Hydrogen fuel has become a buzz word as one of the zero emissions future fuel options for the automotive industry, with manufacturers & advancements in technology gaining considerable traction in recent years.
Despite issues with hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, more & more industrial companies are embracing the need & the availability for hydrogen fuel as a clean & zero emissions alternative to traditional fossil based fuels & presenting another alternative to electrification & hybrids.
In a recent BBC report (24.09.2020), UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson talking at a roundtable discussion at the UN in New York extolled the virtues of wind energy citing that the UK held “extraordinary potential” for wind energy. (1)
During the round table discussion Johnson said that the UK must embrace a broad range of technologies to achieve net zero by 2050, praising China’s recent pledge for carbon neutrality by 2060 (1)
However, it was on the subject of hydrogen fuel that Johnson made his most notable observation citing that the UK would be investing in renewable hydrogen fuel technology to provide what he called “grunt” for “trucks, for trains, even perhaps for planes – for vehicles that aren’t readily capable of being moved by electric batteries”. (1)
Recognition of the need for fuelling options beyond electrification for haulage, trucks, marine & other heavy duty industrial applications; is a huge step forward for hydrogen & other zero emission fuelling options.
The EU has mandated that from 2025, heavy-duty vehicles will have to emit 15 per cent less CO2, rising to 30 per cent from 2030. The CO2 emission standards will cover large lorries, which account for 65-to-70 per cent of all CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles. In the UK, the government’s Road to Zero Strategy is driving the transition to zero emissions across all vehicle types for public, commercial and private transport. (2)
Nikola Motor Company, one of the innovators of the hydrogen truck market has already launched three haulage models in their zero emissions range in North America. The Nikola One is a fully hydrogen semi sleeper, Nikola Two a fully-electric & hydrogen fuel cell electric day cab semi-truck & the Nikola Tre a fully-electric & hydrogen fuel cell electric cabover semi-truck (3)
Further afield & with a more industrial application, China have completed their hydrogen-lithium battery hybrid 200 tonne mining truck. The Weichai Power & CRRC Yongji mining hydrogen-lithium hybrid truck is not only a great environmental addition to their range, but also (claims the manufacturers) is more cost effective than the traditional diesel engine alternatives. (4)
One sector where the take up for hydrogen power is moving forward at a pace, is in passenger trains.
Earlier this year French company Alstom completed tests on their hydrogen passenger train the Coradia iLint hydrogen fuel cell train, on 65 kilometres of line between Groningen and Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands.
‘The Coradia iLint is the world’s first regional passenger train to enter service equipped with fuel cells to convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, thus eliminating pollutant emissions related to propulsion. The completely train is quiet, & its only emission is water. Purpose-built for use on non-electrified lines, it provides clean, sustainable traction with no sacrifice in performance. It has a range of approximately 1000 kilometres – the same as equivalent-size diesel multiple units.’ (5)
The UK have also been busy exploring hyrdrogen passenger train options. Trials of the first UK hydrogen powered passenger train are taking place in Warwickshire. The train known as HydroFLEX, which have been supported with a £750,000 grant from the Department for Transport (DfT), follow almost 2 years’ development work and more than £1 million of investment by both Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham.(6)
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said recently “As we continue on our road to a green recovery, we know that to really harness the power of transport to improve our country – and to set a global gold standard – we must truly embed change.”
“That’s why I’m delighted that, through our plans to build back better, we’re embracing the power of hydrogen and the more sustainable, greener forms of transport it will bring.”
The UK Government have also announced £23 million Hydrogen for Transport Programme, the plans announced today also include £6.3 million of funding for a green hydrogen refuelling station and 19 hydrogen-powered refuse vehicles in Glasgow, a world-first for the size of the fleet. This will give a post-COVID boost to local economies through the creation of green jobs while also decarbonising the transport network. (6)
Hydrogen as a sustainable, renewable & efficient fuel for energy & automotive applications is certainly proving to be a front runner to add to the zero emissions fuelling range. Despite the initial processing & extraction of the hydrogen from oxygen, the burning process only emits water & is therefore, working entirely independent of hybrid fossil fuel back up; hydrogen is one of the cleanest fuels for on road vehicle applications thus far.
Written by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2