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Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has caught a lot of flak recently for shooting down a lot of climate provisions in President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, but that doesn’t mean that he hates clean energy. In fact, Manchin has actually pushed for including hydrogen in the clean energy incentives that are part of Biden’s plan. Here’s a look at Senator Joe Manchin and what he wants for hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

A look at what hydrogen fuel cell cars are

Senator Joe Manchin as Chairmen of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee discussing a hydrogen plant
Senator Joe Manchin | Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Off the bat, a common misconception about hydrogen cars is that they aren’t EVs. This is technically not true, as hydrogen cars are, in fact, EVs. Just like a Tesla, a Toyota Mirai powers itself with electricity. The difference is, of course, that instead of using lithium-ion batteries, a hydrogen car will use hydrogen fuel cells instead.

Hydrogen cars have several key advantages over BEVs or battery electric vehicles. In terms of range, hydrogen cars easily get more range than BEVs. On average, a hydrogen car currently has about 100 miles more range than the average BEV does. Another significant advantage is refueling. Hydrogen is very energy-dense, allowing folks to refill their hydrogen fuel cells quickly. In fact, it takes about five minutes to refill, while a BEV might take hours.

That said, hydrogen has some significant flaws, too. Although hydrogen is a very abundant element, it takes a lot of electricity to create the hydrogen that can be used to fill up a fuel cell. As such, in terms of energy efficiency, hydrogen tops out at about 30%, while BEVs can hit 80%. Another problem for hydrogen right now is infrastructure. There aren’t that many places where you can fill up your fuel cell, so hydrogen infrastructure will need a lot of investment.

Senator Joe Manchin wants hydrogen incentives

A couple of months ago, Joe Manchin helped kill a portion of President Biden’s plan when he shot down the idea of additional incentives for EVs that are union-made. Instead of focusing entirely on EVs, Manchin wants the government to include hydrogen in the picture.

In fact, according to Recharge News, Manchin, along with other West Virginia politicians, launched a workgroup to try to make West Virginia into a “hydrogen hub.” This is possible because of a process that can be used to create hydrogen, which involves using fossil fuels to create hydrogen. Since West Virginia is already a fossil fuels hub, if the state can pivot to being a hydrogen hub, it can secure a future full of jobs and economic activity.

That being said, this is currently just a workgroup. The government currently has $8 billion earmarked toward creating energy hubs, including at least four hydrogen hubs around the country. It’s possible that Manchin and West Virginia lose out on this bid, and it’s possible that they win it.

Joe Manchin has received a lot of criticism

In addition to receiving criticism for opposing a lot of President Biden’s climate change agenda, Joe Manchin has also received criticism for his support for a West Virginia hydrogen hub. Like Recharge News wrote, this has to do with the process that West Virginia may use to create hydrogen.

That process creates something called blue hydrogen, and in terms of carbon emissions, it’s not that clean compared to other methods. On top of that, Manchin has a lot of financial ties to coal and fossil fuel companies. Establishing a hydrogen hub in West Virginia to create blue hydrogen would likely increase those stocks. According to Recharge News, that could be a conflict of interest.


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