A major EU-funded project , with the support of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint undertaking (FCH JU), has installed hydrogen filling stations, tested prototype fuel cell vehicles and brought together car makers and infrastructure providers to push forward the commercial viability of this zero-emissions technology.
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Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which manufacturers aim to make commercially available from 2018, offer zero-emissions transport and function much like an electric vehicle. Instead of recharging, however, fuel cell vehicles must be refuelled, which takes approximately three minutes. Having the necessary refuelling infrastructure in place is therefore crucial to ensure that the technology is commercially viable and attractive.
Infrastructure providers are nervous about demand for their stations and need assurance from vehicle manufacturers, explains HYFIVE project coordinator Simona Webb from the Greater London Authority, UK. Car manufacturers, on the other hand, need to know their vehicles will have a reliable and accessible network of stations to serve their customers. This is why the EU-funded HYFIVE project makes perfect sense; it brings both parties together addressing any teething issues now before commercialisation.
The project has already made 185 hydrogen vehicles operational, along with six hydrogen refuelling stations. In addition, five global automotive companies leading the drive towards commercialisation BMW, Daimler, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota have deployed their latest fuel cell vehicle innovations.
Commercialisation through partnership
The project is focusing on three regions: the UKs London region; the Copenhagen region in Denmark; and a southern European region comprising parts of Germany, Austria and northern Italy. There are a lot of hydrogen fuel cell technology developments in these regions with infrastructure already in place, explains Webb. Data gathered from all HYFIVE stations will be used to address any technical or logistical issues, and to better understand the impact of operating a refuelling station network managed by different suppliers.
The project is also working with manufacturers to demonstrate that fuel cell vehicles meet and exceed technical and environmental expectations. Toyota has already deployed its vehicles to commercial customers outside of HYFIVE, and in London, one of Toyotas fuel cell vehicles operates part of a commercial private taxi fleet.
The project also plans to establish best practice in new equipment maintenance procedures, along with guidelines for training those working within dealerships and the spare parts supply chain. These elements are essential if the technology is to be commercially viable.
Ensuring long-term viability
The projects most obvious achievements to date have been opening stations and putting vehicles on the road, but less obvious perhaps has been the bigger picture, says Webb. A key part of this project has also been facilitating dialogue between infrastructure suppliers and car manufacturers, and gathering valuable data from the growing refuelling station network and the vehicles. In addition, consumers have provided industry with feedback, which again will help the technology move successfully towards commercialisation.
In a similar vein, informing decision-makers about the potential of fuel cell technology and putting in place the legal infrastructure to facilitate commercialisation have also been crucial.
There has been continuous dialogue around the issue of refuelling, says Webb. In each region, hydrogen fuel cell procedures, such as rules on how to run a refuelling station and to what standard, are not yet fully incorporated into country regulations. We are therefore taking advantage of the expertise in the HYFIVE consortium to work with local regulatory bodies to address this.