Europe may be pushing for hydrogen fuel cell CVs, work in this regards is also being carried out in India.

Story by Bhushan Mhapralkar

The stakeholders of CV industry in Europe and government representatives of the European Union came together on March 05, 2020, at Sofitel Brussels to discuss about paving the road to a carbon-neutral Europe through a shift to hydrogen fuel cell trucks. At the core was the need for dramatic changes in the transport sector to meet carbon neutrality targets foreseen by the Green Deal – a 90 per cent reduction in GHG transport emissions by 2050 to achieve climate neutrality, which could be achieved only by fully decarbonizing the truck sector. Pointing at a directive on CO2 emission for heavy-duty vehicles, which sets ambitious targets for the most pollutant trucks, those that came together at Brussels steered the discussion in the direction of turning the big challenge of carbon neutrality by 2050 into an opportunity by investing heavily in innovative technologies such as hydrogen.
Pointing at the need to trigger infrastructure investments and boost demand for hydrogen fuel cell CVs, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Secretary-general, Hydrogen Europe, dwelled into the need for producing hydrogen and supplying it safely throughout Europe. Pointing at how fleet operators in Europe have put in place a sustainability strategy, a big chunk of which is based on fuel efficiency and emissions, Henrik Hololei, Director-General, DG MOVE, stressed on the growing importance of zero emissions in Europe. Stating that many companies have already defined targets for 2025, he pointed at a survey conducted by Toyota Europe, which indicates that 72 per cent of the sample audience favoured hydrogen as an alternate fuel medium of choice for CVs. They simply voted for FCEVs. Attracting Indian CV manufacturers like Tata Motors to hydrogen fuel cell CVs are key indicators like driving range, shorter refuelling time and CO2 emission reduction potential. The Indian CV maker displayed a hydrogen fuel cell bus at its plant in Pune two years ago.

Back to Brussels, and adding strength to the thought of hydrogen fuel cell CVs, a haulier from Netherlands expressed that the respective fuel mediums would provide better flexibility when compared to CVs running in electric-battery technology or catenary. Averred another logistics services provider from Germany that there is a dearth of fuel cell trucks that address their needs. A good number of transport industry stakeholders that gathered at Brussels were of the opinion that they would not hesitate to buy a fuel cell truck by 2030 given the developments that are witnessing. Most said that their trucks do on an average 500 km a day, and fuel cell technology would, therefore, work out to be advantageous. Stressing on factors like the setting up of a robust hydrogen infrastructure throughout Europe and its commercialisation, Ismail Ertug, Member of the European Parliament, expressed that there was a need for European green hydrogen strategy in order to use all synergies across the EU and stimulate economic growth.”
Marking the unveiling of a letter of intent — ‘Joint call for the deployment of hydrogen fuel cell trucks: a needed shift towards a carbon-neutral society’ – with an aim to promote fuel cell trucks and show that the supply side is preparing to deploy the vehicles, all those who gathered at Brussels on March 05 were unanimous in their expression to have in place an efficient supply chain system to promote hydrogen fuel cell CVs. Mentioned Hololei, that hydrogen is the most promising pathway for decarbonisation. “It is ideal for heavy-duty trucks and buses,” he added. In India, the Starbus for city operation that Tata Motors displayed two years ago was developed in association with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation). In what would make it even more interesting, India’s largest power producer and a central PSU under Ministry of Power, NTPC Ltd, has invited global expression of interest (EoI) to provide 10 hydrogen fuel cell-based electric buses and an equal number of hydrogen fuel cell-based electric cars in Leh and Delhi with an aim to decarbonise mobility.

Apart from private players in India, the Government too is keenly following the developments in hydrogen fuel domain in order to reduce emissions. One of the senior officials of oil PSU, S.S.V. Ramakumar, Director, R&D, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), is known to have expressed that hydrogen fuel cell technology for heavy vehicles like trucks and buses would help tide over the disadvantages or limitations posed by battery-electric vehicles. Among the auto makers in India, Hyundai is yet another manufacturer, which has shown interest in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. In Europe, the company has gone to the extent of announcing its plan for hydrogen CVs. At the ‘IAA Commercial Vehicles 2018’ show in Hanover the company announced that it provide 1,000 heavy-duty fuel cell electric trucks and an adequate supply chain for renewable hydrogen over a period of five years in association with H2 Energy. In fact, Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered 18-tonne trucks are set to hit the roads in Switzerland in the second half of this year. The intention of this is claimed to be an effort to highlight the ability of hydrogen fuel cell CVs to get very close to the current (equivalent CVs) in terms of TCO.


At Brussels, on March 05, Mark Freymüller, CEO, Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility, mentioned that their focus is on hydrogen availability, quality, price, logistics, certification and audit, and long-term viability. Keen to approach new markets by finding partners for hydrogen production and refuelling infrastructure, the Korean company is seeking a first runner advantage. Looking for associates to secure service and maintenance as well as spare part availability, it is driving the TCO gap equation on a number of factors that are dear to the European fleet transport community as of now. One of the key bits for example is the variation in diesel prices across European Continent and influenced majorly by taxes. Looking at a variety of factors that affect CV operations, internally and externally, Hyundai, as part of its ambitious hydrogen fuel cell CVs strategy is working on several fronts at the same time.

Keen to get the supply chain and the aftermarket arrangement right, Hyundai is looking at a combination of interests from different sectors, economies of scale and various other factors to achieve its hydrogen CV goals. With 43 major companies representing the whole supply chain to deliver carbon-neutral hydrogen freight pledging their support in terms of a travel towards zero carbon emission in Europe, Switzerland, it is clear is at the forefront of activities. It is the nation in Europe that is poised to roll out heavy duty hydrogen technology trucks before others could.

Announcing that their ambition is to produce CO2-neutral vehicles in Europe by 2039, Dr Jan Krönig, Head of Strategy Daimler Trucks & Buses, expressed at Brussels that their focus is on three crucial factors – attractive vehicle range, costs of CO2 neutrality H2 and Government actions. Drawing attention to his company’s 25 years of experience in fuel cell technology, Dr Kronig said, “LH2 as an alternative to diesel has its own set of benefits and challenges.” “The benefits as of now include long distance application and TCO parity,” he added. “The challenges as of now,” he averred, “include infrastructure and partnering.”
Mentioned an expert at Brussels that hydrogen infrastructure could still take up to 10 years to develop. Rolf Huber, Chairman, H2 Energy, Switzerland, expressed that there is a need to look at hydrogen vehicle infrastructure as a basis to buffer, distribute energy and decarbonise sectors. Hinting at a future replete with 100 per cent renewable energy devoid of any subsidies, Huber mentioned, “The need is to structure three pillars, H2 production, H2 supply chain and H2 refuelling, of the hydrogen infrastructure.” In its fight against climate change post the Paris Agreement, Europe is looking at mobility – heavy vehicles especially, as a means to decarbonise quickly. It is coming to find hydrogen and fuel cells as the key to this. Aware that there is still a long way to go in order to make hydrogen technology fully workable and commercial, the people of the continent are striving to achieve the same. The Hydrogen Congress at Brussels was an effort in part in the same direction no doubt, and it brought to speed the development that have been achieved until now. It also provided a glimpse of what could be achieved and by
when.

 

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