f-cell+HFC: Huge acceleration of interest in hydrogen technologies in past decade

f-cell+HFC: Huge acceleration of interest in hydrogen technologies in past decade

Collaborations, the progression of fuel cell technologies and cost competitiveness of fuel cell commercial vehicles were all key topics in the second half of the Canadian Plenary at the f-cell+HFC 2020 virtual event.

Following on from Joy Romero, Vice-President of Technology & Innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited, was Professor Alejandro Adem, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

“Welcome,” Adem said, “It is an exciting time for science and engineering research around the world. There are some unprecedented challenges that we are facing at the moment, as scientists and engineers from all fields are being called upon for their expertise.”

“In particular, clean energy and the environment are both topics of discussion as researchers, politicians and businesses assess how we can best take advantage of this historic moment to reshape our world.”

“Hydrogen fuel cells, like many technologies, have been a long game prospect since development begun. However, in the last decade there has been a huge acceleration of interest in such technologies.”

“Now, after years of progressive advancement, hydrogen fuel cell technologies have gone from moving forward to breaking through.”

As a major federal agency responsible for funding natural sciences and engineering research in Canada, NSERC plays a big role is project progression and pairing up researchers with the right connections to make Canada’s hydrogen dreams a reality.

“Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we help our researchers connect with partners that can help them deliver the innovations that we need. Recent changes to partnership programmes have made it even easier for hydrogen fuel cell researchers and companies to connect on great innovations and opportunities,” he enthused.

Path to cost competitiveness

Next, Kevin Colbow, Chief Technology Officer at Ballard Power Systems, and the final speaker of the session, who shared the factors in driving cost reduction in fuel cell commercial vehicles and what Ballard is doing to ensure fuel cell vehicles are cost competitive with battery electric and diesel vehicles by 2030.

“The cost of fuel cell vehicles has been falling dramatically for years, albeit it’s had a long way to go, and will continue to drop into the next decade and beyond,” Colbow began.

“But before more on that, I’d like to bring you up to date with what Ballard has been doing lately. Last year Ballard celebrated 40 years of business and for the first time in our 40-year history we can point to rapid market adoption happening, especially in the medium and heavy-duty mobility applications.”

“Ballard fuel cells are powering more than 1,000 fuel cell buses around the world and more than 2,000 delivery trucks, primarily in China. Those vehicles have travelled more than 50 million kilometres on the road, proving that fuel cell vehicles are durable, reliable and meet the performance demands of commercial fleets.”

“We’re also expanding into other automotive applications including trains and ships.”

Ballard’s strategy is focused on fuel cell commercial vehicles and the company is now seeing other industry players endorsing this strategy and repositioning to enter this space.

“It’s real validation of the market potential,” Colbow said, “Together we are creating an industry that is changing the world to be more sustainable.”

“Although fuel cell electric vehicles are currently more expensive to run per 100 kilometres than battery electric vehicles and internal combustion engine vehicles, they are set to become much cheaper as manufacturing technology matures, economies of scale improve, hydrogen fuel costs decline and infrastructure develops.”

Indeed, white papers published by Deliotte in partnership with Ballard, and studies by the Hydrogen Council, estimate that the total cost of ownership for commercial hydrogen vehicles will fall by more than 50% in the next 10 years.

According to the McKinsey study, a cost reduction of roughly 70% to 80% for fuel cell vehicles would be possible given an annual production volume of 150,000 vehicles.

“We’re confident we can reduce the price of the fuel cell systems to be competitive with diesel engines and meet the US Department of Energy target of less than $100 per kilowatt for annual production of over 150,000 systems per year,” Colbow said.

So how will this aggressive cost out be achieved? Colbow said it will be driven by the convergence of 6 key factors:

  1. Technology advancements in hybrid fuel cell electric drivetrains
  2. Improvements in fuel cell vehicle performance
  3. Industrialisation of fuel cell components
  4. Cost benefits of hydrogen infrastructure at scale
  5. Low caron hydrogen at affordable prices
  6. Environmental impact

f-cell+HFC 2020 will now break for lunch, which is sponsored by Toyota Canada. This afternoon, H2 View will be bringing you live coverage of the Buses and Rail session, as well as the Production of Hydrogen/Decarbonication session.


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