The biennial conference Hydrogen + Fuel Cells, organised by the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (CHFCA), was held at the Vancouver Convention Centre in June 2013 and comprised a trade fair and exhibition running concurrently with a number of thematic parallel speaker sessions. This year’s conference theme of ‘power, transportation & energy storage: an industry on the move’ alludes to the impending commercial rollout of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), the increasing prominence of the concept of using hydrogen as an energy storage mechanism to support electricity grids, and the ongoing commercialisation of the fuel cell and hydrogen industry as a whole.
British Columbia’s Minister of Environment, Mary Polak, opened the conference and welcomed delegates to the event. Minister Polak used her opening speech to say she believes we no longer have to choose between economic and environmental options – we can now have both, with fuel cells and hydrogen technologies beginning to compete on cost with incumbents. The Government of British Columbia believes the future is bright in this sector, but it will take stamina, belief and pride for it to stay on course to reach its goals.
The opening plenary shared the same overarching conference theme and began with Daryl Wilson, CEO of Hydrogenics and Chair of the CHFCA, presenting an overview of his company’s latest power-to-gas developments. Power-to-gas (P2G), the energy storage principle of converting excess electricity into usable and storable hydrogen or methane gas via water electrolysis, can add flexibility to electricity grids, avoid energy wastage and provide true financial benefits to operators.
With electricity generally created on-demand, the electricity grid has no inherent storage capacity and this causes problems with an increasing penetration of renewables. Renewables are variable in nature – their outputs are controlled by natural forces and can only be constrained by grid operators. Above a 10% penetration of renewables begins to cause serious stability issues for electricity networks and it is at this level that Wilson believes electricity grid operators will become seriously interested in viable, large-scale storage solutions. Energy storage helps eliminate waste, both of energy and of investment in assets. Asset utilisation for renewables is far below that of conventional systems and full potential cannot be realised until suitable storage mechanisms are in place.
Wilson likens power-to-gas to a shock absorber for the electricity grid, providing dynamic response and the necessary capacity to cope with the variability in output of renewable electricity sources. Four main functions were identified: firstly, P2G has fast load following capability; secondly, P2G is flexible in terms of scale and location; thirdly, the capacity exists in the gas grid for energy storage on a seasonal scale; finally, P2G can turn renewables into dispatchable power plants, helping to maintain a balanced electricity grid. In terms of cost, Wilson proposes that capital expenditure for a 32 MW P2G plant would be in the region of $35 million.
Hydrogenics and partner E.ON are currently commissioning a 2 MW power-to-gas demonstration plant close to a windfarm in Falkenhagen; the plant recently successfully injected hydrogen into the gas grid for the first time. Of a total of nineteen P2G projects in Germany, Hydrogenics is involved in seven. At a technology level, Hydrogenics is in the process of engineering much larger plants, at the scale of 40 MW and beyond.
Air Liquide’s Canadian Manager of Onsites & Hydrogen Energy, Bruno Forget, used his plenary slot to move the discussion onto transportation, both automotive and materials handling vehicles (MHV). Forget explained Air Liquide’s new approach of creating global business hubs in key regions to tailor available technologies for localised needs; current hubs are in Paris, Frankfurt, Houston and Shanghai. Fuel cell bus deployment is one area in particular that Air Liquide would like to support with this more localised approach. The company also continues to actively target the European MHV market with its HyPulsion joint venture with Plug Power. This is the first in what Air Liquide hopes will be several partnerships with specific technology companies to leverage fuel cell and hydrogen opportunities.
Moving on to FCEV, Hyundai’s Byung-Ki Ahn closed the first plenary with a history of his company’s activities in fuel cell technology. Hyundai began development of fuel cell stacks in 2004 and now boasts durability of more than 200,000 km in vehicular tests. Its various development FCEV have undergone rigorous fire and impact testing, as a conventional vehicle would.
From 2006 and up until 2011, Hyundai had focussed on domestic deployment, putting 30 SUVs and four buses on the road in Korea. Between 2010 and 2013 it then demonstrated 100 FCEV in the Seoul and Ulsan areas. International demonstrations of its ix35 FCEV began in early 2011 and early commercial production of the vehicle began in early 2013 – up to 1,000 vehicles will be manufactured for lease between now and 2015. Scandinavia is a key early market and Hyundai has recently shipped fifteen vehicles to Denmark and two to Sweden. Ahn believes a 20–30% price premium above conventional vehicles is the most consumers will be happy to pay for an early FCEV.
Tristan Clark of Anglo American Platinum (AAP) introduced his company’s plans to support the development of a methanol-powered fuel cell for use in rural African residences to form local mini-grids. AAP is working with Ballard to develop the systems and is hoping to have four on the ground in field trials from 2014. If these trials prove successful then hundreds of units could be deployed in 2015 as part of larger market trials. Full commercialisation could then deploy more than 7,000 units from 2016 with the possibility of developing the technology for export to other markets after 2018. The tipping point for economic viability of these systems is supplying power to residences more than 14 km from the electricity grid.
Mandy Mtyelwa, deputy Director for Hydrogen and Energy at the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) introduced the work of HySA, which comprises three centres of competence (CoC) developing home-growth hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. The South African Government has identified hydrogen and fuel cell technology as having the potential to move the country from being a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. HySA has been created to try and fulfil a DST target to produce 25% of the world’s fuel cell catalysts by 2020. The three CoCs are focused on catalysis, systems, and infrastructure, and each involves strategic partners both locally and internationally. This R&D capability has been setup between 2008 and 2013 and the HySA project is now entering a technology demonstration and validation phase which will run until 2018. The government hopes that commercialisation of South African innovation in the field will commence from 2018 onwards. The government has spent a total of ZAR 450 million ($49.5 million) since the start of the project and has a budget of ZAR 74.8 million ($8.2 million) for FY 2013/2014.
Jón Björn Skúlason, from Icelandic New Energy, provided an overview of activities to date in his country. Iceland’s first hydrogen refuelling station opened in 2003 and between 2008 and 2011 up to 30 fuel cell vehicles were in operation on the island. The Icelandic government had a goal to establish the country as the ‘green valley of Europe’, but the impact of the global financial crisis has meant that this plan has not been realised. However, the unique nature of Iceland’s location and its 100% sales tax relief for zero-emission vehicles means it is likely to be a good early market for FCEV. Hydrogen carries no fuel tax (just VAT of 25.5%) and can be cost-competitive with conventional fuels at $13/kg. The vehicles can also compete on cost, even at up to twice the cost of a conventional vehicle, thanks to stringent excise duty and road taxation, both of which steadily increase in line with vehicular g CO2/km. Skúlason added that analysis has shown that nine hydrogen refuelling stations would initially be sufficient to cover the majority of the country’s population.
Continuing the Scandinavian theme, Bjørn Simonsen, Secretary General for the Norwegian Hydrogen Forum, discussed the latest Norwegian developments. The country has already embraced electric vehicle technology and has a range of tax incentives in place to encourage adoption. Zero-emission vehicles pay only 10% of the road tax conventional vehicles do and are exempt from purchase tax, which typically doubles the price of vehicles in the country. For this reason, and similarly to Iceland, cost reduction for new zero-emission vehicle technologies is less of a barrier to market penetration than in other European countries. There are around 2.5 million vehicles registered in Norway and approximately 3.8% of all new car sales are now battery electric vehicles (BEV). Norway needs to reach 35% ZEV sales penetration by 2020 in order to meet its vehicle emissions target of 85g CO2/km. Further benefits for ZEV include free public parking, free ferry trips on public routes, the use of public transport lanes and a 50% value reduction before tax when used as company cars.
Six hydrogen refuelling stations (HRS) are operating in the country, with local governments supporting and assisting with funding. HYOP is an independent company formed in 2012 by stakeholders in the Lillestrøm region to save the HRS constructed by state oil and gas company Statoil when it ended its involvement in hydrogen vehicle fuelling. HYOP’s aim is to drive the nationwide development and operation of hydrogen infrastructure in Norway from the demonstration phase through to commercialisation. Ulf Hafseld, CEO of HYOP, believes that a market of 10,000 vehicles would require fifteen to twenty HRS and that generating fuel for these stations using electrolysis driven by the country’s vast hydropower potential is a logical decision. Producing fuel for the same proposed fleet of 10,000 vehicles would use just 0.05% of the country’s 145 TWh of hydropower production; for a fleet of one million vehicles it would be 5%.
Germany – Cologne
The city of Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest and is home to more than one million people, 500,000 cars and 10,000 buses. The HyCologne project is a platform for the initiation of hydrogen and fuel cell projects within the wider Cologne area, which is well-suited to such applications thanks to an abundance of hydrogen available as by-product from the industrial processes that are popular in the region. Public transport is popular in the city and fuel cell buses, although more expensive, are easier to obtain than demonstration FCEV, claims Boris Jermer, HyCologne’s Project Manager; Cologne is home to a number of distinctive bendy fuel cell buses deployed under Phase 0 of the European CHIC project and a further two are expected to be delivered in 1Q 2014. Jermer says that buses present a better value proposition to station builders and gas suppliers, as one of the buses in operation in Cologne will use 25 kg H2/day – equivalent to roughly 75 FCEV refuellings.
The conference’s dedicated automotive plenary opened with Daimler’s Andreas Truckenbrodt discussing his company’s history in the development of FCEV. It has taken the company nineteen years since launching its first prototype, the NECAR 1, to the launch of its current B-Class F-CELL pre-commercial demonstration vehicle – in the context of the global automotive industry this is swift progress and testament to the faith automakers have in the technology. Daimler is pursuing four routes on its cost reduction pathway: economies of scale; high volume manufacturing; industrialisation and supplier development; and technological advancement. The company expects advancements in all of these areas will allow for an affordable mass-market FCEV by 2017. Defining the term ‘mass-market’, Truckenbrodt said this equated to volumes of 100,000 vehicles over the product lifecycle.
Dr Andrea Sudik, Manager of Fuel Cell Stack Component Research at Ford Motor Company, reinforced the need for zero emission vehicles by reminding the audience that 20% of US CO2 emissions originate from the light duty vehicle sector. The mentality of consumers is changing: a survey conducted in 2011 found that 64% of consumers believe fuel economy is an important consideration when purchasing a vehicle, compared to previous results of only 44% in 2002. There is also an increasing trend for consumers to downsize purchases from the historically popular full-size pickups to smaller vehicles. Ford is collaborating with Daimler and Nissan at the Automotive Fuel Cell Collaboration (AFCC) but has no immediate-term plans to launch a commercial vehicle, unlike its partners. The company’s sustainability roadmap sees first the further advancement of efficient internal combustion engines and hybrids, followed by further electrification and lightweighting, and then fuel cell drivetrains. Ford’s development of fuel cell technology dates back to 1999, with its most substantive output to date being the field demonstration of 30 Ford Focus FCEV. Funded by the US DOE, the vehicles were deployed from 2005 onwards across the USA and Canada, Iceland and Germany. Long outliving the original programme, many of the vehicles remain in use today with some in continuous service for eight years; combined, the fleet has accrued more than 1.3 million miles on the road.
Toyota’s Matt McLory reiterated his company’s plans to launch an FCEV from 2015, but underscored the challenges that remain in terms of cost, weight reduction and durability. Challenges aside, progress has been impressive: the company has reduced the total cost for its FCEV to 1/10th of that of its 2008 FCHV-adv demonstration vehicle and is aiming to further reduce the cost, to 1/20th of the FCHV-adv, by launch. On top of the cost reductions, Toyota has also doubled stack power density and the fuel cell is now small enough to go under the seats of the car; furthermore, the number of hydrogen tanks has been reduced from four to two, reclaiming boot space. Range for the company’s latest pre-commercial demonstrator, the 2012 FCV-R, is 434 miles under the JC08 drive cycle.
Like Daimler, Toyota will implement a multi-faceted approach to reduce costs including component reduction, the use of mass-produced parts, a reduction in material cost and improved production methods including automation and high-speed production. Toyota will launch FCEV in its domestic market of Japan first and is monitoring other regions to evaluate their levels of hydrogen infrastructure development.
Steve Ellis from Honda wrapped up the plenary by stating there is no silver bullet to achieving the emissions reduction targets set by his industry, but that a portfolio approach was necessary. In his opinion there is no question that vehicular electrification is needed in order to reach 2050 emissions targets. Despite this, consumers still want a gasoline-like retail experience and this is an area where hydrogen is advantageous, offering short refuelling times and long driving ranges.
Honda is developing a home hydrogen refuelling station which incorporates solar PV, allowing for totally zero-emission and independent driving. The company is also developing a vehicle-to-home power inverter system for emergency use. Using the system, which is small enough to be stored in the boot of an FCX Clarity, 9 kW of electricity could be provided for a period of six days if required. The system is currently being field trialled at a home in Kitakyushu, Japan.
The FCX Clarity is famous for its high-profile consumer lease programme in California and the state has been at the forefront of FCEV adoption for decades. The California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) is an OEM-backed outreach project established in 1999 to promote the commercialisation of FCEV in California and coordinate the development of supporting infrastructure. Catherine Dunwoody, CaFCP’s Executive Director, announced that funding has recently been secured for seven new HRS in the state to add to the nine existing ones; if everything goes to plan there should be more than 25 operational by the end of 2014. Government legislation to support the construction of HRS in California is currently under review. SB 11 would see $20 million a year allocated to HRS in FY 13/14, FY 14/15 and FY 15/16, and up to $20 million a year available until 2024, although Dunwoody states that funding would end after 100 stations. This level of governmental support for HRS is groundbreaking and the Senate Bill will be passed or declined in September.
The CaFCP is currently preparing a ‘hydrogen network investment plan’, which will be out later in the year and is a follow-on from the organisation’s 2012 document ‘A California Road Map’, which contains strategy for infrastructure build-up and recommends an initial spread of 68 HRS in strategic locations to cater for the early introduction of FCEV from 2015. This recommendation was adopted in the Office of California Governor Edmund G. Brown’s ZEV action plan, which mandates major metropolitan areas be ‘ZEV ready’ by 2015 and lays a roadmap towards putting 1.5 million ZEV on Californian roads by 2025.
ITM Power has recently secured a contract to build a 100 kg/day electrolyser station in California, which will provide totally renewable hydrogen at Hyundai’s Chino proving facility. The station will be funded through the California Energy Commission and will be delivered in the first half of 2014.
Marine and port-based applications
Ports by nature are emissions hotspots and so are receiving increasing attention as a potential market for fuel cells. Within its mandate to ensure clean and safe transportation systems, Transport Canada (TC) is investigating the use of methanol-fuelled PEM fuel cells for auxiliary power on-board ships. It wants to replace diesel generators in this application, but has faced a number of obstacles along the way. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has restrictions on the use of low flashpoint fuels on vessels, which has ruled out the use of liquid hydrogen. TC is running a project that aims to demonstrate that methanol represents no greater risk than conventional fuels in this application.
The Port of Long Beach in California is the second busiest container port in the USA, moving around six million containers per year. It is situated adjacent to the Port of Los Angeles, so the two have joined forces to address air quality issues. This collaboration began in 2006 and the two ports have recently published their latest clean air action plan. The ports themselves identify, assess, and fund projects they believe can contribute to lower emissions and this has led to the introduction of some innovative projects. Fuel cells for materials handling operations are one obvious use within the port environment, but they are not the only cargo moving equipment that can benefit from fuel cells.
Total Transport Services Inc. (TTSI) is working with Vision Industries to bring hydrogen fuel cell powered drayage trucks to the ports – drayage is defined in the shipping industry as the transport of goods over short distances, and is a common activity at seaports. TTSI is purchasing 100 Tyrano Class 8 trucks from Vision and has funding from the US DOE to supply 24 trucks to the ports. Each truck uses two 16.5 kW Hydrogenics PEM fuel cells to power an electric motor that can provide 3,300 lb of torque. Hydrogen for the trucks is to be generated onsite using an existing Air Products natural gas reforming plant.
Hydrogenics is also developing a system to power rubber tyre gantry (RTG) cranes using fuel cells. RTG are a distinctive presence in ports and are used to move shipping containers between ship and shore. Using battery–fuel-cell hybrid systems to lift the crane and regenerative braking to control descent could be another zero-emissions solution for ports.
Power-to-gas has become an unavoidably important application for hydrogen technologies over the last few years; the demand for such a solution will grow quickly once the penetration of renewables on national electricity grids approaches and surpasses 10%, as Daryl Wilson explained in the conference’s opening plenary. As well as working with E.ON on P2G in Europe, Hydrogenics is also working with Enbridge, Canada’s largest gas distributor. Enbridge’s David Teichroeb states that Canada has a gas storage capacity of 234 TWh, which equates to more than 40% of the country’s electricity use – a vast potential store. Teichroeb describes power-to-gas as “exchanging the currency of energy.” Enbridge and Hydrogenics are building a 1 MW P2G plant in Ontario, which Teichroeb states is not a demonstrator but a proper asset that Enbridge intends to use to its full. The project will be followed by a plant in the 5–10 MW scale and Enbridge is working to try and improve Canadian legislation on gas injection.
ITM Power recently won a competitive tender from the Thüga Group to install a 360 kW 150 kg H2/day electrolyser for a P2G project in Frankfurt; the unit should be operational later this year.
An emerging approach to P2G is the plasma gasification or cracking of natural gas into hydrogen and solid carbon. Mike Oliver of Atlantic Hydrogen introduced his company’s CarbonSaver technology, which uses microwaves to convert the hydrogen. Oliver claims hydrogen could be made for as little as $0.38/kg using current US natural gas prices and production scales of three tonnes per day. A similar approach is being promoted by Norway’s GasPlas, although neither system has been commercially proven.
Power-to-gas is one of the key concepts discussed in Fuel Cell Today’s recent full-length report, ‘Water Electrolysis & Renewable Energy Systems’.
Stationary fuel cell developments
The market for large stationary fuel cells continues to be one of the most successful areas for commercial fuel cell deployments, and it was no surprise to see representatives of companies such as FuelCell Energy and ClearEdge Power presenting at the conference. FuelCell Energy’s Vice President, Tony Leo, introduced the company’s Direct FuelCell technology, which has an electrical efficiency of around 47% and a total efficiency of up to 80% when running in combined heat and power mode. The company is developing a 60 MW fuel cell ‘power park’ in Hwaseong, South Korea with its partner, local utility POSCO Energy. Electricity from the systems currently costs $0.14–0.15/kWh before subsidies. The average US electricity price ranges between $0.07–0.30/kWh, so the use of fuel cells is an appealing proposition in many areas regardless of potential operating subsidies. Capital costs are still high, however; FuelCell Energy systems currently cost around $3,000/kW, although volume manufacturing could decrease this to $2,000/kW.
ClearEdge Power is also now active in the large stationary fuel cell market following its acquisition of UTC Power earlier this year. ClearEdge sells 400 kW phosphoric acid fuel cell systems and has a number of projects running both in Korea and at home in the USA, one recent example of which is a supply contract with US telecommunications giant Verizon for fuel cells to co-power a variety of its US sites, including corporate offices, call centres and data centres. ClearEdge is targeting the US states with the highest electricity prices, as the higher the electricity price, the better the value proposition a fuel cell presents.
Ballard Power Systems is also active in the stationary fuel cell market, although its focus lies predominantly in fuel cells for telecoms backup power, marketing the ElectraGen product lines it acquired from IdaTech in summer 2012. Sales in the telecoms backup sector in Q1 2013 were up 400% year-on-year for Ballard. In November 2012 the company signed an agreement with Nokia Siemens Networks, one of the world’s largest telecoms equipment manufacturers, making ElectraGen fuel cells a standard option in the ordering of new base stations. Several integrated systems are being tested for NTT DoCoMo in Japan, where the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has given the system statutory approval.
ElectraGen-ME systems are fuelled using a mixture of methanol and water and can provide power for long periods of time during grid outages, such as those experienced during natural disasters and extreme weather events. Hydrogen-fuelled versions are also available, though are proving to be less popular thanks to the ease of handling methanol.
The fuel cell industry as it stands is fragmented, remarked E4Tech’s David Hart in the conference’s closing plenary. There is limited commonality between technology types and some sub-industries and applications are far more developed than others. This fragmentation is unavoidable when addressing a technology with so many diverse uses, though the sharing of business expertise will help the industry as a whole and Hart recommends companies be open, nurture cross-industry relationships and exploit external expertise where they can. The fuel cell and hydrogen industry is undoubtedly now in a state of flux as it evolves from an R&D-driven industry to a commercially-driven one. We look forward to seeing what further changes the next year will bring.
Fuel Cell Today’s own Dan Carter shared his thoughts on three developments the next five years will bring in the fuel cell sector. Continued technology improvement is to be expected, with advancements in materials and system design increasing performance and durability. Changes to manufacturing will also be necessary, moving away from hand-built prototypes and introducing standardised, mass-produced components, made in large volumes and on automated production lines. This will not only lower costs, but it will improve the quality and performance of fuel cells. Finally, we should begin to see for the first time a number of fuel cell companies emerging as profitable enterprises, as products prove their viability and commercial sales continue to grow.
Dan Carter Manager
Jonathan Wing Market Analyst