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The role of technologies like Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in solving the problem

Dr Laurie King from the Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre with Dr Yagya Regmi, presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group
Yep. Okay. Perfect. So I did prepare it, just a couple of slides because I think as we’ve just heard, electric vehicles are a lot more known than the hydrogen. Although with this audience, I hope I haven’t underplayed our knowledge. But if you were to Google fuel cell for example, there are many different types. But when we’re talking about the transportation sector, it’s worth pointing out, we’re just talking primarily, almost exclusively about something called a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell. Now, in terms of what that means, this cartoon is just depicting all we need to know that we have a hydrogen gas in. It’s an electrochemical type device. They’re just like a battery.
It has two terminals and then we have oxygen which is sourced from air, and then we have our balanced reaction where we have power, water and some heat coming out of the tail gate. I think it’s worth remembering why fossil fuel is also great and convenient in the context of this discussion so that clearly very stable, abundant, widely available. It’s a mature technology with low capital cost. Of course, we’re here because of the CO2 emissions. Now Dave’s given a perfect overview of the advantages and the established technology of EV for transportation. I think this charging time being slower is still as he highlighted in some cases, is not suitable to all of our transportation needs.
I think that one of the important distinctions that sometimes forgotten between a battery and a fuel cell or they’ve touched on this, was in a battery if you want to double your range, you must double the volume, doubled the size of your battery. Fuel cell, you can think of more like a conventional internal combustion engine and that if you want to double your range you double the size of your tank, you don’t double the size of your fuel cell. Emissions free, I think is also something that’s shown for both batteries and fuel cell. The tail gate, it depends how you source your hydrogen or how you source your electricity as to how clean you should really be considering your technology.
And I’ll touch on that for hydrogen, later on in the talk. And in terms of what is lacking, clearly we’re lacking the refuelling infrastructure, and this is an expensive technology at the moment, for pretty much all applications. Okay, so to sort of put it in context, I did want to highlight some of the cases where fuel, cells have shown a promise across our transportation sector. So this is just a breakdown, the pie chart, sort of freight vs passenger and all the different technologies that are relevant in the transportation sector.
And if I highlight it for you here, just a few sort of cases of were the technology has or has not been deployed, so as was mentioned, there are relatively few cases, although I think Japan and California, are perhaps exceptions to this were passenger vehicles, are sort of slightly on the up term we should say it’s still small numbers of about over 11,000 vehicles deployed. In terms of buses there’s cases, I know that TFL in London has ordered something like 20 fuel cell buses. Manchester Met, sorry, London Met police, these fleet vehicles are where people are interested in potentially uptaking vehicles.
The other side of things, so the freight where we have this strong advantage as a fuel cell with this decoupling of the fuel cell sides to the power. There is a very interesting company in the US, Nicola, who are really advocating for hydrogen fuel cell heavy freight. And they have already taken over 7,000 preorders for hydrogen fuel cell trucks. So that’s one area that’s really sparked. And then in terms of trains, I think although it doesn’t, it’s not a huge emission contribution. There is the example of a passenger train in Germany and University of Birmingham in the UK also has as a prototype train, if you will, on which you can ride.
But one that I would like to spend just a minute highlighting, which I think has some very tiny, of course emissions, but fork lift trucks in the US. So Walmart and Amazon have taken onboard over 25,000 fork lift trucks. Now this is an interesting advocate for fuel cells. And the reason being you’re in a confined space to your workers cannot, there is no question as with climate change that becomes political. Here, you cannot exposure workers to the emissions and so, and the difference between a battery and the fuel cell is this recharging time. So they found that it can save about 12% in capital cost investment by using the fuel cell vs the electric, I’ve been caught in that case.
So just as a sort of highlight of what a fuel cell can bring to the table. a fuel cell can bring to the table. a fuel cell can bring to the table.

In this video our educators cover the following areas:

  • What are hydrogen and Fuel cells ?

  • Transportation and fuel cells

  • Comparison Vs Batteries Vs Fossil Fuels

  • Where they are being deployed today

  • Challenges we face

  • Production

  • Storage

  • Costs

  • Research in the Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre

  • Outlook for the future

Why are fuel cells attractive for transportation and how can cities benefit from them?

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