f-cell: Day two

f-cell: Day two

Worldwide hydrogen and fuel cell market overviews have been the focus here at day two of the f-cell conference in Stuttgart, Germany.

More than 500 hydrogen and fuel cell professionals from 21 countries spanning four continents have heard updates and progress in hydrogen and fuel cell activities in the US, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Chile and the Netherlands.

As the Honourable Bill Johnston, Western Australia’s Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Energy and Industrial Relations, highlighted this morning: “Renewable hydrogen offers all of us a real opportunity to transition away from fossil fuels, while increasing energy security.”

Plenary III

Morry B. Markowitz, President of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA), kicked off day two discussing the current state of the fuel cell and hydrogen industry in America.

Markowitz has been President of the FCHEA for seven years and utilising his extensive government relations and communications background, he leads the association’s outreach efforts both in the nation’s capital as well as across the country.

His presentation highlighted the significant growth in the US over the last few years in advancing fuel cell vehicles, hydrogen station development, stationary fuel cell deployment, hydrogen-powered material handling, and other promising new markets.

“I feel very confident in saying to all of you today that the future of transportation will be a portfolio of technologies, including fuel cell vehicles where appropriate,” Markowitz said.

“Momentum is building in the US for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). In 2015 we had just a couple hundred vehicles on the road, whereas today we have over 7,000 FCEVs on roads today in California.

“California is our lead market. We currently have 40 stations operating with more planned. The goal is to have 100 stations by 2024.”

But Markowtiz said California had experienced a few challenges:

  • Hydrogen supply reliability
  • Network resiliency
  • Station development delays
  • Political issues

“Today a significant number of stations in Northern California are down because of hydrogen supply problems in the production end, and earlier in the year in the distribution cycle. Work needs to be done to get more hydrogen into the system,” he said.

“Recently, companies such as Air Liquide, Air Products, Linde/Praxair have all announced plans to increase production because they believe the market will be there.”

Markowitz said in California each station has to pass a requirement of every locality that they are being placed in (station development delays).

“There is various city and county codes. Each hydrogen station is almost custom made for each individual site depending on its location and jurisdiction. Somehow, we need to develop a system where they can be developed and approved by local and state government in a more appropriate manner.”

Touching on political issues, he said the environmental committee still don’t have a lot of confidence in hydrogen: “Why? Their strong believe is that battery electric vehicles will eventually dominate the market and were just syphoning off funds and resources that will slow down the eventual takeover of battery electric vehicles.

“One advantage fuel cell and hydrogen technology has over battery electric vehicles is that FCEVs are the only, and I challenge anyone in the audience to prove me otherwise, zero emission vehicle technology available now, and for the foreseeable future for the next five to 10 years, that totally replicates the current drivers experience. Being able drive 300-400 miles on a tank full of fuel but equally important is to be able refuel in three to five minutes.”

Dr. Kazuyoshi Honda, Manager of the Hydrogen Solution Section at Tokyo Gas, then shared the current status of a hydrogen society in Japan, along with Tokyo Gas’ initiatives.

Honda said Japan’s hydrogen fuel cell road map was revised in March 2019 and aims to achieve the goals set out in the Basic Hydrogen Strategy. The roadmap sets new targets to achieve specification for basic technologies and cost breakdown goals, as well as an action plan.

The action plan looks at hydrogen supply chain and hydrogen utilisation:

  • Hydrogen supply chain – accelerator of research, development and demonstration to establish technologies for future hydrogen mass-consuming society
  • Hydrogen utilisation – in order to reduce cost for full-scale implementation period, thorough establishment of mass production technology and implementation of regulatory reform.

According to Honda, Tokyo Gas is one of Japan’s hydrogen station operators. He said research and development has been conducted on hydrogen stations since the 2000s and the company currently operates three commercial hydrogen stations in Japan.

This year, Tokyo Gas is constructing a fourth hydrogen station compatible with the fuel cell bus in collaboration with Japan H2 Mobility, a new company aiming to develop a hydrogen station network in Japan.

Wrapping up the session, the Honourable Bill Johnston, Western Australia’s Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Energy and Industrial Relations presented the regional government’s strategy on hydrogen.

Western Australia’s Renewable Hydrogen Strategy was launched in July by the McGowan Government. Its vision is for the region to become a significant producer, exporter and user of renewable hydrogen.

Western Australia features vast renewable energy sources including solar and wind, extensive land mass, a strong existing energy export sector and proximity to Asia where key markets such as Japan and Korea have signalled a shift towards low emissions hydrogen for the future.

The production and export of renewable hydrogen presents an opportunity for Western Australia to support international decarbonisation efforts, while also supporting Australia’s commitments to the Paris Agreement.

The strategy says the value of Australia’s potential low-emissions hydrogen exports could reach $2.2bn by 2030 and $5.7bn by 2040.

“Renewable hydrogen offers all of us a real opportunity to transition away from fossil fuels while increasing energy security,” Johnston said.

Plenary IV

Continuing with the market overview theme, Daniel Hofer, Chairman of Avenergy Suisse, was the first speaker for Plenary IV.

He spoke at the conference as a representative of the association H2 Mobility Switzerland, which currently has 17 members.

“The motivation behind the association is to create a new marketplace for an environmentally friendly and economically viable road transport system in Switzerland,” Hofer said.

“It is our primary goal to overcome the chicken-egg dilemma which is very often the major obstacle when new systems with various individual players are to be introduced in a free market economy.”

“By environmentally friendly we mean the carbon dioxide as an important greenhouse gas should be eliminated from road transportation eventually.”

While looking for solutions to its goal of an environmentally friendly and commercially viable road mobility, Hofer said H2 Mobility Switzerland discovered the opportunities which hydrogen offers.

“Economic viability: Depending on a certain volume of consumption, we can achieve a total cost of ownership for running a truck which is comparable to a normal diesel truck. The system which we envisage allows the operator of the hydrogen refuelling station to amortise the initial investment in about ten to 15 years and to cover the operational cost,” Hofer told participants.

“Fulfilling infrastructural requirements of stations: A hydrogen refuelling station can be placed on or in the vicinity of a conventional forecourt, provided there is about 400 sqm of available surface.”

“The installation is similar to a LNG-pump or an ordinary fuel pump with an additional storage tank and compressor. Considering what you find at a forecourt station, this is a comparatively light adjustment to the existing infrastructure.”

“Compliant business model to fossil fuels: A hydrogen station can be run within the organisation of a modern forecourt, even the payment facilities can be integrated easily. In the end, hydrogen is just another product which you can buy at a forecourt.”

“Availability of vehicles and customers: If customers can choose between an internal combustion engine vehicle and a carbon dioxide neutral vehicle of the same price and comfort of operation, they will most probably choose the eco-friendly version.”

“For the hydrogen mobility project in Switzerland, Hyundai has pledged to provide 1,000 fuel cell trucks up to the end of 2023 and a further 600 in the two following years. In the passenger car sector, there are also models available primarily from East-Asian manufacturers.”

“Renewable and eco-friendly: The whole set-up only works, if the hydrogen is produced in an eco-friendly way. Therefore, we will only accept hydrogen produced through electrolysis taking the energy from renewables like e.g. water, solar or wind power.”

“A first electrolysis facility is already in operation at a run-off-the-river waterpower plant in Aarau (a Swiss city at the river Aare), a second one is being built close by.”

Next, Hans-Werner Kulenkampff, President of H2 Chile – the Chilean Hydrogen Association that aims to accelerate the energy transition by promoting hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in Chile, began by explaining why a German report states that Chile is the “hidden champion of Power-to-X”.

He then gave an overview of what progress has been made in Chile over the last two to three years, as well as what he expects to happen in the near future.

Rouding out Plenary IV, Afkenel Schipstra, Stakeholder Manager of New Energy at Gasunie, posed the question: The Netherlands, a frontrunner in hydrogen?

Schipstra, who focuses on hydrogen, carbon capture and storage (CCS), green gas and district heating projects in her role, discussed Gasunie’s hydrogen activities in the Netherlands and Germany.

She also emphasized the importance of taking into account the complete value chain: conversion/production of hydrogen, transport of hydrogen, storage of hydrogen and different uses of hydrogen – as a feedstock and energy carrier.

Heavy-duty buses

f-cell concluded with a panel providing insight into hydrogen’s role in heavy duty buses.

In a change to the planned agenda, first to speak was Dr. Frank M. Koch, Senior Expert Fuel Cell Electric Mobility at the EnergieAgentur.NRW.

Koch has been working in the fuel cell business for nearly 20 years and since 2000, he has been the manager of the Fuel and Hydrogen Network North Rhine-Westphalia. Here he is responsible for the topics hydrogen mobility and hydrogen infrastructure set-up and coordinates an expert group ‘hydrogen for public transport’.

Koch gave a brief introduction to the topic of fuel cell buses to start the session off as well as presenting the German fuel cell cluster.

He listed the advantages of fuel cell buses as:

  • High passenger comfort – low noise and zero emission
  • Full route flexibility – not bound to any infrastructure along the route
  • High daily range – 400km without refuelling, extension possible
  • Fast refuelling – in seven minutes, also several times a day, no impact on procedures at depot
  • Same performance in winter – because of using the excess heat of a fuel cell

He then discussed the foundation of a national fuel cell bus cluster, initiated by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), and its main targets:

  • Creation of a communication platform for public transport operators and agencies dealing with fuel cell buses
  • Establish a common knowledge basis on fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure
  • Integration of further operators into the cluster
  • Coordination of joint procurements

Koch then mentioned the H2Bus Europe initiative aiming to put 1,000 fuel cell buses and supporting infrastructure on European roads in 2023. The first project is 600 fuel cell bses in the UK, Denmark and Latvia.

“All these activities have bought the prices significantly down. A couple of years ago a bus cost almost €2m. In the JIVE project, the buses were not allowed to cost more than €650,000, and in JIVE 2 €625,000. If that limit hadn’t been there the buses would have been more expensive. Funding agencies must set targets to keep the targets down,” he told participants.

Next, Gerhard Schneider, CEO of ebe EUROPA, presented the subject of urban mobility with fuel cells.

Schneider said ebe EUROPA will launch a fuel cell bus at the end of 2019. It will extend its market across to Eastern Europe (including the Baltic States and Ukraine) and Western Europe. ebe EUROPA will establish its own bus production in 2020.

Completing the panel, Dr. Stephan Herbst, Technical General Manager at Toyota Motor Europe, discussed Toyota’s hydrogen and electrification strategy.

In his role, Herbst is responsible for new hydrogen products and sustainable mobility. He is actively involved in the Hydrogen Council and Hydrogen Europe. Herbst is also co-chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Sustainable Mobility Project.

Herbst said in order to meet the Paris Climate Agreement, the transport sector needs to be decarbonised. In response to this, Toyota released its Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 in 2015.

Toyota set six challenges with the aim of going beyond zero environmental impact, hoping to achieve a net positive impact:

  • New vehicle zero CO2 emissions
  • Life cycle zero CO2 emissions
  • Plant zero CO2 emissions
  • Minimising and optimising water usage
  • Establish a recycling-based society and systems
  • Establish a future society in harmony with nature

Herbst highlighted a quote from Toyota’s Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada: “If you are passionate about what you think is right, keep moving forward. I am convinced that we can create the right conditions for mass adaption of hydrogen for a better society for our children.”


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