Hydrogen Economy Update: Weak demand leads to the end of Honda Clarity
High price tag and limited refuelling infrastructure are suppressing fuel cell cars sales, though the technology is getting more popular in buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles.
In Europe, the Spanish taxi association Federación Profesional del Taxi de Madrid (Fptm) expressed interest in replacing 1,000 internal combustion taxis with fuel cell electric taxis, by 2026, along with the development of required infrastructure such as hydrogen production and charging infrastructure. Fptm has been joined by Toyota, Madrileña Red de Gas, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), Grupo Ruiz and PwC. The plan includes building a 10 MW electrolysis hydrogen plant powered by a 20 MW solar plant, whereas Toyota will supply hydrogen Taxis, such as second-generation Mirai Fcev.
Spain’s Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) has partnered with Vectalia to integrate green hydrogen as a fuel in part of a public transportation bus fleet in Alicante, Spain. It is the first Spanish project to use hydrogen as a fuel on such a large scale for the decarbonisation of the transportation sector, and therefore, it is considered a strong candidate for the Next Generation EU Funds. A 10 MW hydrolysis plant will be built in the first phase, powered by a photovoltaic plant, and hydrogenation for refuelling of around 80 buses. The buses will be used as public transport between Alicante and nearby municipalities with a range of around 400 km. The project will be able to cut CO2 emission by about 75 tonnes in the initial phase.
Also, in Spain, the Seafuel, a European project, demonstrated the first fuel cell vehicle in Tenerife, Spain. The project partners include the Institute of Technology and Renewable Energies (Iter), the Tenerife Energy Agency (Aiet), the Cabildo de Tenerife and Hyundai Canarias. Hyundai Nexo was the first of the seven vehicles of the Seafuel project’s vehicle fleet demonstrated at Iter facilities. A hydrogen pilot plant will be constructed at Iter facilities expected to come online this summer, where a study will also be carried out related to the socio-economic impact of hydrogen as a fuel in transportation.
In Germany, BMW started testing its BMW i Hydrogen NEXT vehicle. The tests involve examining BMW hydrogen vehicle performance, CO2 emissions and electronics system under real-life conditions. The vehicle is entirely electric, which uses hydrogen as a fuel source and converts it to electricity in the fuel cell. Based on testing, BMW will further use the technology in small series models, such as BMW X5, which is expected to be launched by 2022.
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has developed a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (Fcev) prototype based on Land Rover Defender SUV in the UK. The testing will begin this year. The prototype is part of the JLR long term plans, such as net-zero tailpipe emission by 2036 and net-zero carbon emissions across its products, supply chain and operations by 2039. JLR is also working on Project Zeus with Delta Motorsport, AVL, Marelli Automotive Systems and the UK Battery Industrialisation Center (Ukbic).
In Scotland, Glasgow City Council awarded the contract to two energy companies, Arcola Energy Limited and Farid Hillend Engineering Ltd, to purchase and maintain 19 hydrogen fuel-powered trucks. The vehicles are expected to be fully operational by 2022, with the first truck delivered by January 2022.
Meanwhile, Estonia completed the first autonomous hydrogen vehicle testing at the start of June 2021. The bus is manufactured through the collaboration between Auve Tech and the University of Tartu and has received a permit from Transport Board to perform testing in public traffic.
In Oceania, Australia’s Titan Hydrogen Limited is on the cusp of commercialising a disruptive fuel cell technology that will increase fuel cell efficiency, leading to decreased travel costs. Moreover, hydrogen Fuels Australia (H2FA) is launching Australia’s first modular hydrogen production and integrated Fcev refuelling operation at its greenfield facility in Truganina, Victoria.
In North America, New Flyer, an NFI subsidiary, to supply 20 zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell-electric 40-foot Xcelsior CHARGE H2™ heavy-duty transit buses from Alameda Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit). The order pushes the AC Transit’s Clean Corridors Plan, committed to having a 25% zero-emission fleet by 2023. It is the second order of AC transit to NFL, as the first one was made back in 2019 for ten fuel cell electric buses and five battery-electric buses.
Total Transportation Services (Ttsi) is piloting several heavy-duty class 8 hydrogen trucks and also developing best practices for their operators. In addition, it has agreed with IGX Group for the development of hydrogen fuelling solutions. Currently, IGX is providing refuelling services to Ttsi at Port of Long Beach which will be expanded to other markets in future to achieve its zero-emissions goals.
In Asia, a key development was in Japan when Honda Motor announced to cease production of its Clarity fuel-cell car this year to trim underperforming models, as Japanese media outlet Nikkei reported. The Japanese automaker also decided to cease production of the Legend and Odyssey.
In China, Shanghai Refire Technology Co. Ltd. announced its new hydrogen fuel cell system known as Prisma 12+ in China. It is the expansion in its signature fuel cell system product line known as Prisma and will facilitate heavy-duty trucks with more efficiency and power than older ones. The new fuel cell technology will provide 10% efficiency improvements compared to previous models and focus on improving the performance of heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles.
In the marine sector, Freudenberg and Lürssen Werft are partnered to develop fuel cell systems for mega yachts in Germany. The plan is to enable the yacht to cruise for around 1,000 miles without any emissions. Both partners are also part of ‘Pa-X-ell 2’ project working with Carnival Maritime, DNV, Besecke, DLR, Epea and Meyer Werft, which focus on the development of a hybrid energy system with a new generation of fuel cells for yachts and passenger ships that are suitable for high seas.
TECO 2030 and Chart Industries, Inc. also agreed to develop carbon capture technological solutions for the marine sector. The onboard technological solution will capture the CO2 emitted from the ship and stores it in liquid form. It will use Cryogenic Carbon CaptureTM (CCC) technology developed by SES. The CO2 captured by the technology will be stored in cryogenic storage tanks until the ship reaches port, where it will be stored permanent underground or reused in industries such as agriculture, food, energy, and beverages.
In the locomotive industry, Angel Trains and Arcola Energy partnered for the development of Zero Emission Train project, with an investment of around £500k (US$ 694K) to add Scotland’s first zero-emission train to the country’s rail network. The project is also backed by Transport Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and the University of St Andrews/Hydrogen Accelerator and is expected to be ready for demonstration during COP26.
In the US, Wabtec Corporation and General Motors (GM) also signed an agreement to develop Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell systems and Ultium battery technology for Wabtec locomotives. The deal will help both companies in achieving their goals of zero emissions in the transportation sector. Wabtec will offer its expertise in energy management and systems optimisation to develop both technologies that will be used in locomotives.
In France, GE Aviation and Safran agreed to the development CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) programme, aiming to lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% in the aviation sector, as compared to today’s engines. The program will demonstrate the new technologies and future engines, reducing the emissions expected to be launched by the mid-2030s. The program is also focused on the 100% compatibility of the engines with alternative energy sources such as Sustainable Aviation Fuels and hydrogen.
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