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Aberdeen City Council backs major hydrogen transport project

Aberdeen city councillors have unanimously agreed to support a multi-million pound European project to introduce hydrogen buses in the North-east.

The expectation is that the Strategic European Hydrogen Transport Projects will stimulate further innovative hydrogen technology projects and high-level investment in the area, realising Aberdeen’s aspiration of becoming a world-leading hydrogen city.

The project will see the first hydrogen bus deployment in Scotland, with up to a dozen buses operating in the North-east. The fleet, which will operate on routes into central Aberdeen, will be the largest in any European city.

The buses will be refuelled at Scotland’s first large hydrogen refuelling station which will supply locally generated gas and be able to refuel hydrogen-powered cars as they become available.

The city council has secured £9.2million of EU funding towards the projects, has committed to contribute £2million over four years and will secure a further £9.3million of funding from project partners.

At a meeting of the Full Council, councillors approved the authority’s participation in the High V.Lo City, HyTransit, HyTrEc and LOWCAP cluster projects, subject to securing 90% of additional funding from external partners.

The projects will bring 12 hydrogen buses and a hydrogen filling station to the North-east, initially securing approximately £20.5million of investment to Aberdeen, with the potential for considerable investment and development opportunities in the field.

The strategic projects provide the opportunity to create new industry and greater choice in energy production and usage, as well as enabling the development of a hydrogen strategy for the Energetica Development Corridor.

The use of hydrogen as a transport fuel offers great promise as a key component of a low carbon energy system. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles emit no harmful emissions, are considerably more efficient than the fossil-fuelled equivalents and are virtually noise free.

As well as the benefits to the transport sector, hydrogen has a potentially vital role in the broader energy storage system – if it is generated from intermittent renewable electricity sources, such as wind turbines, it can be stored indefinitely and used for a variety of purposes including as a transport fuel, injection into the natural gas grid and used to generate electricity at times of peak demand.

The projects and the further opportunities they bring will widen Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire’s capabilities in the energy sector and contribute towards its evolution into a true all-energy centre of excellence.

Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure vice-convener John Corall said: “This will act as a catalyst for major new technology.

“London and Copenhagen have hydrogen buses and taxis, but we have the skills expertise in Aberdeen that neither of these cities have. That makes Aberdeen ideally placed to really grasp this exciting, evolving new side to the energy industry and really cement our place as a world energy hub on the renewables front as well as in the more traditional oil and gas sector.”

January 26, 2012 - 2:00 PM No Comments

Automakers call for renewed US help on fuel-cell vehicles

Washington (Platts)–While the Obama administration has poured billions of dollars to help develop electric vehicles, some automakers on Tuesday said fuel-cell technology is continuing to show promise and is worthy of government support.

Mike Stanton, the president of GlobalAutomakers, an association of 15 major foreign automakers including Honda, Toyota Ferrari and Kia, said infrastructure and consumer acceptance are the biggest hurdles to making fuel-cell vehicles viable and that goverment could help overcoming them.

“The technology is coming along rapidly. Our members think [there is promise in] fuel cells, but you’ve got to have the hydrogen infrastructure, and that is where we have to work together,” Stanton said at a panel discussion on automotive policy, which was held as part of the Washington Auto Show.

“I am bullish on fuel cells,” he said. “We need to develop the infrastructure, and I think we are all responsible. We need government policies, we need companies to step up, and we need consumers to think a little bit differently.”

White House support for fuel-cell vehicles has fallen out of favor in recent years. In his first budget request to Congress for fiscal 2010, President Barack Obama moved to cut most funding for research into hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, a favorite of the previous administration of President George W. Bush. Congress, however, did not support the cut.

At the time, Energy Secretary Steven Chu argued that because infrastructure for supporting electric vehicles would be much easier to put in place more quickly, limited resources should be directed toward expanding charging stations and battery technology.

Under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the government pumped more that $2 billion into developing and manufacturing batteries for transportation. Obama and DOE have said the programs would help get 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Adopting hydrogen fuel-cell-powered vehicles would require new infrastructure to produce and transport hydrogen.

Challenges of storing the highly explosive hydrogen and economically producing fuel cells to convert hydrogen to power also need to be overcome.

Automakers, however, have continued to develop fuel-cell vehicles. James Wiseman, the chief communications officer for Toyota Motor North America, said during the forum that his company expects to have a fuel-cell vehicle ready by the middle of the decade.

“I think any automaker will tell you this: that customers haven’t really made up their mind yet on exactly what kind of new technology will work,” Wiseman said.

“Currently there is no infrastructure for fuel cells, but we are all working on it,” he said. “But that is the trick with the government. The difficult part is picking where you make your investment. We are all for it. Obviously, this infrastructure needs to be strengthened, but to actually pick where it is going is a little difficult.”

But according to Alan Krupnick, the director of the RFF Center for Energy Economics and Policy, the price premium consumers will be willing to pay for fuel-cell vehicles is low. In a study for the Japanese government, the RFF found that consumers in that country would only be willing to pay the equivalent of $300 more for a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle over a standard hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle.

“Not very much,” Krupnick said.

–Derek Sands-platts.com

January 26, 2012 - 7:58 AM No Comments

Ole Miss students aid in hydrogen car research

By Charles Robinson-DMOnline

The University of Mississippi campus is going green and new research has been made in the form of hydrogen-powered vehicles in another effort to improve the initiative.

Led by Jason Ritchie, an associate chemistry professor, graduate and undergraduate students have been researching the effectiveness of fuel cells, which convert hydrogen, the most abundant element on Earth, and oxygen into electricity. Some companies may be “green-washing,” Ritchie said, in order to portray themselves as more environmentally friendly in the eyes of consumers because, due to production costs, the vehicles themselves are not financially beneficial.

The most costly piece of production, Ritchie said, is the platinum needed to create a fuel cell, so most fuel cell research is dedicated to reducing costs by either eliminating platinum or finding a way to make it less expensive.

Junior chemistry major Darryl Hickman is optimistic about researching with Ritchie next semester.

“It’d be the future of all forms of travel,” he said.

Despite these new developments, Ritchie said hydrogen fuel cell research has been around since the gasoline crisis of the ‘70s.

Though there seems to be potential with research into hydrogen fuel cells, some are not as optimistic.

Sophomore political science major Joshua Broome said he believes it is unlikely hydrogen fuel cell technology will ever take off.

“It will never work,” he said. “They may find other ways to replace gasoline, but they’re just beating a dead horse with this hydrogen stuff. They need to stop wasting our tax dollars on this garbage, and put it where it counts.”

Ritchie has a different outlook on this technology.

“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future and always will be,” he said.

Honda has become one of the leaders in this movement with its creation and distribution of fuel cell-powered vehicles throughout Japan and parts of Southern California.

Drivers will refuel at designated hydrogen stations far from residential areas or road traffic, filling their hydrogen tanks up to 5,000 pounds per square inch or PSI.

The Honda Fuel Cell Experiment (FCX) Clarity features cars that do not use gasoline, according to Honda’s website.

“Hydrogen is stored in a tank onboard the vehicle,” according to Honda’s website. “Inside the groundbreaking new fuel cell stack developed by Honda, fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. The vehicle is then propelled by a smooth and quiet electric motor. This remarkable system generates enough power to drive the car without emitting harmful pollutants, leaving only clean water vapor behind.”

The vehicle, which gets 60 miles per gallon, is not yet available for purchase. It currently costs millions of dollars, too expensive for most consumers, but Honda has been leasing them for $60 per month.

Unlike a gasoline engine, a hydrogen fuel cell has no firing pistons and cannot wear itself out. Other automotive companies have also begun producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, including GM and Mercedes.

Apple has even patented fuel cell technology in order to become more energy efficient and build smaller, lighter power sources for their portable devices.

January 26, 2012 - 6:54 AM No Comments