Nuclear and Hydrogen Significant Power Sources in the U.S., But at a Higher Cost

Both nuclear and hydrogen are gaining global support as clean and reliable power sources for electricity and other uses; and that would include growing support in the U.S. But the opposition is still in place, along with skeptics who make tangible points about what obstacles need to be overcome.

One of the challenges that nuclear, hydrogen, and fuel cells face is the higher cost of building, operating, and maintaining the power plants compared to other energy sources. That carries over to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as well when compared to other alternative fuel vehicles.

It wasn’t that long ago that both of these non-fossil fuel energies were dismissed by many influential leaders. Nuclear faced the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima nuclear power plant accidents and radiation leaks. Hydrogen could bring up the Hindenburg disaster and hydrogen nuclear bombs from the 1950s, though these examples have had little to do with how hydrogen has been used to power American spaceships, fuel cell vehicles, power plants, and other uses.

The support has been steadily increasing in recent years. At COP28 in Dubai last year, more than 20 countries from four continents expressed support for tripling nuclear energy capacity by 2050 as a key element of reaching net zero. New legislation and rules from the Biden administration have been propelling a renewed bipartisan push for nuclear power.

The federal government will be providing a $1.5 billion loan to restart the Palisades plant in southwestern Michigan. Announced Wednesday, the 800-megawatt plant that was closed in 2022 is on track to be reopened in late 2025. That came from support from the Biden administration and the state of Michigan. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said it would be the first nuclear power plant to be reopened in the U.S. It still faces hurdles, including inspections, testing and the blessing of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, known as the NRC.

Supporters of nuclear power identified by Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) include: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe; President Joe Biden; Bill Gates; film director Oliver Stone, Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Energy; John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate; Carol Browner, former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Ken Kimmell, from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Capital Research Center did an August 2023 study on opponents of nuclear energy. Environmental groups made the list including the World Wildlife Fund, the World Resources Institute (WRI), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and the League of Conservation Voters.

While Tesla CEO Elon Musk has dismissed hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, there have been fewer opponents of the fuel and technology than nuclear power has faced. Support has increased over the past quarter century in Washington, D.C., California, European Union, Japan, South Korea, and other markets for hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles.

Looking at the cost of producing electricity at power plants illustrates the hurdle that nuclear and fuel cells have to overcome in the near future. (See table, above.) It’s also helpful to look at trends in energy power plant sources over the past decade.

Energy power source trends in the US:

  1. Coal reached its peak powering electricity in the U.S. in 2008, at 1.986 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). It provided 829 billion kWh in 2022. Natural gas took the dominant role around 2015.
  2. Natural gas made up 1,689 billion-kWh or 39.8% of the 4,243 billion kilowatt-hours total in the US in 2022. Renewables powered 913 billion-kWh, or 21.5%. Coal made up 829 billion-kWh or 19.5% of the total. Nuclear provided 772 billion-kWh, or 18.2%. ‘Petroleum and other’ provided 40 billion-kWh, or 0.9% of the total that year.
  3. Renewables have had a slow and steady part of the total power-plant energy sources — about 10.35% of the total energy in 2010, versus 21.5% in 2022.
  4. Fuel cell power plants produced 350 megawatts of power in 2022, or about 8.25% of the total energy supply for the U.S. that year. As of December 2022, there were 205 fuel cell power plants in 147 facilities. Most use pipeline natural gas as the hydrogen source; while some use landfill gas and others use wastewater treatment biogas.

Source: EIA

There are a few signs that nuclear and hydrogen are gaining traction:
Amazon quietly acquired a nuclear-powered data center in Pennsylvania for $650 million, its first in the nuclear space. Amazon Web Services, the tech giant’s cloud computing unit, bought the centre from US power generator Talen Energy, which developed the site adjoining a nuclear power station. AWS will buy electricity from the Susquehanna nuclear power station, which is 130km north-west of Philadelphia, under a 10-year power-purchase agreement.

Operators of several natural gas-fired power plants are exploring the use of hydrogen to supplement or replace natural gas. Hydrogen has the potential for effectively storing energy for electric power generation. Biofuel producers also use hydrogen to produce hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) for use as renewable diesel.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Hydrogen truck maker Nikola Motors has announced that it has opened its first ever H2 refuelling station, for trucks only, in the California city of Ontario, 35 miles (56km) of downtown Los Angeles — on the same road as an existing Shell H2 filling stop for trucks. Nikola Corp plans to build up to 60 hydrogen refueling stations for heavy-duty vehicles in California over the next few years.

Nuclear power is a low-emission source of electricity, providing about 10% of global electricity generation. For those countries where it is accepted, it can support that country’s goals to get away from fossil fuel powered electricity production plants. Along with power plants, nuclear energy can be used an option for producing low-emission heat and hydrogen, according to International Energy Agency. The U.S. uses a lot of nuclear power, making up about 30% of global nuclear electricity generation, according to IEA. One-firth of America’s electricity comes from nuclear power.

Nuclear fusion power has a long way to go, but it is getting backers in venture capital. The global market paid $10 trillion for energy in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), so even a single-digit percentage of that pie would generate revenues in the tens of billions. Oh, and a commercially successful fusion power plant would change the world.

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced it plans to invest 4 trillion yen ($26.46 billion) in a public-private partnership to develop a next-generation hydrogen-powered passenger jet. “It is important for us to build next-generation aircraft based on technologies where Japan is competitive while also contributing to the decarbonization of air transport,” according to that agency.

Japan expects the new sustainable aircraft development to be completed after 2035.

And in other news………..

EPA finalizes rules: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized vehicle pollution emission standards for all vehicles — from light- to heavy-duty. The final rule builds upon EPA’s standards for federal greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2023 through 2026, established in 2021, and leverages advances in clean car technology to unlock benefits to Americans ranging from improving public health through reducing smog- and soot-forming pollution from vehicles, to reducing climate pollution, to saving drivers money through reduced fuel and maintenance costs. These standards will phase in over model years 2027 through 2032.

Calstart sees it bringing together the Inflation Reduction Act and with the finalized EPA rules for environmental and economic gains. “Combined with 2022’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), EPA’s finalized standards mark a crucial step forward in combatting climate change and reducing harmful air pollutants emitted by vehicles. The newly finalized vehicle standards, along with the IRA, will accelerate growth of the U.S. electric vehicle market and industry. The growing market for electric vehicles in the U.S. is an unparalleled opportunity for the American auto industry and the beginning of a new era of manufacturing in the United States,” Calstart said in a statement.

Roadmap for securing funding: GNA offers more insight into securing federal funding for grid and fleet upgrades. Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) present major funding opportunities, but hundreds of agencies and individual programs might be part of accomplishing a fleet operator’s mission. Cross-sector collaborations and public-private partnerships are a necessity, GNA says.

GNA’s Peter Ogundele on Making Grant Funding Work for You

Interested in seeing 50 new fast-charging stations installed in your city that can fuel medium-to heavy duty vehicles? The U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates the cost for a single port EVSE unit to be $10,000 to $40,000 for DC fast charging, and installation costs in the $4,000 to $51,000 range. Let’s say the suppliers offer a competitive, discounted price for the entire project. That could be about $1.5 million for the project on the low-cost end.

That could likely be outside of a municipal fleet’s budget, and that of private companies and other entities. They may have the internal financial support to bring in new electric trucks, but they’re facing the classic ‘chicken or the egg’ question — they need to see a growing charging infrastructure to justify the truck investment.

Peter Ogundele, Director, Programs, at GNA (which will operate as TRC starting on July 1, 2024) had a lot to say to Green Auto Market about it. Over the years, GNA has worked with clients to bring in about $1.1 billion in secured grants and funding for clean vehicles and fuels — at a 90% success rate on grant applications.

Applying for grant funding and incentives for clean transportation projects is a labor-intensive, high-risk initiative for fleets, government and NPO agencies, OEMs, suppliers, and other stakeholders committed to bringing cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gas emissions to their communities. Being well prepared and focused is a necessity, and bringing in partners like GNA, Clean Cities coalitions, and other professionals experienced in the funding process, is usually the tipping point for hitting those targets.

Ogundele is from Canada and started in the oil and gas industry as a petroleum engineer. That shifted over to the clean energy and transportation space, and he’s been with GNA since December 2021. Prior experience has been in electric vehicle charging networks and hydrogen fueling stations.

Putting it into context, the process and available funds have evolved quite a bit over the past 15 years. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) presented opportunities with potential for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and electric vehicle credits and funding for charging infrastructures. “It was an unbelievable watershed, because at that point (these projects) could get funding of about $300 million,” Ogundele said.

All of that has grown and scaled quite a lot over the years, and can typically be seen in diverse individual funding programs. It’s coming from multiple sources from federal, state, and local governments. We’re starting to see huge grant opportunities at the federal level and sometimes from States and other agencies as well, Ogundele said.

That has been enhanced over the years, including October 2023 when the U.S. Department of Energy announced $7 billion to launch seven Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (H2Hubs) across the nation. It’s also aimed at accelerating the commercial-scale deployment of low-cost, clean hydrogen.

Funding 360 behind all of it
GNA’s ‘Funding 360’ philosophy and practices have been at the heart of acquiring necessary funding. It’s a full-circle process that GNA has diligently followed, he said.

That comes through grants, rebates, loans, credits, and tax incentives for client partners. Securing the funding breaks out into a four-part process:

  1. Goals: factoring in operational needs, risk tolerance and financial requirements, fuel and technology type, and geographic location and targeted regions.
  2. Report: staying on track to meet burdensome administrative requirements and to meet reporting deadlines such as vehicle miles traveled, emissions reduced, funds distributed, and construction progress.
  3. Track: monitoring requirements for 500+ U.S. and Canadian funding programs, with relationships in place with the national, state, and local agencies that offer the funding.
  4. Apply: writing strong grants and other applications that sell your project by leveraging your knowledge of technical requirements and other facets of what goes into securing available funding programs.

Reporting requirements can extend out two-to-five years. The administrative burden can include gathering the data, managing the data, reporting on the operations, and providing feedback to the agencies.

“We want to make sure that they understand what the obligations are,” he said. “Even if it’s the same solicitation, every year the language changes,” he said.

Lately that can take the form of applying for workforce development grants, health and environmental concerns for disadvantaged communities, zero emission vehicle regulations, sustainability and climate change measures, and other policies. The “data metrics” can change based on what’s being measured for the application and its end goals, he said.

Heavy-duty electric vehicle charging is a rising concern, and the North American Charging Standard (NACS) comes up a lot. NACS is known as the Tesla charging standard and is being standardized as SAE J3400.

You can tap into GNA’s resources on the Funding & Incentives page of its website, including the Case Studies section and more details on grant writing.

One case study mentioned by Ogundele is the Joint Electric Truck Scaling Initiative (JETSI) project. Started in 2021 and going through March 2025, JETSI is one of the first pilot projects funded in California which provides fleets with concrete guidance and lessons learned to successfully deploy about 100 battery electric trucks and infrastructure at scale, and to enable fleets to transition to zero emission technologies. It’s being funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Energy Commission (CSC), with South Coast Air Quality Management District as the grantee leading the project. It’s also part of the California Climate Investments program.

GNA has been pivotal working with stakeholders to bring it together and help deploy this project, he said.

Another good place to hear about some of the success stories and to seek guidance on funding projects will be at the Advanced, Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo. This event will be taking place May 20-23, 2024 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Going to workshop and speaker events will be a good opportunity to connect with professional experienced in carrying out these types of projects.

“You get different people involved from the OEMs, regulatory agencies, infrastructure providers, government agencies, community leaders,” he said, “so everyone can be in the same room.”

Here’s some more resources for those doing research on this topic:

Grant opportunities and funding sources in clean transportation and energy:

EERE Vehicle Technologies Office
The U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) supports high impact projects that can significantly and swiftly advance market acceptance of next generation energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) provides new funding opportunities that are announced regularly. (And don’t forget to go to to sign up for the announcement emails.)

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
U.S. Dept. of Energy research and development to lower the cost of clean energy technologies, protect the private sector from financial risk, and ensure an equitable transition to a decarbonized economy. Project selections are merit-based with an emphasis on potential energy, environmental, and economic benefits.

ARPA-E Funding Opportunity Announcements
U.S. Dept. of Energy says that the objective of this solicitation is to support high-risk R&D leading to the development of potentially disruptive new technologies across the full spectrum of energy applications.

U.S. EPA Technology Advancement Funding Opportunities
The Clean Technology Initiative is an ongoing effort by California agencies and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as others. These pages provide funding resources to help accelerate cleanup solutions in the form of advanced clean technologies.

U.S. Dept. of Transportation
Funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (2021) and the Inflation Reduction Act (2022) support projects such as the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program; and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.

South Coast Air Quality Management District
These programs are generally rooted in the initiatives and policies adopted by the SCAQMD Governing Board, or in state and federal programs designed to spread the use of cleaner technologies that reduce air pollution.

California Energy Commission Solicitations
Information about funding opportunities that the CEC offers that advance the state’s transition to clean energy and transportation through innovation, efficiency, and the development and deployment of advanced technologies.

California Climate & Energy Collaborative
These opportunities offer a curated list of open, upcoming and past opportunities relevant to local climate and energy practitioners that can help them advance fair and equitable climate change and energy practices. This database defaults to showing active opportunities first.

CARB — Low Carbon Transportation Investments and AQIP Grant Solicitations
The California Air Resources Board issues competitive grant solicitations for each project category listed in the Low Carbon Transportation Incentives and AQIP Funding Plans.  Current solicitations and documents for some of the most recent project solicitations are posted on this web page. 

New York’s Drive Clean Rebate
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers the Charge NY initiative, which provides electric car buyers the Drive Clean Rebate of up to $2,000 for new car purchases or leases. NYSERDA has several other programs that provide incentives, funding, and technical assistance to accelerate electric vehicle adoption. Charge Ready NY 2.0 offers incentives to public, private, and not-for-profit organizations that install Level 2 EV charging stations at workplaces, multi-unit dwellings, or public facilities. Charging at Multifamily Properties includes information and resources on the benefits, best practices, and financial incentives for installing EV charging stations at multi-unit dwellings. Truck Voucher Incentive Program provides vouchers and discounts for fleets to purchase or lease zero-emission trucks and buses and take high-emitting, polluting diesel vehicles off the road.

Clean Cities Coalition Network
The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Clean Cities program offers funding opportunities to implement alternative fuels, advanced vehicle technologies, and fuel-saving strategies. Funding opportunities are available from many sources inside and outside the DOE.

US EPA’s West Coast Collaborative
The West Coast Collaborative is a voluntary public-private partnership committed to reducing diesel emissions and advancing clean technologies throughout the western United States. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants provide the available funding resources.

Transportation Funding Resources in Washington State
Working together to support transportation efficient communities through Washington State Department of Transportation — federal and state programs.

Port of Los Angeles
Grant funds are available from local, state and federal agencies for air emission reductions that go beyond current regulatory requirements for the Port of Los Angeles and several other organizations. Source categories include Cargo-Handling Equipment (CHE), Harbor Craft (HC), Heavy-Duty Vehicles (HDV), Ocean-Going Vessels (OGV) and Rail Locomotives (RL). Potential funding opportunities are summarized below.

CIV:LAB leverages global capital to connect community stakeholders with the resources and funding required to launch bold responses to the threats of the climate crisis.

U.S. Venture Sustainability Accelerator
Join the 12-week startup accelerator sponsored by U.S. Venture and powered by gener8tor. With a vision to be the very best provider of transportation products, sustainability solutions, and insights driving the world forward, the U.S. Venture Sustainability Accelerator program will mirror this foundation by investing $100K into five sustainability- and mobility-related startups to provide a mentorship-based, concierge-service programming needed to experience growth and acquisition.

And in other news…………

Managing EVs after a disruptive year: Automotive Fleet’s Chris Brown analyzes how events such as Hertz getting out of EVs and used EV prices tanking are disrupting the marketplace and working environment for fleet professionals. Fleet operators have to manage challenges such as looming regulations, corporate ESG initiatives, and their organizations’ bottom line.

Cummins video: See the ‘Destination Zero’ strategy video from Cummins on how the truck and chassis manufacturer is facing 2027 with NOx and future greenhouse gas emissions requirements coming, along with new technologies and architecture in their powertrains.

Fisker in trouble: Electric vehicle maker Fisker has hired restructuring advisers to assist with a possible bankruptcy filing, according to people familiar with the matter and the Wall Street Journal. The company hired financial adviser FTI Consulting and the law firm Davis Polk to work on a potential filing, sources said. Fisker Inc. reported last month that it had $273 million in sales last year and more than $1 billion in debt. 

Safest EVs Announced in IIHS Awards, IEA’s Clean Energy Report

Fifteen plug-in electric vehicles made it to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s 2024 Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards. TSP+ is the highest award given, with protection for passengers in the rear of the vehicle given more importance this year. Electric vehicles are included in vehicle size categories with traditional gasoline-powered models.

Hyundai Motor Group won the most overall awards this year — 16 awards across its three brands: Genesis, Hyundai and Kia. Mazda earned the most Top Safety Pick+ awards of any individual brand with five. Audi had the most awards — four — for the plug-in vehicles that made the rankings. Hyundai Motor Group tied Audi at the corporate level with four awards, but that was split evenly between the Hyundai and Genesis brands. Rivian took two of the awards.

The IIHS said that the standards for inclusion were toughened this year with the Institute demanding better protection for back seat passengers and improving their pedestrian crash avoidance systems. Last year’s biggest change was the replacement of the original side crash test with an updated version that uses a heavier barrier traveling at a higher speed.

Safety is one of the selling points for electric vehicles, along with durability, efficiency, and adaptability to climate conditions such as heat and snow. To determine its ratings, IIHS includes vehicles in its rankings that perform well in crashworthiness, front crash prevention, and headlight testing.

2024 Top Safety Picks
Small Cars
Toyota Prius Plus

Small SUVs
Hyundai Ioniq 5

Midsize SUVs
Mazda CX-90 PHEV

Large SUVs
Audi Q8 e-tron
Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron
Rivian R1S

Midsize Luxury SUVs
Audi Q4 e-tron
Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron
Genesis Electrified GV70
Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid
Volvo XC90 Recharge

Large Pickups
Rivian R1T crew cab

2024 Top Safety Picks +
Hyundai Ioniq 6

Large luxury car:
Genesis Electrified G80

Midsize Luxury SUVs
Tesla Model Y

And in other news…………

IEA clean energy report: Continued expansion of solar, wind, nuclear power and electric cars helped the world avoid greater use of fossil fuels in 2023, according to International Energy Agency. Global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose less strongly in 2023 than the year before even as total energy demand growth accelerated. The agency reported that without clean energy technologies, the global increase in CO2 emissions would have been three times larger in the past five years.
An exceptional shortfall in hydropower due to extreme droughts – in China, the U.S. and several other economies – resulted in over 40% of the rise in emissions in 2023 as countries turned largely to fossil fuel alternatives to plug the gap.

Apple out of EVs: While electric vehicle advocates have been waiting to see Apple keep its word and launch its own EV for the past decade, that it reportedly coming to a halt. Known as Project Titan, Apple was going to design and launch a fully autonomous EV that would compete with Tesla and every automaker going this route. Last month, Apple executives were said to have cancelled the project and focus more on the popular generative artificial intelligence. But, as The Atlantic said, you can’t get into most any car without seeing Apple technology in it. One was linking the smartphone to the to the car’s touch screen — and several ways that drivers have connected their car to their smartphone to take on multiple tasks without taking their eyes off the road.

Pepsi sued for plastics: The New York Attorney General’s environmental protection bureau made New York the first state to sue a company over plastic pollution. That came out of discovering that Pepsi plastic bottles made up 17% of the plastic waste found in the Buffalo River. The environmental protection bureau had been going through oil- and gas-based- plastic waste pulled from the river in western New York. Pllastic waste made up about 78% of trash that Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper volunteers had cleaned and inventoried from 2013 to 2022, according to data citied in the lawsuit from Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, a community-based organization dedicated to protecting the quality and quantity of water. Pepsi’s sustainability report says that the company has included cutting virgin plastic from non-renewable sources per serving 50% by 2030. Another goal is to reduce its absolute tonnage of virgin plastic derived from non-renewable sources by 20% in the same timer period, the company said.

Karma buys Airbiquity assets: Southern California-based electrified luxury carmaker Karma Automotive has acquired the technology assets and intellectual property of Seattle-based Airbiquity, a software company that develops and engineers automotive telematics technology and cloud services. Airbiquity has developed automotive commercial software with investors that include Toyota Motor Co. and Denso. Karma has also hired key technical employees and assumed the software company’s significant OEM contracts. “Their design maturity will help codify our strategies for software-defined and continuously connected vehicles,” says Karma President Marques McCammon.