While battery electric vehicles get a lot of press in driving a zero-emissions future, fuel cell vehicles are proving to be a strong part of the mix required to electrify transportation at a mass scale worldwide. This is especially true in markets that require long-range and demanding duty cycles with minimum downtime, like trains, buses and trucks. At just a fraction of a battery’s weight, hydrogen is capable of storing much more energy.
But how does a fleet get the hydrogen to keep its vehicles in operation?
There are generally two options to secure hydrogen fuel supply: hydrogen can be delivered, or it can be produced onsite. Let’s explore these scenarios.
Gaseous or liquid delivery
This option requires the hydrogen supply to be trucked in, often compressed and/or cooled when in storage at site and through delivery. If a readily available hydrogen production source is economically close, this option can offer lower upfront development costs in comparison to the other options.
A station such as this can use either “grey” or “green” hydrogen based on availability. Currently almost all the approximately 70 million tons of hydrogen produced today is considered grey hydrogen because it is produced from natural gas. This process emits approximately 10 tonnes of CO2 for each tonne of hydrogen produced. In this regard a station using a gaseous or liquid delivery model has access to a larger market of potential hydrogen, but it may not be as clean as onsite generation options.
Where infrastructure exists, hydrogen can also be delivered via pipeline. This is the lowest cost way to transport hydrogen over long distances. While there is currently only one retail hydrogen station in the US that is supplied hydrogen through a pipeline, as the need for hydrogen fuel grows, a wider network of pipelines could be developed. In the short term, delivery via trucks or onsite generation will likely be the primary methods to supply hydrogen.
Onsite hydrogen generation through electrolysis
Alternatively, a fleet can produce hydrogen onsite using an electrolyzer sized and scalable to meet fleet needs. This ensures ample supply is available to keep fleets operational.
When electrolyzers are powered from renewable power sources such as wind, solar or hydroelectric, the hydrogen is green. It has the lowest possible well-to-wheel carbon emissions compared to other fuels, as well as battery and hybrid counterpart systems. When powered from a public electricity grid, hydrogen generated with an electrolyzer takes on the environmental attributes of the local energy mix. If the energy mix feeding the electrical grid has low carbon emissions associated with it, (such as wind, solar, nuclear) so does the hydrogen produced using that power.
A single 1MW electrolyzer system can generate over 400 kg of H2 daily at 99.98 percent purity. This is enough to fuel 12 freight trucks up to 225 miles/day each, and these systems have already been scaled successfully to over 20MW configurations.
Cummins made a bold entry into the hydrogen generation market in September 2019 with the acquisition of Hydrogenics, a global hydrogen fuel cells and electrolyzer technology manufacturer. Through this acquisition Cummins has already delivered electrolyzers for more than 60 hydrogen fueling stations across the globe and expects the world’s initial attention will be on replacing grey hydrogen with green hydrogen to help reach our climate change targets.
Accessible hydrogen makes fuel cell transport a realistic option. Over time, both the price of renewable power and the price of electrolyzers are set to decline—projected at over a 60-percent reduction in the coming decade—leading to widely available green hydrogen at a lower cost.
Regardless of whether hydrogen is produced onsite or delivered, the momentum for hydrogen is growing. Many countries have begun developing hydrogen-specific plans and policies, and most countries already have emission reduction targets that will require zero or low carbon alternative fuels like hydrogen. We see the biggest growth in adoption in these regions that have emission policies and regulations in place. When emissions-based incentives and penalties are present, the market tends to move the fastest.
With 584 hydrogen stations deployed in 2020, the hydrogen fueling station market is witnessing a dramatic acceleration in growth. Cummins is proud to be a key supplier in this movement. With a century of experience in a multitude of power sources and drivetrains, we work with our customers to provide the right solution at the right time. Whether it’s battery power, diesel, natural gas or fuel cells, your power is your choice.
Stay tuned for more refueling station stories in 2021 out of Belgium, China and Scotland as our products help support the launch of new stations and the continued growth of hydrogen markets worldwide.
Greener natural gas may be coming soon to a grid near you. With the approval of a project by Cummins and Enbridge Gas to blend low-carbon hydrogen into Ontario’s natural gas network, a future with lower-emission natural gas is within reach.
The hydrogen for the project will be fed from the existing Cummins-Enbridge Power-to-Gas Electrolyzer Facility in Markham, Ontario. The plant was developed with support from the Canadian government, and it already has a demonstrated capability to convert the province’s surplus electricity into hydrogen— effectively balancing Ontario’s supply and demand of electricity.
The 2.5 megawatt electrolyzer facility — designed and built on a 5 megawatt scalable platform — features next-generation PEM electrolyzer from Cummins. The Cummins PEM electrolyzer has the highest power density, efficiency and smallest footprint of any such system in the world, making it an ideal power technology for this leading-edge pilot project.
– Amy Adams, Vice President of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies at Cummins
Through the pilot project, Enbridge will provide blended gas distribution service to over 3,600 customers in Markham, Ontario in 2021, preventing up to 117 tons of carbon emissions per year from entering the atmosphere.
With blending permitted up to two percent, this project would account for over 2% of hydrogen per year. This increase in demand will go a long way in further developing the hydrogen economy, setting a precedent for similar large-scale projects to follow.
Hydrogen blending is new, and many utility customers have questions about what using hydrogen-blended natural gas means for their everyday lives. After all, many of us depend on natural gas to keep our homes warm, heat our water or power common appliances on a daily basis.
To answer these questions and ensure customers of the safety and dependability of hydrogen blending, Enbridge completed a compatibility study on appliances in the blended gas distribution area. The study showed that the blended gas will have no adverse effects on appliances.
This is great news, as the home heating market has traditionally been a challenging frontier for low-emission solutions. This pilot helps further demonstrate how hydrogen can bridge the gap between greener power solutions and slow-evolving markets.
Successful implementation of the project will support Enbridge Gas in pursuing additional and larger-scale hydrogen blending activities in other parts of its distribution system, enabling the province to further reduce its carbon footprint in a major way.
– Amy Adams, Vice President of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies at Cummins
The value of hydrogen as a greener source of power reaches far beyond natural gas blending. Hydrogen is also a practical solution for storing renewable energy from intermittent power sources like wind or solar, which don’t have a dependable output thanks to unpredictable weather.
In this process, power-to-gas takes extra electricity from renewable energy sources and converts it into renewable hydrogen through electrolysis (the use of electricity to prompt a chemical reaction) for future use. Like electricity, hydrogen is an energy carrier with many uses.
The progress of the Cummins-Enbridge hydrogen blending pilot project demonstrates just one of the multitude of purposes electrolyzers can serve beyond the transportation and industrial sectors. Thanks to hydrogen, the world’s most common element, we have the opportunity to keep homes warm, heat water and even cook meals while showing our planet some much-needed kindness.
Happy Earth Day! On this planet-friendly day, we are celebrating Cummins electrochemists because this week is also Chemists Celebrate Earth Week. CCEW was created to co-exist with Earth Day and champion the positive role that chemistry plays in our world. Chemists have long promoted a better world through recycling, cleaner-burning fuels and green chemistry initiatives.
The Milton Keynes Electrochemistry Team is part of Corporate R&T’s global team of chemists that are innovating through chemistry. At their lab based at New Power’s site in Milton Keynes, UK, the team works closely with cell suppliers on new innovations in lithium-ion cell technology to develop Cummins’ next generation of batteries. Their goal is to better understand the cell capabilities in terms of energy, power, lifespan and re-charge behavior in order to identify the right cell for the right application.
“The future of travel and energy storage relies on electrochemistry. This will be a combination of lithium ion battery and fuel cell technology, both of which operate on electrochemical principles. Electrochemistry has been around since life began and is critical for life to function. With every physical action and mental thought, there is an electrochemical process taking place.”
“Electrochemistry is vital in a wide range of industries and is becoming increasingly important in efforts to combat climate change. Because it is the basic science underlying batteries and fuel cells, electrochemistry is a vital foundation for prioritizing carbon-neutral life over the use of fossil fuels. The work we do in the lab allows us to gain a better understanding of the principles of electrochemistry and apply it towards how we create and store renewable energy.”
Why our chemists are excited to come to work every day.
“The quality of our products relies on the electrochemistry data we provide to our stakeholders. Being directly involved in electrochemistry programs that helps Cummins achieve sustainability goals is something I am really proud of.”
“Thanks to the power of electrochemistry, we can store lots of electrical energy and use this energy whenever we want without releasing toxic materials or gases into the environment in the process!”
Our chemists are bettering the environment of tomorrow through advancements in zero emissions products today.
“Lithium ion battery chemistry is ever evolving. Cells and batteries are becoming less expensive, have more energy density, are increasing in safety, and can last longer. These advancements help to facilitate the adoption of electrification in the different applications and markets we serve in New Power.”
“Several key forms of sustainable energy generation and storage are rooted in electrochemistry, including fuel cells and batteries. As the understanding and skill with these systems increase, the number of viable applications increases. New Power is driving the continued adoption and improvement of these technologies for a cleaner and greener tomorrow.”
Interested in learning more about electrochemistry and how it works? Read Electrochemistry is for Everyone.
This content was originally published here.