As the world continues to shift its resources and focus toward producing clean energy, hydrogen fuel cell technologies have grown exponentially and have started making their way toward commercialization. Companies and governments around the world are taking action to promote green energy in a growing effort to minimize their carbon footprint. Major car companies like Toyota, Hyundai, and Audi have emerged as leaders in bringing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to the consumer market. Manufacturers are making significant investments in fuel cell refueling stations in order to provide infrastructure for these vehicles, encouraging market adoption.
Haskel has been making its own investments in fuel cell development and continues to look for ways to support advancements. Take a closer look at the top five trends we’re keeping an eye on this year.
There are a few countries spearheading the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology in a variety of markets. The Chinese government is heavily focused on clean energy. It recently funded companies seeking to expand the adoption and research of hydrogen fuel cells. This funding is an effort to shift the Chinese economy away from coal production completely.
In a similar effort, Germany’s federal government is subsidizing the installation of natural gas fuel cells in private homes. Since the beginning of the program in 2016, more than 6,600 systems have been subsidized. In just the first quarter of 2019, there have been 1,134 more funding applications approved for natural gas fuel cell installations. As the most efficient form of combined heat and power, especially outperforming traditional oil boilers, fuel cells emit almost 60% less CO2 than current heating systems in Germany. Both countries are making a serious effort to normalize hydrogen technology in the daily lives of their citizens.
In recent months, there have been many announcements surrounding new forms of hydrogen fuel cell transportation. China has emerged as a key player in the fuel cell vehicle (FCV) space, promoting the rapid development and deployment of fuel cell vehicles and fueling stations. China currently has about 1,200 FCV’s on the road, with an ambitious goal of hitting 1 million by 2030.
In the railroad industry, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) has announced plans to test a new hydrogen fuel cell train in 2021. Looking to provide a clean means of mass transit to the country of Japan, the train will have both a fuel cell and lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The locomotive’s advanced design boasts top speeds of 100kph, with a range of 140km per hydrogen charge.
DHL, a leader in delivery and logistics, plans to deploy 100 fuel cell vans within its German fleet in order to lower carbon emissions and shorten fueling time. This is the first time an express delivery provider will implement a large number of FCVs within an entire fleet. We’re expecting to see others follow suit.
Although hydrogen fuel cells have great potential to provide a clean, sustainable source of energy, there are some obstacles that need to be resolved prior to mass adoption. One major challenge is the size and expense of fuel tank manufacturing. Recently, a team of international researchers at Lancaster University discovered a new material that can be used to produce fuel tanks. The new material is manganese hydride, which could be useful in making a molecular sieve to store the hydrogen and work symbiotically with fuel cells in a hydrogen-powered system. This material would allow for the design of the tanks to be much smaller and more efficient than current hydrogen fuel cell tanks.
Public transportation and commercial vehicles are a prime target for eliminating CO2 emissions. There has been recent recognition for the value proposition of hydrogen fuel cells in medium and heavy-duty vehicles, such as semi-trucks and buses. Emissions from heavy-duty vehicles grew by more than 35% from 1990 to 2010, and they continue to rise. The value of hydrogen fuel cells will be strongest in vehicles that require a long daily range, fast refueling time, and heavy payload. Maintaining the same level of performance while producing zero emissions will be a significant achievement in cleaner energy within the commercial transportation market.
The mass shift to renewable, clean energy has led to the creation of many organizations looking to bring hydrogen technologies to the general population. Governments in a number of countries are supporting groups that advocate for a cleaner environment. Not-for-profit organizations like H2GO Canada and H2Mobility Australia have been created within the last couple of years in an effort to boost their nation’s hydrogen economies while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These organizations bring together key players in the hydrogen market that each have a significant role in enabling change. Organizations like these are a collection of public and private sector companies across a range of expertise seeking market adoption. As a member of the H2Mobility Australia organization, Haskel lends our high-pressure gas booster technology to the implementation of their hydrogen fuel based economy.
The hydrogen fuel cell market is changing and advancing rapidly, with new research and products being announced daily. The push for clean energy is becoming increasingly important as we notice the effects of climate change. The technologies are becoming more sophisticated at an exponential rate. We’re excited to be involved in such a critical market and we look forward to contributing to future applications.