Science-Based Fire Codes Will Lead to More H2 Fueling Stations

Who would have thought that the use of ultra-conservative and overly restrictive fire codes was holding back the building of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure in California? Researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories discovered that by going with science-based, risk-informed fire codes aligned with the U. S. Department of Energy, that hydrogen pumps can be installed in some current gasoline stations in the Golden State.

According to Sandia, “The report examined 70 commercial gasoline stations in the state of California and sought to determine which, if any, could integrate hydrogen fuel, based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) hydrogen technologies code published in 2011.

“The study determined that 14 of the 70 gas stations involved in the study could readily accept hydrogen fuel and that 17 more possibly could accept hydrogen with property expansions. Under previous NFPA code requirements from 2005, none of the existing gasoline stations could readily accept hydrogen …

“… The development of meaningful, science-based fire codes and determinations such as those found in the report will help accelerate the deployment of hydrogen systems, said Daniel Dedrick, hydrogen program manager at Sandia.”

Read the full 101-page report here.


Two More H2 Fuel Cell Buses Roll into Aberdeen, Scotland

Two more hydrogen fuel cell buses, created by Belgian firm Van Hool, have rolled out into Aberdeen, Scotland. This is an update to an article I had published on May 22, 2014 when the first four H2 buses were delivered.

According to the City of Aberdeen, “Two more zero-emission buses have arrived in the North-east as part of the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project.

“The vehicles, built by Belgian firm Van Hool, have been delivered to Stagecoach’s Tullos depot in the south of the city. They bring the total delivered so far to six, with the remaining four of Europe’s largest hydrogen bus fleet due to arrive in the coming months. Four of the vehicles will be operated by First Aberdeen and six by Stagecoach on city routes.

“The Aberdeen City Council-led project, which has backing from Europe, the UK Government and the Scottish Government, as well as a broad range of private sector partners, is the most high-profile of a range of projects designed to create a hydrogen economy in the city.”

When the last four hydrogen fuel cell buses arrive a little later this year, Aberdeen will then have the largest H2 bus fleet in Europe. And the City of Aberdeen has further ambitions that don’t stop there as they intend on being a “world-leading hydrogen city” for the foreseeable future.


Japan Establishes Hydrogen Fuel Cell Strategy Roadmap

Even though California is often thought of as Ground Zero for hydrogen car technology and refueling infrastructure, Japan also has been quite pro-active in this field as well. And hence the Japanese have established a Hydrogen / Fuel Cell Strategy Roadmap in order to address the technical challenges going forward in regard to growing FCVs and infrastructure in that country.

The roadmap is broken down into three phases. Phase 1 starts now and will last until about 2025. During this period of rapid growth, the goal of this phase is to increase the number of residential fuel cells and the number of hydrogen fueling stations.

Phase 2 will start in the mid 2020’s and last until about 2030. During this phase, large-scale hydrogen distribution systems will be established along with acquiring cheap hydrogen from foreign countries. In Phase 3, which begins in about 2040, hydrogen production, transportation and storage will be fully realized including clean, renewable foreign and domestic sources.

The latter part of this roadmap will depend upon breakthroughs in highly efficient water elecrolyzers that can turn solar or wind energy into hydrogen. Since Toyota’s first commercial mass-produced fuel cell vehicle is slated to rollout in less than 1 year, having a roadmap for the future, including Japan’s hydrogen highway system, will help sustain growth in this industry for years to come.


Toyota to Sell Fuel Cells to Midsize Car Companies

Toyota says it will consider selling the major components of its fuel cell systems to midsize automakers that don’t have the R&D budget to build the components from the ground up.

The reason for this is two-fold. If there are more fuel cell vehicles being sold it will be easier for governments and other agencies to spend the money to develop hydrogen fueling stations.

A second reason is that the more fuel cell systems that Toyota sells, the more money they will make and they will be able to slash costs due to the efficiencies of mass production.

According to the Japan Times, “Since the huge cost of developing the next-generation cars will be difficult for midsize companies to bear, Toyota is considering supplying such parts as fuel cells, high-pressure hydrogen tanks and motors to accelerate the spread of FCVs.”

It’s a win-win for Toyota and the smaller automakers who wish to compete in the FCV marketplace. And if more hydrogen fueling stations are being built because of this, then that’s another win, too.


Plug Power Placing FCVs at Airports

Plug Power, known for selling fuel cell materials handling units, is now placing their FCVs at airports. The fuel cell vehicles (pictured above) will be a part of a demo project for ground support equipment (GSE) vehicles used to carry luggage and cargo.

According to Plug Power, “This demo is a significant step in Plug Power’s strategy to expand into markets adjacent to material handling, where the company’s GenDrive fuel cells have overwhelmingly proved their value. Airport tuggers, belt loaders and auxiliary power units are all GSE.

“A $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy has provided the funding for this development project. Use of hydrogen fuel cells will enable GSE operators to comply with tightening emissions standards that currently require capital increases and operational interruption in fleets powered by diesel.

“This week, the Plug Power GSE fuel cell prototype was publicly demonstrated for the first time, in a Charlatte cargo tractor pulling 40,000 pounds of weight, spread evenly over four dollies.”

For the past 3 years, fuel cell vehicles have quickly made their way into warehouses all over the United States and Europe. In February 2014, Walmart placed an order for 1,738 Plug Power FCVs for their distribution warehouses in Canada and the United States. In May of this year, Central Grocers placed an order with Plug Power for 182 next-generation GenDrive fuel cell units in their Joliet, Illinois facility. Airports are the next logical step for similar types of fuel cell vehicles.


HyperSolar Artificial Photosynthesis Breaking Records

HyperSolar has set record times in producing hydrogen using a submersible artificial photosynthesis device in water. The device uses sunlight only, without any outside power source, in order to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “HyperSolar, Inc., the developer of a breakthrough technology to produce renewable hydrogen using sunlight and water, announced today that its patent pending polymer coating, when applied to a bromine electrode in a wireless solar powered particle, resulted in 170 continuous hours of hydrogen production, one of the longest duration applications of wireless hydrogen production on record.

“The test conducted by members of the company’s research team at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) confirms the possibility of commercializing a process for the direct conversion of sunlight into valuable chemicals and fuels. Solar to chemical conversion (artificial photosynthesis) has the advantage in that the energy storage challenges associated with photovoltaics are eliminated. The company’s goal is to efficiently convert solar energy into hydrogen.”

Now, I’ve talked about artificial photosynthesis many times in the past. When perfected, this technology will be a low-cost, efficient method of producing high volumes of hydrogen. For the naysayers who state that the only way to produce hydrogen is by using fossil fuels, artificial photosynthesis will have a quieting effect on that crowd.


HydrogeNXT’s Next Gen H2 Fueling Station and Smartphone Solution

Houston-based startup company HydrogeNXT is proposing a next generation hydrogen fueling station plus smartphone app that will work together efficiently to fuel up any fuel cell car.

According to the press release, “HydrogeNXT‘s fueling solution relies on a patented, app-based reservation system that allows hydrogen customers to locate nearby stations, see how much fuel is available, reserve any amount they desire, obtain directions to the station, then complete the transaction all on their smartphone or infotainment system. HydrogeNXT‘s unique reservation system will give tomorrow’s drivers the confidence that fuel they need is reserved and waiting.

“Another key to HydrogeNXT‘s solution is its radical new design, allowing the station to be extremely cost effective. HydrogeNXT‘s hardware is small, estimated to cost about 100 times less than conventional hydrogen stations, with a base mode that holds just enough fuel for about five vehicles while servicing up to 15 to 20 in a day. Its patented, modular design also makesHydrogeNXT‘s station simple and inexpensive to scale up as the hydrogen economy grows. And with 10 distinct revenue streams built into the system, selling hydrogen isn’t the only way owners will see a return on their investment.”

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case HydrogeNXT has an informative cartoon that shows how a lady with a smartphone and cool App can find a nearby H2 fueling station, reserve gas, use her smartphone to communicate with the pump and even pay for the fuel using her phone. That App deserves applause.


$68,809 for a Commercial Toyota FCV in 2015

Toyota has unveiled the outside design (pictured at top) and Japanese price for the fuel cell vehicle that is supposed to go on sale in March 2015. The Japanese price is around 7 million yen ($68,809 USD) and the design is the same as the FCV concept that was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in November 2013.

According to Toyota, “In Japan, the fuel cell sedan will go on sale at Toyota and Toyopet dealerships, priced at approximately 7 million yen (MSRP; excludes consumption tax). Initially, sales will be limited to regions where hydrogen refueling infrastructure is being developed. U.S. and Europe prices have not yet been decided. Likewise, more detailed information, such as specifications, exact prices and sales targets, will be announced later …

“… Significant improvements have been made to the FC system since 2002. The fuel cell sedan Toyota revealed today, for example, features performance similar to a gasoline engine vehicle, with a cruising range2 of approximately 700 km (according to Toyota measurements taken under the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s JC08 test cycle) and a refueling time of roughly three minutes. When driven, it emits only the water vapor produced by the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen …

“… Toyota Group companies are also engaging in other hydrogen-related initiatives, such as developing and testing fuel cells for use in homes, and developing fuel cell forklifts and fuel cell buses.”

Toyota has stated that they intend to start commercial production of the FCVs in mid-December 2014. The same vehicle is targeted to rollout in the U. S. and Europe in the summer of 2015.


Could Ammonia Be the Fuel of the Future for FCVs?

I’ve talked about ammonia possibly being a feedstock for fuel cell vehicles and H2 ICE vehicles a few times in the past. New breakthrough technology bodes well for ammonia in the future.

According to The Engineer, “British scientists have proposed a way of making it easier and cheaper to run hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles by filling them with ammonia. The researchers have developed a way to cut the costs of making hydrogen from ammonia, which can be transported and stored much more easily than hydrogen in tanks similar to those already used by filling stations for liquid petroleum gas (LPG).

“This method of cracking ammonia using relatively cheap sodium rather than an expensive catalyst could pave the way for fuel-cell vehicles to make their own hydrogen from a widely available chemical, rather than carrying a tank of very high-pressure hydrogen and requiring expensive new infrastructure.

“Alternatively, combining a small amount of hydrogen with the rest of the ammonia would enable it to be burned in an optimised but conventional internal combustion engine (ICE), the researchers from the ISIS Neutron Source facility in Oxfordshire claim.”

So, the advantages of using ammonia is that it is easily and cheaply mass produced and is widely used today. It is also transported easily in liquid form. One disadvantage, however, is that ammonia is caustic to the touch, so great care in refueling a vehicle with high grade ammonia will need to be taken.

Now, in related news, would you like to read about pee-powered fuel cell vehicles? Urine Luck. Read on.


2015 Toyota Fuel Cell to Cost 5-Percent of Other Model

According to Toyota, their 2015 model year hydrogen vehicle, which has not been unveiled yet, will have a fuel cell system that is 1/20th the cost of the one in their FCHV-adv model.

Toyota lists several reasons for being able to reduce the costs according to Nikkei Technology, “Toyota made the following efforts to lower the cost of the fuel cell system. It (1) eliminated a humidifying module, (2) reduced the number of tanks from four to two, (3) employed low-price, mass-produced parts such as a motor for hybrid vehicles, (4) simplified the system structure by reviewing the structures of a fuel cell stack, high-pressure hydrogen tank, etc,

“(5) reduced the size and improved the performance of the fuel cell stack by improving its output density by more than 100% to 3.0kW/L, (6) reduced the amount of platinum catalyst used in the fuel cell stack by more than 50%, (7) reduced the amount and cost of carbon fiber used for the high-pressure hydrogen tank and (8) improved manufacturing methods (high-speed handling of electrolyte film, automated cell stacking, high-speed fiber winding for the high-pressure tank, etc).”

Toyota has hinted that it expects the cost of their first mass-produced consumer model fuel cell vehicle to be in the range of $50,000 – $100,000 and that over time the price should come down below the $50,000 mark.


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