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Hydrogen gains further traction in the future transport energy mix

Hydrogen pilots are exploring zero-emissions solutions for public transport, haulage, van delivery, taxis, ferries and the private car

Juliana O'Rourke
19 November 2020


A zero emissions pre-production bus will run on green hydrogen (H2) produced in Dublin by BOC Gases Ireland using renewable electricity and water. The fuel cell electric bus, Caetano ‘H2.CityGold’, can be refuelled in minutes, similar to a conventional bus, and its electric motive power is obtained when the hydrogen molecules from its fuel are combined with oxygen molecules from the air in the fuel cell.

Join expert UK speakers in a free FCDO / British Embassy / Landor LINKS online hydrogen innovation session on Nov 25 at 09.30

Investment in hydrogen will foster sustainable growth and jobs, which will be critical in the context of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Europe is highly competitive in clean hydrogen technologies manufacturing and is well positioned to benefit from a global development of clean hydrogen as an energy carrier

GenComm, the Belfast Metropolitan College-led European hydrogen project, has welcomed these Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric vehicle bus trials, which commenced on November 10 in Dublin.

Read more about hydrogen pilots here

The bus will be operated on different routes by CIÉ Group bus companies Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus, as well as by Dublin City University (DCU) and Dublin Airport over a number of weeks in November and December, albeit carrying limited passengers due to the current Covid restrictions.

Ireland is also looking at hydrogen as the future of fuel for ferries. Both the Rathlin Express in Co Antrim and the Valentia Island car ferry in Co Kerry are ready to develop their services in a green journey around hydrogen fuel cells.

Michael Cecil, Rathlin Development and Community Association Chairman, said: 'We aim to explore all opportunities to reduce the Islands' carbon footprint, taking each element as close to zero as possible. Retrofitting the current fast ferry with hydrogen tanks, fuels cells and electric drives may well be possible but questions remain unanswered for the operator. These include running costs as compared to traditional diesel, guarantees of hydrogen supply and reliability of relatively new technology. A consortium of local businesses have secured funding to scope out options around ferry transport to and from the Island and hope to go to tender for a feasibility in the next few weeks.'

At the launch of Dublin's Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus, Hydrogen Mobility Ireland Chairman Mark Teevan (Toyota Ireland) said: 'This should be viewed as an important event, not because it’s the first H2 bus on the road;  but because it is a first step into the future for Ireland, enabling us to begin to envisage the practical solutions that will allow us to fully decarbonise road transport.

'We are all very conscious of the environmental challenge we face in meeting our 2030 targets and the need to find zero-emissions solutions that will satisfy the varying needs of different users; public transport, haulage, van delivery, taxi or private car. FCEV’s are Electric Vehicles, providing specific benefits that include very quick refuelling, long range, and a particular suitability for heavy and long-distance requirements. We are delighted that Dublin has been selected to host the very first trial of the Caetano RHD prototype fuel cell bus.'

The European Commission hydrogen strategy 

In July 2020, the European Commission has adopted its hydrogen strategy for a climate neutral Europe. This strategy will explore how clean hydrogen can help reduce the EU economy’s carbon emissions, and make the EU climate-neutral by 2050. Continuous research and development is required to ensure that hydrogen technologies are technically improved, highly efficient, and as competitive as possible. The EU framework programmes have supported research and innovation on clean hydrogen for many years, and it is intended that support continues in the future.  

Hydrogen is enjoying a renewed and rapidly growing attention in Europe and around the world. Hydrogen can be used as a feedstock, a fuel or an energy carrier and storage, and has many possible applications across industry, transport, power and buildings sectors. Most importantly, it does not emit CO2 and almost no air pollution when used. It thus offers a solution to decarbonise industrial processes and economic sectors where reducing carbon emissions is both urgent and hard to achieve.  

Renewable electricity is expected to decarbonise a large share of the EU energy consumption by 2050, but not all of it. Hydrogen has a strong potential to bridge some of this gap, as a vector for renewable energy storage, alongside batteries, and transport, ensuring back up for seasonal variations and connecting production locations to more distant demand centres. Furthermore, hydrogen can replace fossil fuels in some carbon intensive industrial processes, such as in the steel or chemical sectors, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and further strengthening global competitiveness for those industries. It can offer solutions for hard to abate parts of the transport system, in addition to what can be achieved through electrification and other renewable and lowcarbon fuels.  

According to the recently adopted Commission strategy ‘Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition – Investing in a climate neutral future for the benefit of our people, the share of the hydrogen is expected to reach around 9% in different policy scenarios by 2050.  The policy scenarios considered see a ramp up of the installed electrolyser capacity between 37-66 GW by 2035, responsible for a production of up to approximately 8 Mt of hydrogen in 2035.  

Investment in hydrogen will foster sustainable growth and jobs, which will be critical in the context of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Europe is highly competitive in clean hydrogen technologies manufacturing and is well positioned to benefit from a global development of clean hydrogen as an energy carrier. Therefore, the priority for the EU is to develop renewable hydrogen, produced using mainly wind and solar energy. According to market analysts, cumulative investments in renewable hydrogen in Europe could be up to EUR 180-470 billion by 2050, and in the range of €3-18 billion for low-carbon fossil-based hydrogen. Clean hydrogen could meet 24% of energy world demand by 2050.  

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