21 June 2010

Infrastructure and renewable energy for FCV’s

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Our society lacks hydrogen refuelling stations for fuel cell vehicles (FCV’s) and we have a long way to go before obtaining all energy from renewable sources. However, interesting projects are developing in this area

Fuel cell vehicles (FCV’s) are already in use, but only for demonstration purposes, and a good infrastructure for hydrogen refuelling is not in place yet. Germany has launched an H2 Mobility Initiative focused on setting up a nationwide infrastructure by 2015. At the moment 21 refuelling stations are registered in the country. The Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway Partnership (SHHP) is working on a hydrogen infrastructure in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Sweden currently has no FCV’s on the roads. Discussions continue about who should control the only available refuelling station, which has recently closed.

Greenpeace considers hydrogen fuel as an option if clean and renewable energy is used to produce it and if hydrogen could power the cars more efficiently. Vehicle manufacturers are trying to improve the FCV’s, but they are probably miles from satisfying their critics. Although we have a long way to go before obtaining all energy from renewable sources, interesting projects are developing in this area.

The energy company Vattenfall is building a hydrogen station in Hamburg where they have strong political support. “We will begin construction of the hydrogen station in mid-June, 2010. In mid-2011 the station will supply the new generation of buses in Hamburg. Green power certificates generate the hydrogen. This means we will produce the hydrogen on renewable energy only. We are still in the development phase and some distance from the market,” said Anette Polkehn-Appel, communicator at the company. “The hydrogen station will contain three electrolysers, which will produce hydrogen and oxygen from water,” she said.

Another player on the energy stage is SunHydro. The privately funded systems they build contain solar cells at the stations which generate the energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The company wants to provide hydrogen refuelling stations from Maine to Florida. SunHydro hopes to establish refuelling stations that would make it possible to also drive from coast to coast. The price tag for one of these stations is $2 million to $3 million.

Anette Polkehn-Appel is unsure about the future for hydrogen and FCV's. “It's difficult to say when hydrogen will be able to secure market share,” she said. “We are still missing the vehicles and lack the infrastructure. Moreover, the prices for cars and hydrogen are much too high when a production stage is not yet in sight. But we are working with our partners, step by step, to deploy the technology on a large scale.”


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