A joint hydrogen and electric future for vehicles

To develop a network of green hydrogen refuelling stations as well as investing in electric charging points for private and business mobility.  

Why the contribution is important

A large amount of investment has gone into developing and promoting electric vehicles to the public. And yet uptake is slow.  Reasons for this are varied: there are issues with the finite resource that is lithium; electric vehicles are clean but there is no guarantee that the energy being used to power them is green, and if you are on a green energy tariff it is quite often more expensive; and, there are continued issues over range anxiety and recharging times.

Hydrogen doesnt have such a range issue; a fully charged electric Nissan Leaf  can undertake 107 miles, a hydrogen Toyota Mirai, 300 miles.  Please note these are mileages taken from their websites - real life conditions suggest 73 miles and 250 miles respectively.

And refuelling times at a hydrogen refuelling station will take you about 4 minutes for a nearly fully pressurised tank, almost the same as an equivalent diesel or petrol vehicle.  The shortest amount of time for an 80% charge on a Nissan leaf is 30 minutes.  Perhaps you have read the fantastic effort that Chris Ramsey and Jonathan Porterfield managed with their Nissan Leaf?  A journey from John O'Groats to Lands End took them 28 hours and 38 minutes (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-34345863).  I reckon (optimistically) that they probably had to stop around 12 times - that's at least 6 hours of stoppage time for recharging.  And that's assuming someone else wasnt sitting on their rapid charger point when they rocked up.  In the recent Autocar Toyota Mirai journey the refuelling time for a hydrogen car from John O'Groats to Lands End took a grand total of 15 minutes, stopping only 4 times (read more at https://www.businessleader.co.uk/are-toyota-driving-the-uks-hydrogen-fuel-future/47312/).

Now, dont get me wrong here.  I am not disparaging Nissan Leafs, or any other electric vehicle; I think they are great in certain circumstances.  And those circumstances happen to be for shorter journeys (although if they are that short then you should be on the local bus, cycling or walking).  But what happens when you do need to undertake a longer journey?  

Yes, there is the train.  And no I dont think that is going to replace all long distance journeys, and yes I do think our rail network and rolling stock needs further investment too.  But I also think if we are going to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 in the UK, or 2032 in Scotland's case, then we have to have a joint approach to roll out of low carbon vehicles.  And it includes both electric and hydrogen vehicles (and infrastructure).

As stated, a huge amount has already gone into setting up rapid charge electric points - and, at least initially, this was 100% fully pump primed from the national governments.  And that is because the free market wasnt picking up on providing electric charing points - there simply wasnt the demand to justify any investment returns.

The same needs to happen with hydrogen.  We not only need some sort of hydrogen road map we need funding to set up hydrogen fuelling points. Preferably 100%.  

There are examples of excellent practice around the UK - London is leading the way with hydrogen refuelling points; Aberdeen has the busiest publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling station in Europe and are in the intial stages of developing a green hydrogen distribution network as part of their JIVE bus project in partnership with Dundee; Orkney and Fife are also pioneers in Scotland. But these schemes are usually developed by enterprising local authorities, or universities, without any strategic planning on the part of various Governments (although often with their incredibly helpful financial support).  It is just all rather ad hoc.

Why cant we do both?  What is stopping us?  What we need is some strategic planning and some centralised, regular and upscaled investment money.

And here is an idea of how to do this.  Aberdeen are in the process of procuring a supplier to produce and supply green hydrogen to Aberdeen and Dundee.  The supplier will need to design, build and operate a hydrogen production facility to meet Aberdeen and Dundee's daily requirements.  Thyey will use a renewayble energy source and then distribute that hydrogen to refuelling stations / points in Aberdeen and Dundee at a target price of under £5.00 per kg.  

This model could operate throughout the country.  And once hydrogen is more publicly available, , hydrogen vehicle manufacturers will start selling cars throughout the country.  

by louisenapier on July 02, 2018 at 03:51PM

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