Gaseous or liquid hydrogen? It’s a dilemma facing everyone involved in the refueling of heavy-duty vehicles. It makes no difference to the power system whether the fuel is a gas or a liquid as the fuel cells can process the hydrogen regardless. In infrastructure terms, however, it’s another matter. The consensus among experts is that it’s not economically viable for fuel station operators to support every available technology in the long run. One alternative is cryogas, which is produced by cooling pressurized gas to extremely low temperatures or by directly compressing liquid hydrogen. Work is currently underway to deliver cryogas tank systems that will give a range of around 620 miles (1,000 kilometers), the CryoTRUCK project and the Salzburger Aluminium Group initiative being prime examples.
A positive result in a community poll has apparently cleared the way for cellcentric to press ahead with its plans to mass-produce fuel cells in the German town of Weilheim an der Teck. Cellcentric – a 50-50 joint venture by Daimler Truck and Volvo – is expected to start building its new factory in the course of the year. Preparations for the highly automated manufacturing facility have “already come a very long way,” H2-international was informed.
The joint venture between ElringKlinger and Plastic Omnium has built up a production capacity of 10,000 stack units per year at the Dettingen site. According to chief finance officer Dr. Gernot Stellberger, the fuel cell manufacturer from Baden-Württemberg has a lead of about two years over the competition in the area of industrial stack design. The company is aiming for a sales revenue of up to one billion euros by the end of the decade. In addition to the commercial vehicle sector, there is great interest from the maritime and rail industry. In the joint venture Aerostack with Airbus, EKPO Fuel Cell Technologies GmbH is developing a stack for use in aviation.
According to European Union guidelines, carbon dioxide emissions from heavy-duty vehicles will need to be cut by 30 percent by the year 2030 in order to ensure emissions reductions are on track to meet the EU’s 2050 net-zero target. This would mean that around 200,000 emission-free trucks would have to be operating on Europe’s roads by 2030. That’s the finding of a recent study carried out by the association of German engineers VDI and the testing and certification institute VDE entitled “Sustainable commercial vehicles – a comparison of different technology pathways for carbon-neutral and carbon-free propulsion.” It found marked advantages for the use of fuel cell power systems for long-distance transportation using large commercial vehicles while battery-electric powertrains were seen as clearly beneficial for small commercial vehicles.
The two-part trade fair concept was particularly well received by exhibitors. In addition to the halls at the fairgrounds, the Munich city center was also used as an exhibition area. Especially suppliers in the area of fuel cell drives had new things to present. They recognize the high market potential and feel that the technology will penetrate the passenger car sector through the commercial vehicle sector.
A sustainable hydrogen world requires not only a comprehensive expansion of infrastructures, but also a functioning market. With H2Cloud, the Managementberatung think utilities AG & Co. KG wants to position a platform for OTC trading (over-the-counter trading, also direct trading or telephone trading) of hydrogen products. Dr Peter Rügge, founder of H2Cloud and managing director of think utilities, explains the background and analyses the market environment.
ORBIT field test successfully completed
In December, the test operation of the ORBIT biomethanisation plant in Ibbenbüren ended and with it a research project for the further development of power-to-gas technology, which is becoming more and more important. ORBIT stands for “Optimierung eines Rieselbett-Bioreaktors für die dynamische mikrobielle Biosynthese von Methan mit Archaeen in Power-to-Gas-Anlagen” or “Optimisation of a trickle bed bioreactor for the dynamic microbial biosynthesis of methane with archaea in power-to-gas plants” in English. The research project had been running since July 2017 and was funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) with 1.14 million euros. Within a short time, it was possible to set up a functioning system. This is now to be expanded into a complete system for industrial use in further development steps.
Alkaline fuel cells, with their very low use of precious metals, are an alternative to PEM fuel cell technology. Another benefit is the higher tolerance to impurities in the supplied hydrogen. The focus of their work is particularly in the stationary sector. Two current projects with systems from AFC Energy bring dynamism to the still rare project landscape with alkaline fuel cells: The cooperation with ABB on their HPC charging solution for electric vehicles and the future project LLEC at the Jülich Research Centre.