Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are hydrogen-powered. They are more efficient than conventional engine vehicles and produce minimal carbon emissions. Hydrogen production via electrolysis yields water vapor and air. Hydrogen is one of the alternative fuels listed under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and has qualified for alternative fuel vehicle tax credits. The six well-known fuel cells are Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM), Alkaline (AFC), Phosphoric Acid (PAFC), Solid Oxide (SOFC), and Molten Carbonate (MCFC).
Often referred to as the “future mobility and a silver bullet” to the climate calamity, these FCEVs are a feasible option to do away with greenhouse emissions. OEMs and various stakeholders are rushing to be in line with the regulations put forth by different agencies. One such recent target set is the European Commission’s audacious target of making 40% of new vans and cars zero or low-emission vehicles by 2030.
There are several reasons for hydrogen to been seen as an alternative to combustion-based engine vehicles; there are several advantages of employing FCEVs:
- Quick charging time: This feature has helped to boost flexibility and usage. The fuel cells’ hydrogen tanks get full and are ready to go in just five minutes.
- No engine noise: With no engine noise and a strong start owing to hydrogen-powered electric motors providing full torque even at low speeds, the propulsion in these fuel-cell cars is electrical.
- A more extended range: Hydrogen cars have a longer range as compared to other electric vehicles. It provides a more outstanding mileage of around 300 miles.
- Increased productivity: The hydrogen fuel cell is the perfect alternative to other non-conventional means —it has an efficiency of around 60%, whereas others offer an efficiency of just about 20%-30%. It is also more productive because 1 kg of hydrogen produces three times as much energy as 1 kg of petrol.
Shifting Industry Patterns
Of late, a lot of mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures can be seen coming up, and the significant players are readily acquiring hydrogen-related companies. Several companies have given up because of high up-front costs and great competition with BEVs. However, there is still a silver lining for them. Several automobile manufacturers have leaped on the bandwagon and partnered with several hydrogen producers and filling-station managers.
Germany may lead as BMW contemplates expanding the hydrogen fueling-station network to around 130 stations by 2022. This is expected to enable approximately 60,000 hydrogen cars in the country. That’s not the end of growth. With such an unprecedented spike, 400 hydrogen stations are expected by 2025 in Germany itself.
This spike in the production of fuel-cell vehicles is witnessed globally. Big names in the automotive industry are inclining towards this. Hyundai Motor is gearing up to produce fuel-cell-powered heavy vehicles from 2023 after the initial trials in 2021. South Korea’s Ministry of Environment will acknowledge this entire process till launch. Hyundai Motor has also reportedly partnered with the US Department of Energy (DoE). The latter will receive five FCEVs—dubbed Nexo that will significantly boost the fuel-cell technologies.
Toyota Motor Corp. is heading to manufacture around 2,00,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2025. The company expects a capacity of 200,000 units non-auto industry and 500,000 hydrogen fuel cells for commercial vehicles and passenger cars.
To make vehicles greener, Robert Bosch GmbH has recently partnered with Powercell Sweden AB, a fuel-cell stack maker. This deal involves manufacturing PEM-based fuel cells, and the stack will be added to different Bosch’s fuel-cell products. Bosch predicts a minimum of 20% EVs globally that will be fuel-cell-powered by 2030.
The Technology Is Used For Heavy-Duty Vehicles Too
Heavy-duty trucks, logistic vehicles, passenger vehicles, and buses are also targeted to be FCEVs’ significant employers. The prominence of heavy-duty cars has surged significantly in recent years, with many taking the lead like Hyundai, Toyota, Fast Track Fuel Cell Truck, and Foton Motor Group.
OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and several other green advocates consider these heavy-duty trucks as a compelling alternative for zero-emission vehicles considering scenarios of high pollution and greenhouse emissions. Most OEMs are thus currently focusing on R&D in this area.
Though the development of fuel-cell heavy-duty vehicles hasn’t yet gotten lots of traction, such trucks can provide faster refueling times versus battery-electric trucks and travel longer distances. This step, in turn, of course, will help minimize the downtime across entire fleets.
Case Study: Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Powered Electric Vehicles Set To Be Used As Public Vehicles In California
A novel car-sharing service is offering hydrogen-powered FCEVs at affordable rates. This service is viewed as a new, cleaner-burning mobility option in two backward areas of California. This initiative is named the StratosShare program. It launched in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in 2019. This is one of the first initiatives in the United States to combine the car-pooling model with FCEVs.
StratosFuel (the program’s founding company) considers its relationship with the local Clean Cities as the key to success.
Strategies to solve challenges and to improve the future utility
The company has placed these shared vehicles at convenient and accessible locations. Customers also have the choice to return the car from the pick-up point or at other drop-off spots. To enable this flexibility, the company looks out to working with partners in identifying suitable parking locations.
The company has also developed creative ways to ensure that the vehicles’ tanks stay full at all times. Each car has its fuel card, and the StatosShare app provides step-by-step instructions. It provides 24/7 customer service support that is always available on the phone. When the fuel gauge dips lower than a quarter, StratosFuel dispatches a team member to fill the vehicle between the rental spots.
As StratosShare looks to the future, its officials say that they will maintain their vehicle-use data that will be used to determine if there is a demand for more vehicles or fuel. In preparing for this growth, StratosFuel is expanding its ZIP facility to increase production and screen new fueling station locations.
Mr. Rafay Anwar is a Manager at Ingenious e-Brain, a leading global ISO certified company providing a broad spectrum of IP intelligence, technology intelligence and business intelligence services to worldwide companies and legal firms across the globe.