The most popular way to extend the range of an electric vehicle is to add a small gasoline engine coupled with a generator as done in the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. The most popular way to extend the range of an electric bus is to add a fuel cell that generates added electrons. During the Winter Olympics, 100,000 riders were transported up Whistler’s 12 percent grades on 20 hydrogen fuel cell electric buses. Now SUVs made by Hyundai-Kai, General Motors and Toyota are also testing Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV).
So far, hydrogen vehicles have been following the adoption path of natural gas vehicles. They do well in specific fleet applications, but they have not been ready for consumers at competitive prices, complete with 100,000 mile warranties and a network of public fueling stations. Hyundai, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, and General Motors are all working to make FCEV mainstream commercial success. Linde, Air Products, Praxair, Shell and others are installing more private and public stations.
When my wife and I drive our Nissan Leaf, we charge the lithium battery with electricity and go. We do not suffer energy loses of using electricity to electrolyze water creating hydrogen and further energy loses of converting hydrogen back to electricity. The LEAF with its 60 to 100 mile practical range meets 80 percent of our needs, but not 100 percent. If we were driving hundreds of miles daily, or on a heavy bus driven 300 miles daily up and down hills, we would need a clean way to extend the range of our electric vehicle. Hydrogen fuel cells extend the range of electric vehicles. Neither battery-electric or fuel-cell vehicles provide 100 percent of the solution. We need a portfolio of solutions to achieve fuel economy, energy independence, and clean air.
Mercedes Fuel Cell Vehicles Drive 18,000 Miles Around the Globe
After 70 days of driving and more than 18,000 miles, three B-Class F-Cell’s circled the globe and returned home to Stuttgart becoming the first round-the-world drive with fuel-cell vehicles. The three F-CELL hydrogen-powered cars crossed through 14 countries on four continents. Even a no-fault accident in Kazakhstan was unable to stop the B-Class F-CELL.
Now Mercedes is putting 200 of these F-CELL hatchbacks into fleets for daily use. I was impressed with my test drive. The F-CELLs smooth ride and quite cruising reminded me of driving my LEAF. The Mercedes deployment of 200 FCEV follows GM’s successful Project Driveway where 100 Equinox FCEV were driven for two-years.
“With the F-CELL World Drive we have shown, that the time for electric vehicles with fuel cell has come. Now the development of the infrastructure has to pick up speed,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “For only an adequate number of hydrogen fueling stations enables car drivers to benefit from the advantages of this technology: high range, short refueling times, zero emissions.
So far, there are only approximately 200 fuel stations worldwide at which fuel cell vehicles can be refueled. According to expert calculations, a network of around 1,000 fixed fuel stations would be sufficient for basic nationwide coverage in Germany. The exclusive partner for hydrogen supply on the F-CELL World Drive was the Linde Group.
The World Drive vehicles drove not only in downtown areas, on country roads and lengthy stretches of highway, but also proved their capabilities driving on unfinished surfaces, for example on stages in Australia and China.
Hyundai’s Fuel Cell SUV with 400 mile range
Last week, I looked at Hyundai’s third generation Tucson ix FCEV and talked with some of their product engineers and managers. 48 of these 400-mile range electric vehicles are being put on the roads now. It’s cousin, the Kia Borrego has a 466 mile range. By the end of 2014, 2,000 of these vehicles will be in service in the United States, Europe, and Asia. By 2015, Hyundai has hopes that this roomy and fully-featured SUV can be priced as low as $40,000.
Hyundai is now driving the Tucson FCEV from San Francisco to New York, traveling 4,500 miles in less than 30 days. Fueling will be a Hyundai dealers where various industrial gas distributors will deliver compressed hydrogen tanks. Along the way, Hyundai Hope on Wheels will award $7.1 million to 71 children’s hospitals.
New battery-electric and plug-in hybrids have benefitted for the design progress and fleet tests of fuel cell vehicles. A Honda engineer told me that 75 percent of the parts had been eliminated. A Volkswagen manager told me that with volume manufacturing using vapor deposition equipment, over 90 percent of the platinum needed for fuel cell catalyst could be eliminated. A Hyundai research scientist told me of 76-percent range improvements in the latest Tucson FCEV.
The new Tucson ix stores 144 liters of hydrogen compressed to 700 bar. Energy storage includes a 100kW hydrogen PEM fuel cell integrated with 100kW supercapacitor and 21kW of lithium battery pack. The vehicle is propelled only by a 100kW induction electric motor.
McKinsey Report: Portfolio of Power-Trains for Europe
A report well worth reading is A portfolio of power-trains for Europe: a fact-based analysis. The study compares outcomes for Europe with 273 million vehicles by 2050 if they follow a path dominated by increasingly efficient internal combustion vehicles (ICE), or battery electric and plug-in hybrid, or 50 percent fuel cell. The report forecasts that the cost of all powertrains converge, benefitting from technology improvements and volume manufacturing learning curve. The Report states, “The cost of fuel cell systems is expected to decrease by 90% and component costs for BEVs by 80% by 2020, due to economies of scale and incremental improvements in technology…. The cost of hydrogen also reduces by 70% by 2025 due to higher utilization of the refueling infrastructure and economies of scale.”
The Report states, “Medium/larger cars with above-average driving distance account for 50% of all cars, and 75% of CO2 emissions. FCEVs are therefore an effective low-carbon solution for a large proportion of the car fleet. Beyond 2030, they have a TCO advantage over BEVs and PHEVs in the largest car segments.”
Pike Research Forecasts 2.8 Million Fuel Cell Vehicles by 2020
Pike Research forecasts that light duty FCVs will be commercialized by mid-decade. According to the Pike Research “Fuel Cell Vehicles” cumulative sales of fuel cell cars and trucks will surpass 2.8 million vehicles globally by 2020.
Pike identifies the best contenders for light-duty fuel cell commercialization to be Daimler (Mercedes), Honda, Toyota, Hyundai-Kia, and GM. “Fuel cell vehicles have been an elusive goal for the automotive industry,” says industry analyst Dave Hurst, “but they are on the verge of commercial reality. With substantial support from the largest automakers, the pressure is on gas companies and governments to make sure that hydrogen fueling stations are available to support this emerging market.”
Pike Research forecasts that fuel cell transit buses will be at the vanguard of the FCV movement, with sales growing at a compound annual growth rate of 31.7% by 2015. Fuel cell light vehicles will be commercially launched in 2014 predicts Pike, and their sales will reach almost 670,000 vehicles per year by 2020.
Pike Research forecasts that Western Europe will be the leading region for FCV sales with a 37% share of the world market, followed closely by Asia Pacific with 36%. FCV sales in North America will represent approximately 25% of global sales during the period from 2014 to 2020. The cleantech market intelligence firm anticipates that FCV revenues will reach $23.9 billion annually by 2020.
Energy security advocates like the fact that hydrogen is already produced from many sources. Often the most cost effective way is to reform natural gas (CH4) into hydrogen. In Oakland, AC Transit uses the city’s natural gas pipeline to reform CH4 into hydrogen at the facility where they fuel 12 hydrogen buses.
For the Winter Olympics, hydrogen was produced by electrolysis where H2O separates hydrogen and oxygen. Canada used hydropower for the electrolysis. Waste hydrogen from a chemical plant was also used. In Torrance, a Shell station delivers hydrogen from the pipeline that runs from Torrance to Carson. In that area, pipelined hydrogen is mainly used in refining oil into high-octane gasoline and low-sulfur diesel.
Orange County Sanitation District opened world’s first to source hydrogen from wastewater. The Fountain Valley wastewater facility uses waste gas from water treatment and fuel cell technology to create electricity, heat, and hydrogen—a tri-generation system. As the stationary fuel cell generates heat and 250kW of power for facility use, it also produces 100kg of hydrogen for the vehicle fueling station operated by Air Products.
On October 13, the California Hydrogen Business Council will host an all day meeting about renewable hydrogen. The author of this article, John Addison, will present a scenario to reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent. The presentation will include a portfolio of solutions including transit-oriented development, reduction of vehicle miles travel, hydrogen and electric vehicles. 80/2050 Scenario Paper