21st June 2012
As the world’s motor industries introduce measures to reduce transport’s dependence on oil and to meet the legislation to cut CO2 emissions, a timely meeting in Birmingham, UK, considered the role of hydrogen fuel cells in a low carbon transport system. At the conference entitled ‘Smart Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Power’ different options were proposed to commercialise hydrogen fuel cells for transport.
TIMESCALE FOR INTRODUCING FUEL CELL VEHICLES
Nick Rolf of BOC set the scene when he explained that the evolution of the internal combustion engine (I.C.E.) car took time and hydrogen fuel cells also need a gestation period, time to develop performance and reliability, build up the supporting industry and drive down the cost of the hydrogen infrastructure. The Government is right to start with battery electric vehicles and we support their initiative, he said.
Timing is the key to solutions for en masse deployment. We have to share and disseminate information, as well as procedures for regulations, codes and standards. Honda, with BOC and the City of Swindon. has installed the first publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling station in the UK. It has a 200kgs/day compressor throughput and is compliant with the Society of Automotive Engineers’ SAE J2601C standard. We should start with fleet operators of vans and buses. Light goods hydrogen powered I.C.E. vehicles will be a good stepping stone. The focus should not only be on cars, buses and vans but also on forklift trucks for materials handling.
Miniaturisation of the hydrogen infrastructure is essential. The present hydrogen refueller system measures 20ft x 40 ft. We should also consider reducing the purity of hydrogen. At present the regulations are too cautious and this adds to the cost. The price of the infrastructure is unrealistic as it comprises a disproportionate part of the operational costs, but the new industry and Government programme, UK H2Mobility, will help to resolve this. BOC cannot learn more from building demonstration public hydrogen fuelling stations but will provide them when there is a quantifiable number of vehicles to use them.
During discussions, a delegate asked if it was preferable to transport hydrogen in containers or if electrolysis should be used to generate hydrogen on site. Mr Rolf replied that there was no definitive answer. It depended upon economies of scale and, when renewable energy is used, the distance of the hydrogen production from the renewable source. It was pointed out that Honda uses trailers to deliver hydrogen and also uses on site solar energy. There was much support for the joint hydrogen infrastructure plan, UKH2Mobility, initiated by the manufacturers and the Government.
LIFE WITHOUT OIL!
John Jostins, Managing Director of Microcab Industries Ltd, has been engaged in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle development for the past ten years. Conventional vehicles are too heavy and are packaged around the i.c. engine he said. Microcab’s fuel cell powered Royal Mail van has been operational for the past four years. Their system is scalable for production in 2,000 units per annum and is also used to power the H2EV 4 seat car.
Microcab’s vehicle is based on a Lotus bonded aluminium chassis weighing 65 kgs. The 350 bar hydrogen store holds 1.8 kgs of hydrogen. The hybrid design incorporates a 4kWh lithium battery, 3kW fuel cell and twin DC motors each rated at 13kW. Top speed is 55mph and the range is approximately 100 miles. Their eight latest H2EV vehicles are road legal, complying with EU hydrogen regulations. They could also be used as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). Currently Microcab is integrating a new PEM fuel cell supplied by Horizon/Arcola Energy.
At present, the use of hydrogen is connected with the storage of renewable energy, but in time it could replace oil for transport. Global oil use is now 30 billion barrels per year, but there will be changes in our transport system as oil supplies decline. The new mobility will include non-motorised transport, with bikes for rent, more walking and the renaissance of city centres. Fuel cell and battery electric vehicles will be ideal for use in future car clubs with an alternative ownership model.
VIEWS FROM THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY
Thomas Brachmann of Honda Research and Development referred to the different types of electric vehicle which will be the main replacements for the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle in order to reduce dependence upon oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions. First will be the hybrid electric (HEV) and the Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV), leading to the battery electric vehicle (BEV) and Honda’s fuel cell powered FCX Clarity.
Honda’s FCX has twice the fuel economy of a gasoline engine car. The petrol powered (ICE) car uses 7.5 litres per 100 kms, the HEV 4.6 litres per 100 kms and Honda’s FCX 3.2 litres per 100 kms petroleum equivalent. At present batteries offer 150 kms range but they are heavy. Fuel cells enable a performance of up to 160 kph. A 100kW fuel cell weighs 67 kgs and gives 460 kms range with 350 bar hydrogen storage. The weight of their fuel cell vehicle is 1.6 tonnes, similar to that of the Honda Accord. Early commercialisation is planned for 2015, with full commercialisation in 2025. Honda’s new solar hydrogen station in the Saitama Prefecture is more efficient than a mechanical compressor. Mr Brachmann referred to the comprehensive study entitled A Portfolio of Power-trains for Europe which examines the power trains which will meet the needs of both consumers and the environment.
Torquil Ross-Martin of Tata Motors European Technical Centre explained that Tata is engaged in steel production, power, and the automotive sector – they are owners of Jaguar Land Rover. There must be a 95% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from road transport if atmospheric C02 is to be stabilised below 450 parts per million (ppm) by 2050. The I.C.E. power train is unlikely to meet the target of 95g/km by 2020 and a new car emitting only 60gC02/km is needed by 2030. A much greater pace of carbon reduction is required. There is investment in battery electric vehicles but the uptake is low. It would be much more effective to replace the highest mileage 25% of new I.C.E. vehicle sales with low emission vehicles rather than the lowest mileage 25%. This is because larger cars use more fuel and are driven for longer distances. The cars would require more than 250 miles range and refuelling in two minutes. The main problems would be the high cost of the fuel cells and the storage of hydrogen at high pressure. 500 to 1,000 hydrogen fuelling stations would be needed at a projected cost of £0.5 billion. The McKinsey report envisages that biofuels will comprise 24% of transport fuels by 2050, but there are strong concerns about this using land required for food production.
| A PORTFOLIO OF POWER-TRAINS FOR EUROPE
Over the next 40 years, no single power-train will satisfy all key criteria for economics, performance and the environment. The world is therefore likely to move from a single power-train (ICE) to a portfolio of power-trains including Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) and Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCEV). The total cost of ownership of the four power trains is expected to converge around 2025. This study represents the most accurate to date as conclusions are based not on informed speculation but on confidential proprietary data, provided by key industry players. The study shows that FCEVs are technologically ready and can be produced at much lower cost for an early commercial market over the next five years. The cost of fuel cell systems is expected to decrease by 90% and component costs for BEVs by 80% by 2020, due to economies of scale and incremental improvements in technology. The next logical step is therefore to develop a comprehensive and co-ordinated EU market launch plan study for the deployment of FCEVs and hydrogen infrastructure in Europe.
The window of opportunity is short. If FCEVs are to achieve economies of scale within the timeframe necessary to meet EU CO2 reduction goals, action must be taken as a matter of urgency. There is also a danger that Europe will lose its technological leadership as other international markets gain ground. The European Commission has confirmed that the global trend towards sustainable transport shows that the European automotive industry can only remain competitive by leading in green technologies. McKinsey & Company, the management consultancy, provided analytical support to the study.
FUEL CELL CAR COMMERCIALISATION PROGRAMME
Nicolas Sergent said that Riversimple has developed highly efficient hydrogen vehicles with a business model to make them commercial. Honda has a brilliant car and the electrovan hydrogen prototype was developed in 1966 but the barriers are cost and the availability of the hydrogen infrastructure. The McKinsey Report says that hydrogen fuel cell cars and the hydrogen infrastructure could become affordable by 2020, with the cost of fuel cell systems decreasing by 90%.
Riversimple’s seven point strategy to introduce hydrogen fuel cell cars is:
1) Sale of service, not the cars which brings in more income throughout the vehicle life
2) Local car, local refuelling with radius of about 25 miles. Pilots in Leicester and Ludlow
3) Simple, reliable, fuel efficient
4) 6 kW fuel cell with ultracapacitors providing peak power on demand
5) Lightweight 34 kgs chassis
6) It can use cheaper brown hydrogen emitting only 31gCO2/km well to wheel
7) 300 mpg, 240 mile range, 370 kgs vehicle weight
In reply to a question about safety and certification, Nicolas Sergent said that this is a demonstration model and the final design is being made by a former Director of FIAT. Costs are projected at £200 per month plus 15p per mile including fuel. They can afford more expensive hydrogen up to £20/ kg. They have a cylindrical tank which can be increased in size if necessary rather than adding batteries. It is 350 bar because 700 bar costs energy. It is a two seater car limited to 50 mph at this stage, but they will move to an inter-city car later.
Dr Ben Todd of Arcola Energy Ltd explained that they are the UK agents for Horizon, whose PEM fuel cells work in applications from 1 watt up to 10 kilowatts. The 150W Hymera supplied by BOC is used for lighting.
Larger Horizon fuel cells are used for transport by Riversimple and MicroCab. They incorporate Johnson Matthey’s fuel cell membranes. Horizon is the largest volume seller of micro fuel cells, with 500 people employed in networked R & D teams. Arcola has over 70 patents in hydrogen production and storage and PEM fuel cells. They work with several UK universities, specialist production is in Singapore and volume production in China.
Dr Todd said that there is massive demand for their products. The main problem is the initial capital cost – it would be OK if people took into account whole life costs. However they are making technological progress and continuous cost reductions, so that their fuel cells will become increasingly affordable in the next year or two.
100 LIGHTWEIGHT FUEL EFFICIENT VEHICLES
Prof Robert SteinbergerWilckens of Birmingham University said that transport accounts for 33% of EU energy consumption. The use of oil is increasing and this is a major factor affecting the economy. Electric vehicles help to reduce urban air pollution, which is exacerbated by the low efficiency of the i.c. engine, which is only 15% for petrol and 18% for diesel in the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). Emissions from I.C.E cars range from 140gC02/km up to 190g for Compacts and the aim is to reduce this to 95gC02/km by 2020. A battery electric vehicle powered from the UK grid uses 20kWh/100kms, while one powered by wind uses 15kWh/100kms. A lightweight dedicated vehicle powered by wind emits only 2gC02/km.
The lithium ion batteries cost £8,000 for 100 kms range and if they are charged too quickly, they start ageing after about 20 fast charges. The use of hydrogen gives a range of up to 400 kms. It is obtained from a variety of sources and refuelling takes place in minutes. Hybrid systems incorporate hydrogen fuel cells with batteries or supercapacitors, which can accept high charge. Batteries weighing 400 kgs give a range of 100 kms and speed up to 80kph. A fuel cell range extender enables 200 to 300 miles (400 kms)to be achieved at comparatively less cost.
A hundred lightweight passenger hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and ten hydrogen fuelling stations are planned in the first regional EU hydrogen infrastructure programme entitled SWARM. The vehicles will all be two-seaters with a boot and will cost from £35,000 up to £80,000 each. Microcab, Riversimple and Elano will supply the lightweight fuel efficient vehicles. 350 or 700 bar hydrogen will be available at a cost of around £5/100 kms. A mobile hydrogen fuelling station will be moved on a skip producing 20 – 50 kgs per day at a hydrogen cost of less than 10 euros per day, which is close to the diesel cost. The deployment of the hydrogen infrastructure will start this year in three European regions, the Midlands, UK, Belgium and NW Germany and the vehicle demonstration will follow in 2013. In answer to a question, Prof SteinbergerWilckens stated that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can now drive on the roads in all European countries. There had been problems in France but that has been sorted out.
EU INVESTMENT IN HYDROGEN FUEL CELL VEHICLES
Bert De Colvenaer, Executive Director of the EU’s Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) said that fuel cells and hydrogen are one of the enabling technologies within the EU’s Strategic Energy Technologies Plan (SET). The FCH JU has funding totalling almost a billion euros for research, development and demonstration during the period 2008-2013.
The total cost of all power trains for medium to large ICE, BEV, PHEV and FCEV cars is projected to converge after 2025. About €3bn investment in production, distribution and retail will be required to build up a market for 1 million vehicles. The McKinsey Report entitled A Portfolio of Power Trains for Europe outlines the infrastructure required for volumes of vehicles. The Clean Hydrogen In European Cities programme (CHIC) supports the demonstration of 25 fuel cell buses in five cities. There is also a bus coalition study which will give its results at the end of July.
CHINA SPEEDING UP FUEL CELL COMMERCIALISATION
Dr Shanfeng Du represented Dr Gongquan Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The first fuel cells utilised were the AFC in space applications and this technology is now precious metal-free. Since then research on fuel cells has become one of the hottest topics in the world!
In China, two hundred vehicles powered by hydrogen-air fuel cells were demonstrated between 2006 and 2010. They needed to improve cost and durability. Fuel cell cars at the Beijing Olympics were powered by 50kW motors with 60kW peak power and voltage 385V.
Nearly two hundred hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, including six buses, were at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. During the demonstration of the fuel cell buses the longest range covered was 20,000 kms, with operating temperature satisfactory down to minus 20C. Further development focussed upon membrane electrode assemblies and bipolar plates. Pearl Hydrogen Technology Co Ltd demonstrated twenty fuel cell bikes with range up to 60 kms.
Regulations and standards are essential for the successful commercialisation of fuel cells. So far, China has 25 national standards applicable to Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Fuel cell technology and standards have made great progress in China and their aim is to speed up fuel cell commercialisation.
China has a 5 year plan from 2011 to 2015 with 738m RMB (approximately £70m sterling) for electric vehicle R & D. Fuel cell vehicles are allocated 21%, hybrid electric vehicles 22% and battery electric vehicles 57%. More was allocated to battery technology as it is mature, but this could change as more fuel cell vehicles come into operation. The performance targets for fuel cell cars are to achieve 100 kms with 1.2 kg hydrogen and have a range of 400-500 kms. Prof Kevin Kendall asked how fuel cells would fit in with China’s 100 million battery bikes. How would the hydrogen be supplied? Dr Du explained that the battery would be replaced by their small lightweight hydrogen tanks.
MEETING USERS’ REQUIREMENTS FOR HYDROGEN
Dr Simon Bourne outlined the advances in electrolysis of green hydrogen that ITM Power is making. When renewable energy is produced there is a mismatch between production and demand and this is a barrier to the large scale introduction of renewables. Energy storage is essential. A small scale solution is ITM’s solar electrolysis unit which is fully autonomous, highly efficient and couples directly to intermittent renewable energy inputs. On a larger scale, ITM’s electrolyser produces hydrogen from £5 to £10 per kg, depending upon the capital amortisation period and the electricity cost.
To date ITM has had 16 field trials in their Hydrogen on Site (HOST) programme for road vehicles. There is a lot of appetite amongst users and frustration that they cannot immediately change to hydrogen.
The operating cost with the hydrogen powered I.C.E vehicles when electricity is 6.5p is cheaper than with diesel and when fuel cells are used it will be even better. At ITM they are generating real data in the HOST trials. System efficiency is 56kWhr/kg. They are achieving International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) standards and European Conformity (CE) marking compliance.
In the Eco-Island project on the Isle of Wight, ITM is working with IBM and Toshiba to evaluate twenty light commercial vehicles in a smart energy system. Marks & Spencer is engaged in another project producing hydrogen on site for fork lift trucks. Batteries take 8 hours to recharge, but the fuel cells take only 90 seconds.
UKH2Mobility brings together Government departments and the key players in the gas and automotive industries in the development of a national hydrogen plan. More public awareness is needed about oil prices, energy security and the need to store energy from intermittent renewables. The sales of battery electric vehicles are stalling, and hydrogen storage tops the priority list at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Dr Bourne was asked what he thought was the best way of solving hydrogen storage problems and he said that we should ensure competition between compressed gas and hydrides. Compressed gas is usually lowest cost.
HYDROGEN FUEL CELL BUSES WELL RECEIVED BY THE PUBLIC
David Yorke of First in London said that five of the new generation of hydrogen fuel cell buses have been in operation since January 2011 and they will be joined by a further three this summer. They operate on a demanding central London route, the RV1 between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway. The buses are supplied by Bluways and the fuel comes from Air Products. They have Ballard fuel cells and the WrightBus Pulsar body. They are series hybrids in which all the electricity generated by the fuel cell goes into the batteries to power the motor. They have 350 bar hydrogen storage. The controls are similar to those of the diesel buses so that the 60 drivers at the depot can drive them. They operate for 18 hours per day with 4 hydrogen storage tubes.
A workshop has been built for the project which is manned by the diesel staff. Safety is paramount because the staff are not accustomed to handling hydrogen at 350 bar. There is a need to modify regulations for this and to deal with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. There are hydrogen detection alarms on the buses and in the workshop. In the bus fuelling bay the dual phase hydrogen refuelling tanker carries liquid cryogenic hydrogen.
Although there are misconceptions about hydrogen, it has been well received by the public. The buses carry out a full working schedule with good fuel economy. All the suppliers were happy to bring their products together and successfully introduce hydrogen buses into the London bus fleet. In reply to a question David Yorke said that the availability of the new buses was not as high as that for diesel buses. This was because the maintenance staff were used to dealing with the diesel systems but sometimes preferred to wait for expert advice with the new buses. Asked for a price comparison, including infrastructure, he said that the fuel cell buses cost substantially more but that this should plummet in volume production.
PRESENTATIONS AT TRANSPORT WORKSHOP
During the transport workshop discussions, Will McDowall of UCL Energy Institute said that the petrol hybrid (HEV) would be the least cost system for de-carbonisation. Hydrogen would initially be mainly used to power buses. The use in buses and in niche markets would be the key to reducing costs.
Ben Madden of Element Energy explained that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have recently met the technical targets required for commercialisation and many manufacturers are targeting 2015 for commercial sales of their vehicles. For instance, Toyota declared at the Geneva motor show that they aim to produce tens of thousands of hydrogen vehicles by 2020. As with many of the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s), Toyota appear to be targeting the larger car segments, where battery based vehicles will struggle to compete. In Denmark the aim is to fully decarbonise their economy by 2050 and they have introduced measures to ensure that they are an early FCEV market. FCEVs will be exempt from the capital purchase tax, which will make them affordable from 2015. Denmark started the build up of their hydrogen infrastructure in 2011, with the aim of having nationwide coverage by 2015.
In Germany, Europe’s largest hydrogen refuelling station is able to dispense up to 750 kg of hydrogen per day. It refuels buses at 350 bar and cars at 700 bar through separate dispensers. The hydrogen will be produced on site through water electrolysis, powered by renewable electricity. Daimler and Linde have a joint venture to roll out 20 hydrogen stations in 2013.
Prof Jack Brouwer of the University of California at Irvine said that Californian regulations for the transport industry had three main goals, to combat global climate change, improve urban air quality and reduce dependence on oil. Greater efficiency is important and there will be more use of biofuels. Electricity will power BEVs, PHEVs and FCEVs, alongside developments with mass transit systems, carpools and shared cars. Research indicates that BEVs are most efficient, achieving up to the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon gasoline. Next come hydrogen FCEVs with the equivalent of up to 85 mpg and then PHEVs achieving up to 77 mpg gasoline equivalent. However, there are limitations on the numbers as BEVs do not meet all mobility criteria and the electricity distribution infrastructure cannot support high local use. The University has deployed several BEVs, PHEVs and FCEVs. Their hydrogen fuelling station dispenses 25 kgs per day and is being upgraded to over 100 kgs per day. Orange County Sanitation District’s renewable tri-generation station is the world’s first producing power, heat and hydrogen. FCEVs are one pathway to reach all their environmental goals and they meet all the mobility criteria. The installation of the hydrogen infrastructure is the greatest hurdle. The use of hydrogen is increasing dramatically and their Spatially & Temporarily Resolved Energy and Environment Tool (STREET) assists in the planning of new infrastructure. They already have 17 hydrogen stations in the region and there will be roll-outs of 21 more in target areas, as well as 5 in other cities.
INTRODUCING DIVERSE FLEETS OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Birmingham City Council is supporting battery electric vehicles through their work with CABLED and they want hydrogen fuel cells for longer distance vehicles. They are conserving oil now and preparing for the time when people will not be able to afford it. They are members of the Covenant of Mayors, which is aiming for a 32% cut in C02 by 2020 and the City itself is aiming for a 60% cut in C02 emissions by 2026.