm Bureau Federation, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the University of California, Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

Learn more about the MOU signing ceremony and the Farm Demonstration Network here.

 

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Dairy and Livestock Working Group Kickoff Meeting at CDFA

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (center) with Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols and PUC member Cliff Rechtschaffen today at the first meeting of the Dairy and Livestock Greenhouse Gas Reduction Working Group, which will collaborate on the development of a plan to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane from dairy cows and other livestock. The meeting continues today until 2 pm and can be viewed via live stream.  

 

The meeting has drawn a capacity crowd to CDFA’s auditorium.

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First came hydrogen cars; now the refueling stations – from the New York Times

A hydrogen refueling station in Hayward.
Photo from the New York Times

Note – The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards plays an important role in the ongoing development of hydrogen fueling stations by certifying hydrogen fuel meters and regulating fuel quality, advertising and labeling in the marketplace. For more please see the video at the end of this story. 

By Neal E. Boudette

The daily commute is a real grind for most people, but not for Heather McLaughlin.

In February, Ms. McLaughlin leased a 2017 Honda Clarity FC, a sedan powered by hydrogen fuel cells and available only in California. And it has transformed her daily 20-mile commute near San Francisco.

With no pistons or spark plugs, the car is serenely quiet. Its electric motor provides a peppy ride. And wherever Ms. McLaughlin goes, the only thing that comes out of the tailpipe is a bit of water vapor. There are no pollutants, no greenhouse gases.

“On cold mornings you can actually see drops of water — it’s so cool,” Ms. McLaughlin said recently. “Driving to work is usually the best part of my day.”

Right now, a morning ride in a hydrogen-powered car is possible only in California. But in the coming months, environmentally minded consumers on the East Coast will have the opportunity to join in.

Automakers and environmentalists have long hailed fuel cells as a revolutionary technology that can reduce planet-warming tailpipe emissions, which account for a significant portion of the greenhouse gases released in the United States. After years of development, several models are now on the road, like the Toyota Mirai and the Honda Clarity FC.

The next challenge is building networks of hydrogen stations so owners can refuel their cars.

So far California has 30, enough to enable owners to drive throughout the state without worry of running out of hydrogen, and it intends to expand that to 100 by 2020. Sales of fuel-cell vehicles have been limited to the state so far.

The automakers are poised, however, to expand into the Northeast. Air Liquide, a producer of industrial gases, is working with Toyota to set up a chain of 12 hydrogen fueling stations stretching from New York to Boston; the first is expected to go into operation later this year. Locations will include the Bronx; Brooklyn; Hempstead, N.Y., on Long Island; Lodi, N.J.; Hartford; and Braintree and Mansfield, Mass.

The availability of hydrogen fuel will pave the way for the start of East Coast sales.

The Northeast is “the next critical step toward a much wider distribution of fuel-cell vehicles,” said Craig Scott, director of Toyota’s advanced technology group. The densely populated Northeastern states “in some sense could rival California as a market,” he said, adding, “As a region, they have very good sales potential.”

In March, Hyundai previewed a new fuel-cell sport utility vehicle that it plans to introduce next year.

Steve Center, Honda’s vice president for environmental business development, said oil companies and others were also showing interest in adding hydrogen fueling stations on the East Coast. “What we want to see is clusters of fueling stations in the cities, and then connectors in corridors between the big cities so you have fueling between Boston, New York, Washington,” he said.

California has had an advantage because it is a large state with a government committed to supporting zero-emissions technologies. “In the Northeast, you have different states under different leadership, so it’s a little tougher to get a unifying plan,” Mr. Center said.

The automakers say they plan to continue to push ahead with fuel-cell technology even if the Trump administration pulls back federal support for advanced-technology cars. The companies believe that they will be required, within a decade or two, to produce large numbers of cars and trucks that release nothing into the atmosphere in most markets around the world.

“We know the end game is zero emissions,” said Mark Reuss, General Motors’ executive vice president for global product development.

Fuel cells operate by setting off a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. The two elements bond, creating an electric charge. Stack a few hundred cells together, and they can generate enough electricity to power a car motor.

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, if they take off, could offer advantages over the battery-powered cars on the road now, like the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf. Electric vehicles need to be recharged, sometimes for a few hours, when their batteries run down. While the Chevrolet Bolt is said to go 238 miles before needing to recharge, others are more limited.

A version of the Clarity powered by batteries goes just 80 miles on a single charge. By comparison, the Clarity FC — the fuel-cell version — can go 366 miles on a full tank.

The Clarity FC is a four-door sedan and is the same size as a Honda Accord, but it features more futuristic touches including slitlike headlamps, a sloping roofline and angular taillamps. It was designed from the ground up for an electric powertrain, which enabled Honda to create more interior space while fitting in two nearly indestructible hydrogen tanks.

Refueling the Clarity and the Mirai is virtually the same process as filling a car with gasoline. In California, owners pull up to what looks like a normal fuel pump. The fueling hose clicks into the car’s intake port, and hydrogen gas is forced into the tanks. It all takes three to five minutes.

Most of the hydrogen pumps in California are at existing gas stations. The state recently provided $32 million in grants to fund the construction of 15 additional fueling stations.

So far, Toyota is in the lead in sales, having sold about 1,400 Mirais. The company expects sales to exceed 3,000 by year’s end. Honda started selling the Clarity this year and has delivered about 100. Hyundai has also leased a small number of fuel-cell versions of its Tucson S.U.V. in Southern California.

In a bid to cut the cost of fuel-cell systems, G.M. and Honda are setting up a plant in Michigan to mass-produce fuel-cell systems that both companies will use in future hydrogen-powered vehicles. The companies hope that by pooling their resources they can quickly increase production and lower costs.

For now, subsidies are offered to make fuel-cell vehicles more affordable. Both the Clarity FC and the Mirai have list prices of about $58,000, although almost all customers lease the vehicles. The federal government gives a $7,500 tax credit on zero-emissions vehicles, and the state of California offers a $5,000 grant on top of that.

The Trump administration has not yet made clear if it plans to scrap the federal tax credit. If it does, that could severely crimp sales of high-mileage cars like electric vehicles.

The automakers add incentives of their own, too. Toyota and Honda give their customers credit cards for up to $15,000 of fuel over the first three years of ownership. Hydrogen fuel is still significantly more expensive than gasoline. Filling a tank costs about $75.

In addition, both Toyota and Honda provide a rental car for up to three weeks a year, in case a customer needs to go on a long trip out of range of hydrogen fueling stations and their Mirai or Clarity FC has to stay home.

Ms. McLaughlin, the Clarity FC owner in California, says she pays $369 a month to lease her car — a great deal in her view, given the benefits Honda is providing.

“I love never paying for fuel, and I probably will take advantage of the rental car coverage at some point,” she said. “I almost feel like they are paying me to own the car.”

 Link to story

View this CDFA video on hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

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