Published 03 Mar 2021
Green Hydrogen For Environmentally Conscious Transport
In May 2020, as Europe was waking up from the first lockdown in response to COVID-19, the European Union (EU) announced earmarking funding up to €30 billion to produce 1 million metric tons (t) of green hydrogen per year, as part of the economic recovery plan to continue its Green Deal. The €30 billion figure now officially confirms that the EU sees Hydrogen as a key enabler in the goal to become carbon neutral by 2050. The European Union will invest $430 billion in green hydrogen by 2030 to help achieve the goals of its Green Deal. And Chile, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Australia are all making major investments into green hydrogen.
What Is Green Hydrogen?
Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water, using only electricity from renewable sources (wind energy, solar energy, etc.) for the electrolysis. It is the most environmentally friendly way of producing hydrogen and is characterised by different colours.
With the European hydrogen strategy, hydrogen technology is being massively promoted and should become one of the main pillars of the energy industry in the future. Green hydrogen is still quite expensive and cannot yet be produced in large quantities. However, the costs are to be reduced through research and the expansion promoted. Since the potential power generation capacity in Europe is not sufficient, hydrogen will later also be imported from abroad.
Advantages Of Green Hydrogen
Hydrogen is abundant and its supply is virtually limitless. It can be used where it is produced or transported elsewhere. Unlike batteries that are unable to store large quantities of electricity for extended periods of time, hydrogen can be produced from excess renewable energy and stored in large amounts for a long time. Pound for pound, hydrogen contains almost three times as much energy as fossil fuels, so less of it is needed to do any work. And a particular advantage of green hydrogen is that it can be produced wherever there is water and electricity to generate more electricity or heat.
Hydrogen has many uses. Green hydrogen can be used in industry and can be stored in existing gas pipelines to power household appliances. It can transport renewable energy when converted into a carrier such as ammonia, a zero-carbon fuel for shipping, for example.
Hydrogen can also be used with fuel cells to power anything that uses electricity, such as electric vehicles and electronic devices. And unlike batteries, hydrogen fuel cells don’t need to be recharged and won’t run down, so long as they have hydrogen fuel.
What role does green hydrogen play in transport?
The use of hydrogen in road transport, shipping and other areas of transport offers significant climate protection advantages over conventional technologies and will greatly reduce the costs of the energy transition.
Hydrogen is particularly relevant in areas where electrification is not possible in the foreseeable future, i.e. in air, long-distance, heavy goods and shipping transport. Hydrogen as a feedstock for synthetic fuels can transform these transport sectors in a climate-friendly way. Hydrogen-fuelled propulsion is also an option.
Green hydrogen should reduce CO2 emissions
Only green hydrogen is truly climate-friendly. Because only green hydrogen can be produced without fossil raw materials. Natural gas, which is used for grey, blue or turquoise hydrogen, must be extracted. Regardless of the electrolysis technology chosen, the production of hydrogen is CO2-free, because the electricity used comes 100% from renewable sources and is therefore CO2-free. Thus, in contrast to electricity, storable secondary energy is produced that can be stored comparatively well. The goal is to gradually reduce and avoid the emission of greenhouse gases, in this case CO2, as part of the energy transition, which can be achieved with hydrogen.
Advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen for large and heavy vehicles
Hydrogen propulsion is comparatively more favourable for large, heavy vehicles or those with a long range, since the production of the vehicle battery is a decisive factor in these calculations. In land transport, hydrogen is therefore particularly suitable for areas where long ranges, vehicle weight and high payloads or use in cold ambient conditions below 0°C are relevant and refuelling times play an economic role.
But there are advantages and disadvantages to both vehicle propulsion systems. For example, a tank of hydrogen, which can be filled in just a few minutes, covers 500 km, but there is no comprehensive infrastructure of filling stations. The advantages of fuel cells over batteries are particularly evident in large vehicles. For buses and trucks, hydrogen provides enough energy to heat or cool sufficiently, but without sacrificing range. There is also no need for additional batteries to supply energy. Many research projects confirm the strengths of hydrogen propulsion.
Hydrogen trucks, trains, buses and ferries in the EU
In Switzerland, a fleet of 1,000 fuel cell trucks is to be built by 2023. The project is sponsored by the vehicle manufacturer Hyundai and the company H2 Energy, which will supply the hydrogen from renewable sources. In Austria, the Tyrolean supermarket chain MPreis is already planning a complete switch to hydrogen. The first three were converted in 2020, and all 42 trucks in the fleet will be converted by 2027. OMV and Österreichische Post are cooperating for the use of green hydrogen in heavy-duty transport and are planning a first deployment in Austria by 2023 at the latest. The goal is 2,000 fuel cell trucks by 2030, which will be powered by green hydrogen.
Across Europe, Germany is a pioneer in hydrogen-powered trains. In Lower Saxony, two pre-series vehicles are in regular operation, and 14 more are to be added this year. In 2022 and 2023, 27 fuel cell trains will go into operation at Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Main.
Postbus GmbH tested hydrogen buses for one week in Graz and three weeks between
Schwechat airport and Vienna in 2019. Wiener Linien started a test in 2020, and
ten hydrogen buses will be put out to tender in 2030. In autumn 2019, fuel cell
buses were already in operation in 16 cities across Europe. London deployed 20
hydrogen double-decker buses in 2020. In the next few years, several hundred
buses will be used in demonstration projects across Europe.
Norwegian ferry operator Norled will put the world's first hydrogen-powered
ferry into operation in 2021. The ship will have room for 299 passengers and 80
cars and is expected to travel a distance of 260 km along Norway's west coast
in 19 hours every day.
A French company plans to persuade 10,000 Paris taxi drivers to switch to hydrogen-powered cars by the time the Olympic Games come to town in three years. HysetCo., a venture part-owned by Toyota Motor Corp. and Air Liquide SA, has raised 80 million euros ($97 million) to help hasten the shift. When Paris hosts the world’s top sporting showcase in summer 2024, the city will already be rid of diesel cars, ahead of a ban on gasoline cars from 2030.
Hydrogen Transport & European Hydrogen Backbone
Hydrogen only becomes liquid under high pressure and can only be transported so well. This is complicated and expensive. That is why research is currently being done to temporarily bind hydrogen to liquids, liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC), to make it easier to transport.
Italy's Snam, Spain's Enagás, Belgium's Fluxys and the Netherlands' Gasunie are among the energy companies that are working on creating the EU hydrogen backbone with 6,800 km hydrogen pipeline network by 2030, which could lead to 23,000 km by 2040 to facilitate hydrogen transportation. 75% of this network would comprise converted gas pipelines as studies suggest that they are about 10-20 times cheaper than electricity transport cost by a cable. Snam has already chalked out a plan to blend 10% of hydrogen with natural gas in its network for testing.