The Hydrogen Tour by Chris Barrow (Toyota)
The chicken or the egg. An age old dilemma. You know the story, you need experience to get a job but you need a job to get experience. How does anything new get off the ground when both sides of the argument need some sort of kick start?
The same could be said of the Hydrogen Society, and especially linked to transport. Many companies, and especially Toyota, are developing hydrogen powered vehicles but why would anyone want to buy a car that they cannot refuel anywhere due to the lack of fuelling stations?
To try and dispel the myths, we at Toyota Motor Europe set out on a Hydrogen Society Tour. A road trip with a difference.
We drove from Hamburg in the North of Germany, to Stuttgart in the glorious state of Baden-Württemberg in the South and back, racking up a total of 900km of emission-free driving.
And contrary to a typical road test, the invited media were not only there to test our car – the Mirai, (although it did serve as means of transport throughout the trip) but to see what is happening today with regards to hydrogen production and distribution. The aim being to demonstrate that hydrogen is neither the chicken nor the egg and that through close collaboration we can make the Hydrogen Society and the transition from our dependence on carbon, a reality.
Hydrogen: Energy for a New Age > Visit
Hamburg, famous for having the world’s largest model railway and the beginning of our road trip.
So you won’t buy a hydrogen car because there is nowhere to refuel. Wrong. Our journey starts in Hamburg and specifically at the HafenCity hydrogen station, installed by Vattenfall Energy Company.
The hydrogen station in HafenCity, now fuelled by H2Mobility (http://h2-mobility.de/en/) demonstrates the ultimate way in which to refuel a hydrogen car in a sustainable way. At least half of the hydrogen is produced on-site from the electrolysis of water (splitting it into its constituent parts Hydrogen and Oxygen) using electricity coming exclusively from renewable sources. This reduces the need to transport off-site produced hydrogen to the station.
The resulting liberated hydrogen is then stored on-site in pressurised tanks until needed to refuel the hydrogen cars and buses of Hamburg. It can currently provide up to 750kg of hydrogen per day (a typical fill up for a hydrogen car like our Mirai takes 5kg).
The site is currently used by up to 6 public buses and dozens of cars per day.
And here’s a word from the experts.
Hydrogen: Energy for a New Age > Visit 2
The beautiful city of Cologne renowned for its High Gothic architectural cathedral was the next stop on the journey.
It is also known for its important chemical industry. Who would have imagined that a by-product from this industry could power a vehicle.
This chemical industry uses a lot of energy and produces some considerable by-products that traditionally have not always been used in an efficient manner. One of these by-products is what interests us, hydrogen, a by-product of the industrial production of chlorine and enough of it to power 1000 buses per day.
The clever people within HyCologne, an organisation of 28 public and private partners, saw this by-product as an opportunity. It led to the construction of a hydrogen fuel station right next to a plant and the subsequent ramp up of a fleet of hydrogen powered buses for the Cologne region. One of the key benefits of this initiative is the reduction in local pollution of particulate matter associated with transport. They (the RVK – Regionalverkehr Köln (in German) – local transport company) currently have 2 Fuel Cell buses and wish to extend their fleet by 30 more, by 2019 and transform their entire fleet of 300 vehicles to hydrogen by 2030.
Toyota is also promoting hydrogen buses in Japan and expects to have over 100 in operation mainly in the Tokyo area in the run up to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Whether it’s individual or collective transportation, hydrogen has the answer.
Hydrogen: Energy for a New Age > Visit 3
Mainz is one of the oldest cities in Europe but it is thoroughly up to date when it comes to the Hydrogen Society.
Mainz was the 3rd stop on the tour. This was the chance to visit a truly innovative project that had been initiated by Linde AG, Siemens AG, Hochschule RheinMain and the Mainzer Stadtwerke AG. The aim: to power vehicles (and more) with energy from the wind.
The process is called power to gas, and as with the installation in Hamburg, EnergiePark Mainz uses renewable electricity produced by the neighbouring wind turbines to produce hydrogen by electrolysis. It has an annual output of 200 tons as from 2017 onwards, enough to refuel a Mirai more than 40,000 times.
Hydrogen can be produced sustainably and stored onsite. It can then either be:
- transported to refuelling stations where it can be used to fuel hydrogen vehicles,
- injected into the gas grid to replace by up to 10% the natural gas used for heating or cooking for example. This one act can considerably reduce CO2 emissions with no need for a change in the existing infrastructure.
- or used for what we call grid balancing. This is where the hydrogen can be converted back into electricity, enabling us to use intermittent wind energy when we actually need it and avoid restarting a traditional power plant for example. Genius!
But don’t take our word for it, listen to the experts.