WHY? HYDROGEN BATTERIES
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Hydrogen powered electric buses are becoming very popular. With exchange refuelling using high pressure gas cartridges, or liquid hydrogen cartridges, coaches and trucks might have unlimited ranges. This is sure to be a topic of discussion at the forthcoming World Hydrogen Congress in Paris, 22 September 2020. Not long now.
What are the advantages of a Hydrogen Battery. Why not stay with pumping compressed hydrogen gas into a fixed onboard gas tank?
At first sight it is not obvious what the advantages are. Indeed, to many entrenched in conventional thinking, it might seem like a complication we could do without. But we do need this solution for a more secure (future) mobility infrastructure. Here's why :
1. Hydrogen on its own is just a gas. It cannot supply electricity. We store hydrogen as compressed gas or a liquid. Whatever the storage medium, hydrogen needs to be connected to a fuel cell to be useful in terms of supplying electrical energy.
2. Couple a hydrogen tank to a fuel cell in a convenient package for handling, and suddenly hydrogen is a portable energy pack, or battery cartridge.
3. A standard cartridge format allows us to handle the portable energy packs easily, and makes manufacturing easier and cheaper. We liken this to AAA, AA, C and D dry cells that we rely on as being standard sizes for much of our everyday devices. The only difference is the size. Vehicle batteries are much larger.
Imagine how complicated life would be if every electrical device had a different battery size. By standardizing the case they come in, different chemistry can be used, but the convenience remains. A standard energy cartridges for vehicles, offers a similar level of convenience for vehicle OEMs and for energy companies.
4. The proposed Hydrogen Battery is voltage adjustable and stackable. Meaning it caters for most electric vehicle formats. Each battery incorporates a fuel cell stack matched to the capacity of the gas storage medium.
5. The same cartridge may contain lithium batteries, voltage adjustable and stackable. Meaning that it is possible to swap between lithium technology and hydrogen technology in between service exchanges.
6. A Hydrogen Battery in a depot, like a Smart Services Station, can be used for load levelling, supplying electricity back to the grid. Hydrogen as a stored gas cannot.
7. Where the lithium or hydrogen cartridges are identical for handling purposes, they may be stored in a Smart Service Station to provide near instant refuelling for cars and trucks at motorway services. Cartridge exchanges are just a couple of minutes.
8. Any vehicle that is compatible with a standard cartridge, avoids the need for potential customers to choose between lithium or hydrogen technology. With this system they can have both interchangeably - at the flick of a switch. Now that is what we call added value.
9. A chain of Smart Service Stations at selected locations, could supply all the transport energy needs for any country. No more diesel or petrol pumps needed.
We hope the nine points above explain why we think that standardizing energy cartridges for transport is important. Not so much right now, but thinking ahead to a future where it is uncertain what fuel or chemistry variables may occur. We need to keep the wheels turning.
WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN ?
We can confirm that it is not high on the UK agenda. The system needs champions with vision, far beyond conventional thinking, projecting to a future starved of cobalt and lithium.
The importance of future proofing the automotive industry against competing energy formats cannot be overstated, as demonstrated by the recent challenge by Nikola, versus the Tesla lithium battery semi.
Our system offers the advantages of the Nikola and Tesla trucks, with the added value that if these amazing vehicles were compatible, they might use either hydrogen fuel cells or lithium batteries. Energy wasted competing against one another, means more greenhouse gases.
There are of course advantages to both systems, but that will change as lithium and cobalt raw materials become harder to mine.
Investment in this concept is needed for 3 stage development, taking concept to prototype. Funding might be by way of a mix of grants, private equity investment, and partnerships. Potentially including crowd funding or donations.
WHAT IS IN A HYDROGEN BATTERY ?
A Universal battery cartridge is designed to service any suitable electrically propelled vehicle, including buses, cars, vans, and long haul trucks.
Hydrogen cartridges can contain gas at 700 bar, or liquid hydrogen in combination with a matched bank of fuel cells. The gas version will give 270+ miles per exchange in a typical family car, like the Toyota Mirai. It is anticipated that a liquid hydrogen version will have a significantly longer range of around 470 miles.
The safety cartridges are stackable for vans and trucks, offering 1,000 mile ranges on long haul vehicles using the high-pressure gas example and 1,750 mile ranges on liquid hydrogen . Please note that these are only estimates until the concept is proven.
Cartridge exchanges take just a couple of minutes at dedicated rapid, smart service stations. Spent cartridges are refilled automatically, cyclically, with hydrogen and stored until requested by other vehicles passing through the station forecourt.
The system provides additional storage for mismatched load-levelling of solar and wind generated electricity in remote regions, for use in cities in other regions. The service stations can return electricity to the grid when demand requires.
The proposed system is compatible with Pay As You Drive (PAYD) technology. This makes the purchase price of an EV much lower than other systems. You pay for energy and cartridge depreciation at every fill up.
IS THIS AN IPCEI ?
The IPCEI (Important Project of Common European Interest) instrument makes it possible under specific conditions to address market failures for larger cross-border integrated projects for hydrogen and fuels derived from hydrogen that significantly contribute to achieve climate goals.
On the 8th of July 2020, the Commission issued a "Hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe," in which they announced the creation of a European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, and various actions to support strategic investments in clean hydrogen.
This was designed to support schemes scaling up production and design, including market rules and infrastructure - and to promote research and innovation in hydrogen technologies.
We wonder if the proposed standardization of hydrogen energy cartridges might qualify as an IPCEI, and if so, if Alliance members may wish to consider working in a consortium to develop such concept?
If accepted as a way forward, the concept is set to disrupt much of the automotive world, mainly those who fail to react in sufficient time to move with the times.
There is likely to be a period of cheap oil as Saudi Arabia and Russia vie to capitalize on their fossil fuel reserves, but ultimately, diversification is where efforts are most likely to reap rewards in the long term, as hydrogen becomes competitive price wise and compatible with conventional battery technology.
WORLD HYDROGEN CONGRESS 22 SEPTEMBER 2020
The World Hydrogen Congress is the leading annual meeting place for senior executives working in the field of hydrogen production, transportation, distribution, storage, policy and end use applications.
The global energy markets are in transition led by the technological disruption of renewable energy power, digital technologies and the need to decarbonize the power generation, mobility and heat energy markets in the face of the rapidly evolving climate change reality. Hydrogen is a rapidly growing solution to decarbonizing power generation, energy storage, cost efficient drive-trains and most especially; industrial heat markets.
APRIL 2020 - China is promising more subsidies to shore up plunging electric car sales amid the coronavirus pandemic but set limits that exclude Tesla’s made-in-China model.
Companies engaged in the production of batteries and components for electric vehicles (EVs) are enjoying a bull run in China, as they hitch a ride with the first Tesla electric car to roll off the company’s Shanghai assembly. A series of events leading up to the unveiling of Tesla’s Model 3 in April 2020 fuelled investors’ interest in Chinese parts suppliers, including the companies that build charging stations, and even the miners of the lithium used in battery packs.
As hydrogen begins to look like an attractive alternative to conventional batteries, OEMs that opt for hydrogen compatible platforms will not have to choose between energy mediums, if they are of the proposed Universal design.
If we want a practical solution for the next 50 years, to begin within the next 10 years, hydrogen has many obstacles to overcome, where battery exchange recharging by swapping packs is already making headway in China and India, and is sure to become more popular as a way of instantly recharging EV's and also load levelling generation from solar and wind electricity. One potential solution under development is a Dual Fuel service station where energy packs can include hydrogen as the storage medium. With such a system, instead of competing with batteries, hydrogen interests can work alongside battery concerns to build a comprehensive transport infrastructure.
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