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FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGY


battery electric vehicles (BEVs). At theHydrogen for Clean Transport Conference in Brussels last


month, leaders of the automotive industry confirmed their commitment to expanding the deployment of FCEVs and a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure across Europe. FCEVs use the hydrogen and oxygen reaction to run electricmotors. The Brussels conference, sponsored by the Fuel Cells &


Hydrogen JointUndertaking (FCHJU) and flagship hydrogen projectsHyFIVE andH2ME, was a first for Europe’s transport industry. Principal attendees were global vehiclemanufacturers – including Audi, BMW,Daimler,Honda,Hyundai, Symbio and Toyota – as well as leading hydrogen refuelling infrastructure providers. The idea is that hydrogen coupled with a fuel cell device will


increasingly provide clean energy in the future. If pure hydrogen fuel is used, the only by-product of the process at the point of use is water. And excitingly, if the hydrogen itself is produced froma carbon-neutral source such as solar or wind power, there is the potential for carbon-neutral and emissions-free energy. The technology also addresses some of battery electric vehicles’main limitations – drain on the grid, limited range, long charging time and concerns over battery recycling. FCEVs offer the same driving range as fossil-fuelled vehicles,


typically between 385kmand 700km(240miles and 435miles) to a tank, with a refuelling process similar to those of conventional petrol or diesel cars (around 3 to 5minutes). FCEVs also offer the same quiet, smooth and refined performance as BEVs. But is fuelling vehicles using hydrogen just a pipedream?Due to


recent dramatic cost reductions and range increases of BEVs, hydrogen-powered cars seemto be losing the race in the low emissions transportmarket. Investment bankUBS forecasts that the lifetime cost of BEVs could be similar to internal combustion engines by 2018, while cost of vehicles, fuelling cost and lack of fuel-delivery infrastructure are causing FCEVs to lag behind. Hydrogen fuel cells are relatively expensive to produce, as their


designs require rare substances such as platinumas a catalyst. But even so, sales of fuel cell vehicles are expected to take off (in the 2020 timescale), when sales of tens of thousands of vehicles a year are expected at an affordable cost to buyers.


10 /// Environmental Engineering /// October 2017 The 2015 ToyotaMirai was


the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to be sold commercially. By 2016, three hydrogen cars were publicly available, with theHyundai ix35 FCEV, and theHonda Clarity taking a bow. Several other companies are working to develop hydrogen cars.


DECREASED EMISSIONS? Hydrogen does not come as a pre-existing source of energy, like fossil fuels, but is first produced and then stored as a carrier or vector. But when fuel cell vehicles are run on hydrogen reformed from


natural gas, they do not provide significant environmental benefits because of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fromthe natural gas reformation process. In 2014, 95 per cent of hydrogen was stillmade fromnatural


gas, but once hydrogen is exclusively generated fromrenewable energy sources, then the balance of power swings in its favour. BEVs impose a direct demand on the grid whichmust be satisfied at times of peak loading, whereas hydrogen can be used to store surplus energy generated fromrenewable sources at times of high production (when the sun is shining or when the wind is blowing, for example). Hydrogen technologymay be especially attractive in certain


nichemarkets:  So-called captive fleets, such as that of the police in London who


cannot afford the time to plug a vehicle in for 30minutes to recharge; taxis with a long daily range; and heavier vehicles, such as buses and delivery vehicles, especially those which travel within a limited geographical area where a single recharging station (such


The hydrogen A


Andy Pye was invited to attend an EU Brussels conference on hydrogen vehicles. Can hydrogen fuel cells hope to catch up with battery electric vehicles and become the dominant electric vehicle technology?


smore European countriesmove toward partial or complete bans on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are seen by some as a potential component of the futuremix of vehicles on Europe’s roads, alongside full


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