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Hydrogen: The future for HGVs

Monday, January 30, 2023 - 08:44
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In recent years, the transportation industry has been making significant strides in terms of sustainability and reducing emissions. One of the most promising solutions is hydrogen fuel cell technology. This article will delve into the potential of hydrogen to transform the heavy transport sector, exploring the benefits and challenges of this innovative energy source.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells: How They Work

A hydrogen fuel cell is a device that converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. It works by passing hydrogen through a membrane that separates positively charged hydrogen ions from negatively charged electrons. The ions move through the membrane, generating an electric current, while the electrons create a separate current that can be used to power an electric motor. The only by-products of this reaction are heat and water.

The Advantages of Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Heavy Transport

Hydrogen fuel cells offer several advantages over traditional fossil fuels for heavy transport applications. Firstly, hydrogen fuel cells emit only water and heat, making them a clean energy source that does not contribute to air pollution. Secondly, hydrogen fuel cells have a high energy density, which means that they can store a large amount of energy in a compact space. This makes them ideal for use in vehicles with limited storage space. Finally, hydrogen fuel cells are highly efficient, with up to 60% of the energy in the hydrogen being converted into usable electricity.

The Challenges of Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Heavy Transport

While hydrogen fuel cells offer many benefits, they also present several challenges that must be addressed to make them a viable alternative to fossil fuels in the heavy transport sector. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of a hydrogen fuelling infrastructure. Currently, there are very few hydrogen fuelling stations, making it difficult for heavy transport vehicles to refuel while on the road. Additionally, hydrogen fuel cells are still relatively expensive compared to traditional fossil fuels, and the cost of producing hydrogen is still high.

The Future of Heavy Transport with Hydrogen

Despite these challenges, the future of heavy transport looks bright with hydrogen fuel cells. With advancements in technology and a growing demand for sustainable energy solutions, it is likely that the cost of producing and using hydrogen fuel cells will decrease in the coming years. Furthermore, governments around the world are investing in the development of a hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, which will make it easier for heavy transport vehicles to refuel.

Element 2, the hydrogen refuelling business, recently announced a partnership with Tower Group to establish hydrogen hubs for trucks at three key locations in Devon and Cornwall.

The hydrogen hubs will have the capacity for long-term energy storage and Element 2 will provide refuelling systems for the Tower Group-produced hydrogen.

Tower Group’s hydrogen hub plans include sites along critical M5 motorway and A30 trunk roads connecting the South West with London.

Element 2 will also provide Tower Group with technical and logistical support in relation to establishing its hydrogen refuelling solutions, as well as collaborating to identify potential fleet customers for the hydrogen stored at its facilities.

Alex King, Chief Executive officer, Tower Group, said, “Hydrogen will play a central role in the decarbonisation of a range of industries in the South West, including road transport.

“Our hydrogen hubs will have the capacity to store significant volumes of hydrogen, and working with partners like Element 2, we will be able to ensure a regular and reliable supply of hydrogen to customers.”

Hydrogen supplier Air Products is currently planning a £6.5 million investment in a trailer and cylinder filling station at its Llanwern hydrogen facility in South Wales.

The filling station, which is expected to be on stream in spring 2023, will make an additional 1.5 tonnes of fuel-cell-grade hydrogen available daily to serve the transport and energy transition market, with capacity to serve a fleet of 100 buses or 50 trucks.

Air Products also recently announced plans to bring the first large-scale, green hydrogen production facility to the Port of Immingham, together with Associated British Ports.

Manish Patel, UK Hydrogen for Mobility Director at Air Products said: “Air Products has made an industry-leading commitment of at least £12.2 billion to clean energy transition megaprojects to ensure when governments or industries want to make the switch to clean hydrogen, they will know they have a reliable and secure supply.

“With a hydrogen pathway for Wales under development, it’s an exciting time to be investing in South Wales and we hope that our investment will give real impetus and momentum to the wider green economy in the region.”

In conclusion, hydrogen fuel cells offer a promising solution for the heavy transport sector. With the right investment and support, it is possible that hydrogen could become the primary energy source for heavy transport, transforming the industry and reducing its impact on the environment.

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