Are we set for a hydrogen powered transport network?
In the future, will we all be travelling on hydrogen powered planes, trains and automobiles?
In this final part of our in-depth series on hydrogen powered vehicles (check out parts 1, 2 and 3 for more), AMS Composite Cylinders Director Steve Langron looks to the future – beyond the passenger car, and into potential vehicle applications across land, sea and air.
The Refuelling Network and Hydrogen Cars
Currently,the world’s biggest automakers are investing heavily in hydrogen car development – and there are already several passenger car models on the road, including the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity and Hyundai ix35 with a fuel cell option.
They are developing a small but growing following in certain markets, such as Japan and California, where the refuelling network is starting to mature.
Looking to the future, BMW has announced plans to introduce a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (HFCEV) for 2021, with Daimler, Mercedes Audi and Ford all planning to release hydrogen vehicles in the near future. By the middle of the next decade, virtually all the world’s major automakers have tentative plans in place to release a hydrogen powered passenger vehicle.
Although the world’s refuelling network is currently underdeveloped, there is significant investment in the infrastructure across the UK, Europe, Asia and the US happening right now.
Hydrogen Powered Fleets
One of the biggest factors preventing the widespread adoption of hydrogen vehicles is the relative scarcity of hydrogen filling stations.
However, for fleet vehicles that return to the same base every day, such as passenger buses and lorries – hydrogen fuel cells can provide a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution.
We’re now seeing a series of trials, both in the UK and around the world that could pave the way for the more widespread introduction of hydrogen fuel cell fleets.
In 2016, Liverpool council introduced the first hybrid hydrogen diesel bin lorries from ULEMCo, and following the success of the programme, Oxford followed suit with similar vehicles in 2017. This year, Fife Council became part of a Europe-wide project to trial hydrogen powered buses across Dundee and Aberdeen – as part of efforts to improve the air quality across the cities.
Currently The Metropolitan Police Service is trialling the use of a fleet of zero emission hydrogen powered scooters from Suzuki, as part of a pioneering programme part-funded by the Advanced Propulsion centre.
Trains and Ships
We’re also seeing the development of hydrogen fuel cell systems for larger applications, such as ships and trains.
Hydrogen power has been used by ships for around a decade now – but the technology is now being refined and developed, so that the hydrogen can be generated directly from the seawater. This year, Toyota sponsored the world’s first fully autonomous hydrogen-powered ship, which is currently conducting a six-year world tour.
The ship produces hydrogen by demineralising seawater, then separating the hydrogen through electrolysis – using built in solar panels, wind and wave turbines to power the process.
Later this year, the first hydrogen powered passenger train looks set to launch in Germany. The zero-emission Coradia iLint from Alstom has an 800km range, a top speed of 140km/h and can carry up to 300 passengers. The company is also looking into environmentally friendly methods to generate the hydrogen for its vehicle, including the use of wind energy to power the process.
Into the air
Perhaps the most exciting potential application for hydrogen is in the development of the next generation of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or drones.
Hydrogen is an ideal fuel source for flying vehicles, because hydrogen fuel cells are lighter (for a given power output) than electric batteries. Today, traditional battery technology is seen by many as holding back drone development, limiting range and preventing the widespread adoption for commercial applications. Hydrogen fuel cells are now being used to extend the range and power of drones – making them viable for a wider range of applications.
At AMS Composite Cylinders, we’re already heavily involved in this space, providing lightweight carbon composite fuel cells designed specifically for drones. They are now in use as part of fuel cell systems developed by Intelligent Energy.
Lightweight Carbon Composite Gas Cylinders from AMS
All the hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles listed in this article need a safe, robust and lightweight method of storing the hydrogen they use. AMS Composite Cylinders supplies a full range of advanced, lightweight gas cylinders to customers across the UK and Europe.
Products include carbon composite and aluminium cylinders for a wide variety of applications, including healthcare, respiratory, SCBA, laboratory, emergency, aerospace, hydrogen fuel cell and environmental uses.
Carbon composite cylinders offer high pressure (300 Bar), low weight, and NLL (Non-Limited Life) performance, and are accredited for use worldwide, in line with ISO 11119-2, UN-TPED Pi, DOT (USA), TC (Canada).
Additional information about AMS Composite Cylinders Ltd can be found at www.ams-composites.com.
This article was written by AMS CC Director, Steve Langron PhD