Air QualityEnvironment & ClimateFossil FuelsHeavy Duty & Off-highwayHydrogenHydrogenMarine & heavy dutySustainability

Hydrogen ICE and fuel-cell developments broaden scope for a network of zero emissions transport solutions.

By January 25, 2023 No Comments

Hydrogen is certainly a talking point, especially in the heavy-duty and off highway sectors.

Hydrogen networks across Europe are taking shape and the Hydrogen economy in the United Kingdom, supported by the UK Government, is gaining traction.

The UK Government Hydrogen Strategy 2021 predicts that by 2030 Hydrogen will be in use across a range of transport modes, including HGVs, buses and rail, along with early stage uses in commercial shipping and aviation. (1)

Their analysis shows there could be up to 6TWh demand for low carbon Hydrogen from transport in 2030. Beyond this they expect to see an increased role for Hydrogen in aviation and shipping decarbonisation which could become a large component of the overall hydrogen demand in the long term. To meet CB6 in 2035 they estimate the demand from transport could be 20-45TWh. (1)

With the ability to adapt diesel ICE engines to run on H2 with little impact on the logistics and manufacturing chains already in place for the production of diesel vehicle; Hydrogen is certainly a game changer in the heavy duty, off-highway/agriculture, aviation & marine sectors.

As more manufacturers & developers of heavy duty/off-highway engines turn to Hydrogen as an alternative to ‘reinventing the wheel’ the commonality in the mindset is obvious.

The UK Government is backing the development of a Hydrogen economy & continues to roll out its support for R&D in the hydrogen sector. The UK Government are also supporting supermarkets, emergency services & delivery companies to trial hydrogen-powered transport solutions.

One such project has been run by supermarket giant ASDA who became the first UK retailer to use hydrogen fuel cells to power manual handling equipment, reducing its carbon footprint in the area by 80%. (2)

The six-month trial took place at its Skelmersdale Chilled Distribution Centre (CDC) in Greater Manchester and the cells were used to power equipment such as forklift trucks and order pickers.

In addition to this, a forklift truck for warehouse operations, passenger bus, and 10 fuel cell passenger cars were among the hydrogen vehicles Toyota deployed as part of one of the most extensive hydrogen research trials.

The hydrogen powered vehicles were given to the town’s emergency response services, such as the Cleveland Police Department’s emergency response teams & NHS patient assistance & the ongoing goal of the research is to show how fuel cell-powered delivery vans have the potential to outperform conventional diesel vehicles in terms of range, refuelling periods, & speed.

Another innovation bringing Hydrogen to the emergency services, is the Zero Emission Rapid Response Operations Ambulance.

The the world’s first hydrogen fuelled ambulance, created by ULEMCo and their partners was showcased for the first time at COP26 in November 2021. The working prototype vehicle incorporated a hydrogen fuel cell in the powertrain, can be refuelled quickly and was capable of up to a 300-mile range.

Named for Zero Emission Rapid Response Operations ambulance, the ZERRO project was originally started by Yorkshire Ambulance Service, where their range requirements require the flexibility that hydrogen can provide. The project led by ULEMCo, with expert partners including  Mellor, Promech Technologies, Lyra Electronics and VCS, and supported by Innovate UK and NHS England & NHS Improvement, are aiming to show best in class zero-emission operation for urban and rural use. (3)

Another supermarket chain trialling the efficiency of Hydrogen as part of their delivery logistics, is UK based company Sainsburys. Sainsbury’s are committed to their long term zero emissions goals and have recently completed a successful 3-month Hydrogen-powered HGV trial with electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Electra.

The trial used a 19-tonne refrigerated zero emissions eCargo Fuel Cell Electric truck and as a result it is estimated to have saved 314kg of CO2 per day for a 208 mile trip from the supermarket’s depot in Sherburn-on-Elmet to Newcastle and back (data based on CO2 emissions a diesel truck produced making the same journey)

Data collected from the trial also showed that the HGV used approximately 65% of its Hydrogen capacity per trip, giving it an approximate operational daily range of 320 miles on one fill of Hydrogen. Hydrogen for the trial was supplied by Element 2, the company building the UK’s national network of Hydrogen refuelling stations. (4)

However, one of the ongoing challenges for the development of Hydrogen as a future fuel for transport, is the infrastructure for storage & the fuelling networks needed to be rolled out across the UK.

Although Hydrogen only produces water as a by product when it is utilised as a transport fuel; it is the processing of Hydrogen which still creates debate about it’s place in decarbonisation programmes as dependant on which process is used, grey & blue Hydrogen still produce carbon dioxide in its processing. The most obvious choice for the transport sector is green Hydrogen.

‘Green’ hydrogen, produced through electrolysis using renewable electricity, offers the largest emissions reductions compared to other forms of hydrogen energy. Scaling it up should be prioritised over ‘blue’ hydrogen – made using natural gas and carbon capture and storage (CCS) – which could lock us into reliance on fossil fuels in decades to come. (5)

Hydrogen storage is one of the challenging factors to making it more accessible to a wider variety of applications. Hydrogen can be stored physically as either a gas or a liquid or in underground caverns.

Storage of hydrogen as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks (350–700 bar [5,000–10,000 psi] tank pressure).

Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is −252.8°C. (5)

Salt caverns (underground) storage can store TWh of energy & are created by ‘solution mining’, where water is used to dissolve an underground space in a seam of rock salt, allowing hydrogen to be piped in and out. (6)

One of the stalling points in the UK’s Hydrogen roll out is its current lack of availability. A government and industry forecast estimated there would be 65 Hydrogen refuelling stations in Britain by 2020 concentrated in the busiest parts of the country. This would make long-distance travel on common routes possible, although it was also claimed that for complete coverage of Britain, 1,000 filling stations would be needed. (7)

However, as of Feb 2022, there were 15 H2 fuelling stations across the UK and by the end of 2022 this had reduced to 11. (8)  Although Shell closed down it’s Hydrogen filling stations in the UK, they are currently committed to building “multi-modal hubs for heavy-duty trucks” in the UK.

Written & cited by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2.