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A DISSERTATION ON

Hydrogen as a Fuel?
BY
SARIN TULADHAR (080038892)
M.SC AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEERING

PROJECT SUPERVISED BY:


DR. ROBERT C. EDNEY

SUBMITTED TO
SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND
MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES
ABSTRACT

The issue of global warming and depletion of the fossil fuel resources has always
demanded an invention of a clean and renewable fuel. At current time, due to
global recession, the petroleum prices have soared in the air. The prices of the
petroleum products have stabilized a bit but its uncertain when it will rise again.

Hydrogen has always presented itself as a clean and renewable fuel. In the
current time with the ability of hydrogen to power a fuel cell as well as burn in an
internal combustion engine, it has certainly outnumbered its competitors.
However there are many challenges that hydrogen as a fuel faces. This report has
been written in an attempt to address those problems and give a scenario about
the present situation of Hydrogen.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I would like to thank Dr. Sandra Godoy, Course Director, Automotive Engineering,
City University and Dr. Robert Edney, Senior Professor, Department of
Mechanical and Automotive Engineering for giving me an opportunity to write
this report.

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Contents
Abstract .................................................................................................................... 2
Acknowledgement ................................................................................................... 3
List of Symbols and Abbreviations ........................................................................... 5
1. Introduction ...................................................................................................... 6
1.1 Background ...................................................................................... 6
1.2 Scope of work .................................................................................. 7
1.3 Objectives ........................................................................................ 7
1.4 Methodology ................................................................................... 7
1.5 Limitations ....................................................................................... 8
2. Hydrogen ........................................................................................................... 9
2.1 Physical properties of Hydrogen...................................................... 9
2.2 Method of use of Hydrogen ............................................................ 9
2.2.1 Fuel cell .......................................................................... 10
2.2.2 Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine.......................... 11
2.3 Advantageous properties of Hydrogen ......................................... 11
2.4 Incentives and drawbacks.............................................................. 12
2.5 Superiority of Hydrogen over other alternatives .......................... 12
2.6 Hydrogen production..................................................................... 13
3. Literature review ............................................................................................. 15
3.1 History............................................................................................ 15
3.2 Converted vehicles ........................................................................ 20
3.3 Initiatives in the EU ........................................................................ 21
4. Recent challenges ........................................................................................... 24
4.1 Recent challenges for hydrogen storage technologies ................. 24
4.2 The issue of production of clean hydrogen ................................... 27
4.3 Issues related with FCVs ................................................................ 27
4.4 Issues related with HICEV .............................................................. 31
4.5 Hydrogen Infrastructure Requirement .......................................... 33
4.6 Issues affecting the acceptance of hydrogen fuel ......................... 34
4.7 Economic feasibility of Hydrogen as a fuel .................................... 35
5. Discussion ........................................................................................................ 39
6. Conclusion ....................................................................................................... 42
7. References....................................................................................................... 43
8. Glossary ........................................................................................................... 46

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LIST OF SYMBOLS AND ABBREVIATIONS
ICE: Internal Combustion Engine

FCV: Fuel Cell Vehicle

H2ICE: Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine

H2FC: Hydrogen Fuel Cell

HICEV: Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle

CO : Carbon Monoxide

CO2: Carbon Dioxide

NOX: Oxides of Nitrogen

SOX: Oxides of Sulphur

HC: Hydrocarbon

Hf: Heat of Fusion

Hv: Heat of Vapourisation

HHV: Higher Heating Value

LHV: Lower Heating Value

PEM: Proton Exchange Membrane

LPG: Liquefied Petroleum Gas

RON: Research Octane Number

ETEC: Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation

EU : European Union

CUTE: Clean Urban Transport for Europe

LH2: Liquid Hydrogen

CGH2: Compressed Gaseous Hydrogen

REE: Rare-earth-elements

GHG: Green House Gas

F: Equivalence fuel air ratio

λ: Equivalence air fuel ratio

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1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background
Ever since the development of the Internal Combustion Engine more than
a hundred years ago, IC engine vehicles, both 2 wheelers and 4 wheelers,
have been part of our lives. These vehicles have made locomotion very
easy and luxurious. Fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas are used to
power these vehicles. The ever advancing technological society has always
been researching new technologies to make the IC engines more and more
efficient. However at present situation there are some issues related to
these IC engines, particularly about the use of fossil fuels.

One of the issues is the fact that combustion products of these fossil fuels,
such as Carbon Monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of sulphur
(SOx), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), hydrocarbon (HC), and toxic metals have
been causing many environmental problems and posing great danger for
the world. A very likely solution to this problem seems to be obvious:
replace the fossil fuel by some an alternative clean energy whose
combustion would not produce these harmful compounds, even though
these could impose some design modifications [1,2]. Another major issue
is the availability of fossil fuels itself. It is predicted that, since fossil fuels
are not a renewable source of energy, it will extinct in the near future,
within the next 40 years, and with the number of vehicles increasing day
by day the extinction may be even closer.

These issues have put forward a need of a renewable source of energy and
one that is cleaner as well. Many researches have been ongoing from the
time scientists realised this fact, about the invention or discovery of such a
fuel that would be clean, renewable and yet would not be much of a
compromise in terms of energy density as compared to petroleum
product. Hence, alternative fuel research becomes the main purpose
nowadays.

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There are many possible alternatives to the fossil fuels, but as researches
have progressed hydrogen has seemed to be the best alternative for the
distant future.

1.2 Scope of work


Owing to the fact that scientists and researchers have always been
discovering clean and renewable alternatives for petroleum products, this
paper tends to present the recent developments happening throughout
the world regarding hydrogen as an automotive fuel.

1.3 Objectives
The objectives of this project are to:
 Explore the possibilities of Hydrogen as an alternative source of
energy for vehicles.
 Analyse if the use of hydrogen as a fuel, if applicable, is more suitable
in fuel cells or Hydrogen Combustion Engine.

1.4 Methodology
While carrying out the project, the following methodology was followed.

 Study of the History and development of Hydrogen powered vehicles.


 Study of the characteristics of Hydrogen and which of them makes it
advantageous or disadvantageous as compared to gasoline vehicles.
 Study of the different problems occurred in implementing hydrogen
technology
 Study of the latest technologies that had been implemented in making
hydrogen fuelled vehicles.
 Study of both hydrogen internal combustion engine and Hydrogen
Fuel Cell

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1.5 Limitations
The research will not include

 The study of hydrogen as fuel for other than automobiles, ie Fuel cell
Power Plant.
 This project does not involve the study of Stationary Fuel cells.
 The study does not include the use of Application of Hydrogen
Combustion Engine in Automobiles.

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2. HYDROGEN

Hydrogen is the lightest element known to exist in the Universe. It is also


the most abundant material. It comprises of more than 75% of the earth’s
atmosphere. It can serve as a practically carbon-free, renewable energy
based lightweight alternative fuel. The use of hydrogen as a fuel could be
an answer to some of the issues such as availability, high specific energy
content and minimum pollution.

2.1 Physical properties of Hydrogen


 Melting Point: -259.340C
 Boiling Point: -252.870C
 Density : Liquid: 70.99 kg/m3
Gas: 0.08987 kg/m3
 Diffusion Coefficient in Air: 0.610 cm2/s
 Flammability Concentration in air: 4.1 – 72.5 % vol
 Ignition Energy in Air: 0.02 mJ
 Auto-ignition Temperature: 5300C
 Flame Temperature in Air: 20450C
 Specific Heat at constant Temperature: 14.89 J/kg
 Heat of Fusion and Vaporization : Hf = 58.61 kJ/kg
Hv = 447.99 kJ/kg
 Higher and Lower Heating Values; HHV=141.79 MJ/kg=39.39 Wh/kg
LHV = 119.96 MJ/kg = 33.39 kWh/kg

2.2 Method of use of Hydrogen


Hydrogen has been used as a fuel to power the vehicle in 2 different ways:
(1) Hydrogen Fuel Cell
(2) Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine

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2.2.1 Fuel cell
A fuel cell is an electrochemical conversion device. It produces electricity
from Hydrogen (Fuel, on the anode side) and an oxygen (oxidant, on the
cathode side), which react in the presence of an electrolyte. The reactants
flow into the cell, and the reaction products flow out of it, while the
electrolyte remains within it. Fuel cells can operate virtually continuously
as long as the necessary flows are maintained.
There are many types of fuel cell but for locomotive purposes, for use in
vehicles, Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells are suitable.
A proton exchange membrane fuel cell consists of two electrodes, the
anode and the cathode, separated by a polymer exchange membrane.
Each of the electrodes is coated on one side with a thin platinum catalyst
layer. Hydrogen atom dissociates into free electrons and protons (positive
hydrogen ions) in the presence of the platinum catalyst at the anode. The
free electrons are conducted in the form of usable electric current through
the external circuit. The protons migrate through the membrane
electrolyte to the cathode. At the cathode, oxygen from air, electrons from
the external circuit and protons combine to form pure water and heat.
Individual fuel cells produce only about 0.6 Volt and are combined into a
fuel cell stack to provide the amount of electrical power required.

Figure 1: Schematic of a Fuel Cell

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Error! Reference source not found.shows the schematic diagram of a fuel cell
vehicle which uses a fuel cell system in place of a rechargeable storage
battery[3].

2.2.2 Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine


A hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicle (HICEV) is a hydrogen or
oxy-hydrogen fuelled, internal combustion engine powered vehicle.
Hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicles are different from hydrogen
fuel cell vehicles. The HICEV is a slightly modified version of the traditional
gasoline internal combustion engine vehicle. These engines burn fuel in
the same manner as gasoline engines do. The advantage of HICEV over
conventional ICE lies in the burning of hydrogen. Since hydrogen is totally
carbon-free, its combustion eliminates the formation of all the pollutants
produced by petroleum fuel combustion. The only pollutant that comes
out is NOx which is formed by the thermal dissociation and oxidation of N2
in the atmosphere. Also the fact that hydrogen burns over a wide range of
concentrations [4] gives a plus point to HICEVs. Due to this property of
hydrogen, engines could run on ultra-lean fuel-air mixtures.

2.3 Advantageous properties of Hydrogen


 It is a renewable source of energy.
 It is the most abundant element on the earth. It comprises more that 75
% of the earth’s atmosphere. However it does not occur in Free State.
One common source of hydrogen, water, contains 11.2% Hydrogen by
weight
 When Hydrogen is burnt, the only emission theoretically obtained is
pure Water.
1 𝑦𝑖𝑒𝑙𝑑𝑠
𝐻2 𝑔 + 𝑂 𝑔 𝐻2 𝑂 𝑙 + 286 𝑘𝐽 ------------------------- (1)
2 2

 Hydrogen will burn in air with a wide range of concentrations between


4.1% and 72.5% by volume.

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 During Explosions, Hydrogen is safer than Hydrocarbon Fuels.
Hydrogen disperses much quicker into the atmosphere, whereas liquid
fuels spread on level surfaces and burn much longer. Although
Hydrogen is very flammable, quick dispersion makes it rare for
hydrogen to reach combustion concentrations outdoors or in well-
ventilated indoor spaces.
 Energy content per unit mass of Hydrogen (141.79 MJ/kg) is 3 times
more than that of Gasoline (46.4 MJ/kg). However the Energy content
per unit volume is low (Hydrogen-10.1 MJ/L; Gasoline- 34.2 MJ/L)
 Lower ignition energy: 0.02MJ/kg

2.4 Incentives and drawbacks


The major incentive for the promotion of hydrogen as a fuel is the issue
of the extinction of fossil fuels in the near future. Since hydrogen is
renewable and can be produced by different methods (fossil fuels,
renewable energy: biomass, wind, solar [20], nuclear power); variety of
methods to produce energy from hydrogen (gas turbine, Internal
Combustion Engine, Fuel Cell) and the fact that it emits virtually zero
harmful emissions and has a potentially high efficiency at the time of use.
Also acting as incentives to Hydrogen are the increasing fuel prices of the
fossil fuel mainly due to global recession and the issues of global
warming and local pollution with the fossil fuel.

Although the density is better than batteries, its very low compared to
gasoline fuels, even when compressed to 700 bar or liquefied, both of
which consumes a lot of energy. The distribution, bulk storage and
onboard vehicle storage is heavily compromised because of the difficulty
in storing hydrogen without leakage.

2.5 Superiority of Hydrogen over other alternatives


Compared to bio-fuel, a recent study [21] shows that the yield of final
fuel per hectare of land for different biomass derived fuels is much lesser

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than the yield if the land was used to produce hydrogen from
photovoltaic or wind power.

Compared to electricity, hydrogen is advantageous in terms of volumetric


and gravimetric energy storage density.

The main superiority of hydrogen over other alternatives lies in the fact
that hydrogen can be used to power a fuel cell and can as well be a fuel
for Internal Combustion Engine.

2.6 Hydrogen production


Hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways from a number of
products. This has been one of the major positive points of hydrogen.
However hydrogen is rarely found in a free state in the nature so it has to
be synthesized from other products. Hydrogen can be produced via the
steam reforming of either natural gas (2), LPG (3) or Naphtha (4) [35].

𝑦𝑖𝑒𝑙𝑑𝑠
𝐶𝐻4 + 2𝐻2 𝑂 𝐶𝑂2 + 4𝐻2 -------------- (2)

𝑦𝑖𝑒𝑙𝑑𝑠
𝐶3 𝐻8 + 6𝐻2 𝑂 3𝐶𝑂2 + 10𝐻2 -------------- (3)

>700 𝑜 𝐶
𝐶𝑛 𝐻2𝑛 + 2𝑛𝐻2 𝑂 𝑛𝐶𝑂2 + 3𝑛𝐻2 ----------------- (4)

Hydrogen can also be produced via the steam reforming of both ethanol
(5) and methanol (6).

1023 𝐾
𝐶2 𝐻5 𝑂𝐻 + 2𝐻2 𝑂 2𝐶𝑂2 + 6𝐻2 ----------------- (5)

500−600 𝐾
𝐶𝐻3 𝑂𝐻 + 𝐻2 𝑂 𝐶𝑂2 + 3𝐻2 ----------------- (6)

Hydrogen can also be produced by the steam reforming of methane (7) in


presence of Nickel catalyst at around 1100oC.

𝑦𝑖𝑒𝑙𝑑𝑠
𝐶𝐻4 + 𝐻2 𝑂 𝐶𝑂2 + 3𝐻2 --------------------- (7)

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Steam reduction is hence the most commercial method to produce
hydrogen from various forms of hydrocarbon. It is a well-developed and
fully commercialized process. In this process, high temperature steam
(>700oC) is used to crack the C-H bond of the hydrocarbon in the
presence of a suitable catalyst. However in case of methanol, the
temperature is in the range of 500-600 K.

Hydrogen can also be produced without the use of hydrocarbon as a


primary source, i.e. via the electrolysis of water (8)

𝑦𝑖𝑒𝑙𝑑𝑠 1
𝐶𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑑𝑒 2𝑂𝐻 − 𝐻2 𝑂 + 𝑂2 + 2𝑒 −
2

𝑦𝑖𝑒𝑙𝑑𝑠
𝐴𝑛𝑜𝑑𝑒 2𝐻2 𝑂 + 2𝑒 − 𝐻2 + 2𝑂𝐻 − ---------------------------- (8)

Apart from these, hydrogen can also be produced by the gasification of


coal and biomass. The method of gasification of coal is extensively used
in the chemical industry.

The process of production of hydrogen from renewable resources goes


through the electrolysis of water. Renewable sources as wind, solar and
even nuclear power are used to produce electricity which in terms is
used to electrolyse water, hence producing hydrogen.

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3. LITERATURE REVIEW

3.1 History
The history of the Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine is as old as the
internal combustion engine itself. It dates back to 1807 when Francois
Isaac de Rivaz of Switzerland invented an internal combustion engine
which ran on a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. The significant events
during the evolution of Hydrogen Vehicles are discussed in detail below
[5].

Issac de Rivaz
In 1807 Francois Isaac de
Rivaz of Switzerland
designed the first internal
combustion engine that ran
inside the first automobile.
This first experimental
prototype was powered by Figure 2: First Hydrogen Powered vehicle in 1807; source [5]

hydrogen gas and oxygen. The


Rivaz car stored compressed hydrogen gas in a balloon and it had an
electrical Volta cell ignition. The prototype was made in 1813 which was 6
m long and weighed almost a
ton. During its test drive, it
drove about 100 meters, with
25 ignitions in series, all hand
triggered.

Lenoir’s Hippomobile:
Invented by Etienne Lenoir
(France) in 1860, the vehicle
Figure 3: Lenoir's Hippomobile (1860); source [5]
was gas driven 2 stroke
Internal Combustion Engine with 1 cylinder. It was powered by Hydrogen,
generated from water via electrolysis, and running the hydrogen through a

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small horizontal engine. The Hippomobile engine ran on “natural cycles”
with an uptake of fuel mixture and a down stroke combusting the exhaust
stroke. It had its test drive in 1863 from Paris to Joinville-le-Pont in which
its top speed was about 3 km/hr.

Norsk Hydro (1933)


In 1933, the Norsk Hydro
power company
converted one of their
small trucks to run on

hydrogen gas. The Norsk Figure 4: The Norsk Hydro Truck; source: [5]

Hydro truck contained an onboard ammonia reformer to extract hydrogen


and run it through its internal combustion engine.

GAZ-AA
During World war-II, Russian
military technician Boris
Shelishch converted 200 GAZ-
AA Internal Combustion Engine
Figure 5: Converted GAZ-AA Trucks; Source [5]
Trucks to run on Hydrogen gas.
They burnt cleaner and longer than those that had run on petrol. These
trucks weighed 1.5 tons and had a seating capacity of 3.

Allis-Chalmers farm tractor


The 1959 Allis-Chalmers farm
tractor, developed by Harry Karl
Ihrig was demonstrated in
Milwaukee as the first fuel cell
vehicle in history. The tractor
contained 1,008 small alkaline
Figure 6: Allis-Chalmers farm tractor, 1959; Source [5]

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fuel cells that provided 15 kw of energy, enough to help the tractor pull
3,000 lbs. in demonstrations.

General Motors Electrovan


The 1967 General Motors Electrovan was based on the 1966 GMC
Handivan and carried all of the fuel cell parts and hydrogen storage tanks
in the back of the van. It was a 2 passenger van and used liquid hydrogen
stored in LH2 tank. The 1966 GM Electrovan was powered by a 5 KW Union
Carbide fuel cell and the vehicle had a range of 200 km, though it was only
driven on company property. It had top speed of 105 km/hr. The fuel cell
life was only 1000 hrs.

Air Products concept:


In 1967, Air Products converted a ‘Chevrolet El Camino’ to a hydrogen
powered Internal Combustion Engine. The vehicle had 7 pressure tanks for
hydrogen and 1 propane tank as a backup. The range of this vehicle was 50
miles.

K. Kordesch:
In 1970 Karl Kordesch converted an Austin A 40, a passenger city car with
a seating capacity of 4, to a fuel cell hybrid using 7 lead acid batteries and
a 6KW Union Carbide alkaline Fuel cell powered by compressed hydrogen
gas. It had a DC-series motor with 7.5kW continuous and 20 kW peak
power. The efficiency was 58%. It used compressed hydrogen stored in 6
pressurized tanks (130-150 bar) containing 20 – 25 m3 of fuel, on the roof
of the car. Its range was 300 km, average speed of 45 km/h, top speed 80
km/h.

Brigham Young Superbeetle


In 1972, the Brigham Young Superbeetle, developed by Roger Billings
team, won the first prize in the Urban Vehicle design competition in Ann
Arbor, Michigan. it was powered by Hydrogen and used water induction
method to reduce nitric oxide formation. This car actually cleaned the

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ambient air and was given a negative number for unburned hydrocarbon
and carbon monoxide.

The MASHASHI’S
In 1974, The Mashashi Institute of Technology, Tokyo created the first
Japanese Hydrogen Fuelled vehicle. It used a 4 stroke homogenous charge
spark ignition engine with high pressure hydrogen to power the vehicle.
Hydrogen was stored in a high pressure tank. A year later they revealed
Mashashi-2, a passenger car, with a four stroke engine with manifold
injection and ran on liquid hydrogen. It completed the 2800 km SEED rally
in the USA. In 1977, Mashashi-3 was made which was a 2 door passenger
car. It used a light weight 2 stroke spark ignition engine with in-cylinder
low pressure injection which ran on liquid hydrogen. In 1980, Mashashi-4
was exhibited at the WHEC-3 (World Hydrogen Energy Conference), Tokyo.
The mashashi-4 was a 2-stroke passenger car which ran on liquid
hydrogen. In 1982, at WHEC-4, Pasadena, USA, Mashashi-5 was exhibited.
It was a 2 –stroke engine with in-cylinder high pressure injection and used
liquid hydrogen. In 1984, at WHEC-5, Toronto, Mashashi-6 was exhibited.
It was also a passenger car but a 4-stroke turbocharged spark ignition
engine with in-cylinder high pressure injection and hot surface ignition. It
was also run on liquid hydrogen. In 1986, Mashashi-7 was exhibited at the
Vancouver Transportation Exposition. It was a 4-cylinder turbo charged
Pickup Truck with in-cylinder high pressure infection and hot surface
ignition running on liquid hydrogen. In 1990, Mashashi-8 was exhibited at
the WHEC-8, Honolulu. The vehicle was a passenger car similar to that of a
Nissan Z 300. It was also a 4-stroke spark ignition in-cylinder injection
engine running on liquid hydrogen. In 1994, Mashushi-9, truck, was
launched. It was a 4-stroke spark ignition in-cylinder high pressure
injection engine which ran on liquid hydrogen.

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H2-4 Chevy
In 1978, Jack Nicolson modified a Chevrolet into a Hydrogen Fuelled
internal combustion engine powered by gaseous hydrogen gas. The
hydrogen was stored as Metal Hydride in tank.

RAF-H2
In 1979, Federal State Unitary Enterprise of Russia unveiled its Kvant-RAF
(Riga Bus Plant) H2 van that contained a 12 kW alkaline fuel cell and ran on
hydrogen

BMW:
The BMW stepped into the experimentation of Hydrogen vehicle in 1978
when it made a experimental prototype of its BMW 7 series. 4 prototypes
were presented around 1978, 1984, 1990, and 1996. These passenger cars
were internal combustion engine with direct injection, 3.5 l engine
capacity, bivalent with gasoline. It was fuelled by liquid hydrogen stored in
a special isolated tank (Al + glass fibre) with volume of 45 l (1987), 100l
(1989), 120 l (1992). It tanks were double-walled, vacuum-super isolated
vessel in cylindrical form, with aluminium and glass fibre layers, transient
shield, and maximum evaporation rate of 2% per day. The range of these
cars was 300 km. A year later, in 1979, BMW converted its BMW-5 series
car into a hydrogen internal combustion engine. It was named BMW 520h.
The engine and the storage tank were similar to the BMW 7 series. The
BMW has unleashed its latest Hydrogen Vehicle named BMW Hydrogen 7.
The vehicle is based on a previous model of BMW; i.e BMW 760Li with 6.0L
V12 engine. The vehicle runs on liquid hydrogen which is stored in a
vacuum insulated cryogenic tank placed behind the rear seats. The tank
has a volume of 170 litres and can store approximately 8kg of liquid
hydrogen which is equivalent to around 8 gallons of gasoline in terms of
energy [6].

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Honda:
Honda Methanol FCX concept, 1999: A sedan with a seating capacity of
5.;A PEM fuel cell with methanol as a fuel along with reformer to
synthesise hydrogen from it.

Honda FCX V1 prototype, 1999: EV plus vehicle with a seating capacity of


2; Ballard 60kW PEM fuel cell, 49 kW AC synchronous motor; hydrogen is
stored in a metal hydride.

Honda FCX V2 prototype, 1999:EV plus vehicle with a seating capacity of 2;


also 60kW PEM fuel cell; but uses methanol as a fuel which is then
converted to hydrogen.

Honda FCX V3,2000: EV plus vehicle with a seating capacity of 4; 70 kW


PEM Fuel cell; 60 kW motor delivering 238 Nm torque; uses pressurized
hydrogen as fuel at a pressure of 25 MPa; storage capacity 100 l, 2 kg

Honda FCX V4 demonstration vehicle, 2001: Honda family car with a


seating capacity of 4; curb weight-1740 kg; powered by PEM fuel cell
ballard- 78kW and an ultra capacitor; fuel used compressed hydrogen gas
at a pressure of 35 MPa,; storage tank of 130 litres; range 300 km; top
speed 140kmph, torque 238 Nm

Honda FCX, 2003: 5 seater passenger car: Honda fuel cell, ultra capacitor
80kW (107hp) Motor; Max. drive 272 Nm (201 lb-ft) Type Permanent
Magnet AC synchronous Fuel cell stack Type PEMFC (2 units) (Proton
exchange membrane fuel cell) Output 86kW : fuel compressed hydrogen
at 35 MPa and a storage capacity of 157 l.

3.2 Converted vehicles


A conversion vehicle is a one which has been adapted for hydrogen
operation by either a vehicle manufacturer or an aftermarket supplier. As
cited above, the history of conversion vehicles began in 1933 with Norsk

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Hydro. A recent example of a converted vehicle with compressed
hydrogen storage is the ETEC H2ICE Truck Conversion based on a
Chevrolet/ GMC Truck Silverado/ Sierra 1500HD Crew Cab 2WD LS
converted to hydrogen operation by Electric Transportation Engineering
Corporation. It is a 6 seated light-duty pickup truck powered by a 6.0 L V-
8engine with hydrogen port fuel injection. The power output of the engine
is increased further by a belt-driven supercharger in combination with an
intercooler. Hydrogen is stored in 3 150 L, Type 3 (aluminium lined,
carbon-fiber reinforced) tanks at a storage pressure of up to 350 bar,
resulting in usable fuel of approximately 10.5kg. the estimated curb weight
of the vehicle is 3000 kg [7]. A performance, emissions and fuel economy
study of the vehicle at various air fuel ratios ( 2<λ<2.85) showed a fuel

consumption between 4.1 and 4,5 kg of hydrogen per 100 km which is


equivalent of using 15.5 - 17L of gasoline per 100 km (13.8 – 15.2 mpg).
The NOx levels were also found to be in the range of Ultra Low Emissions
Vehicle (ULEV) and Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) [8].

Over 30 vehicles have been converted by Quantum Tecstar to be fuelled


by hydrogen using the Toyota Prius hybrid as a platform. The interior of
the vehicle is unchanged and the conventional gasoline tank is replaced by
two compressed hydrogen tanks. These converted engines are
turbocharged in order to increase the power output in hydrogen
operation. The drivability of the vehicle is similar as in the gasoline mode.
However the Quantum Hydrogen Prius, as it is known, has an estimated
range limited to 100 -130 km per fill and it meets the SULEV standards [9]

3.3 Initiatives in the EU


Throughout the recent years where the world has been putting all its
effort in bringing into reality the era when most of the automotives would
be fuelled by hydrogen, the EU has not been too far in funding such
projects for the same cause. During 2002-2006, numerous projects
regarding fuel cell and hydrogen has been implemented and funded by the
EU [10]. A project among those was titled “Optimisation of hydrogen

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powered Internal Combustion Engines” [11]. The project was another
effort by the European Researchers in improving the field of production
and marketing of corresponding components and systems required for
new advanced hydrogen technologies. It was a 3 year European Integrated
Project aimed at contributing to the development of clean and economical
hydrogen fuelled automotive engine. The goal of this project was to design
an engine concept that has the potential to beat both gasoline and diesel
engines with respect to power density and efficiency at reasonable costs.
The project emphasizes on the development of a design which could use
hydrogen as a fuel in Internal Combustion Engine and if possible rapid
integration of these engine technologies into mass market vehicles.
Another one of those projects was “Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle System
Component Development” [12]. The project addressed issues associated
with the low cost automotive electrical turbochargers for air supply with
high efficiency and high dynamics; low cost humidifiers with high
packaging density; low cost hydrogen sensors for automotive use; effective
low cost hydrogen supply line; High efficient, high power density drive
train; Low cost high power Li-ion batteries; Enhanced FC-drive train
efficiency. The duration of the project was 4 years and at the end of the
project the scientists aim to develop FC-hybrid vehicles with primary focus
on FC and electric propulsion system components which would act as a
prototype and a leading way for future European Research on Fuel cell
vehicles.

There also have been a number of projects related to hydrogen production


and distribution, storage, safety regulations [10]. Even though these
projects are not directly associated with automotive application of
hydrogen, the implementation of such a project is as important for
‘Hydrogen Vehicle’ as other issues. Owning to the fact that hydrogen has
to be produced somewhere else and hydrogen refuelling stations should
be as convenient and easy as the petroleum stations today for the
‘Hydrogen Economy’ to mature, advances in cheap hydrogen production;

22
economic hydrogen storage; easy distribution system for hydrogen needs
to mature as well.

The CUTE project and the HyFleet: CUTE project

In November 2001, a project was implemented aimed at providing


pollution free public transport in the busiest cities of Europe. The project
was given a name CUTE (Clean Urban Transport for Europe). The project
was to prove the reliability of the fuel cell buses and their hydrogen supply
[39]. The CUTE Project ran 27 fuel cell buses in 9 different (busy) cities of
Europe, three per site, to test the operating efficiency of fuel cell buses at
different topography, climate and traffic. The nine cities were Amsterdam
(The Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain), Hamburg (Germany), London
(England), Luxembourg, Madrid (Spain), Porto (Portugal), Stuttgart
(Germany), and Stockholm (Sweden). CUTE was the first project to aim at
the establishment of Hydrogen Infrastructure. The project comprised of
two phase: from November 2001 to end of 2003 design and construction
of the vehicle was in progress and the required infrastructure for it was
provided. From then the buses were plied on the streets of the cities till
May 2006.

After the end of the project CUTE, a new initiation was done with the same
aim, this time in a bit larger scale. 47 buses running on Hydrogen Fuel Cell
and on Hydrogen Combustion Engine were brought to streets of 10
different cities in 3 Continents: viz, Australia, Asia, and Europe. The 10
cities are Reykjavik (Iceland), Berlin, Hamburg (Germany), Luxembourg,
London (England), Barcelona, Madrid (Spain), Amsterdam (The
Netherlands), Beijing (China) and Perth (Southern Australia). Among these
14 hydrogen combustion engine buses run on the roads of Berlin and the
rest 33 Fuel Cell buses run in other 9 cities.

23
4. RECENT CHALLENGES

4.1 Recent challenges for hydrogen storage technologies


One of the major problems with using hydrogen gas as fuel in vehicles is
that the density of hydrogen is very low. Because of this the amount of
hydrogen that can be stored in tank is limited. Also for the same volume,
hydrogen gives only one tenth the energy of gasoline. In case the use of
hydrogen vehicles has to be made greater, improvements need to be
made in the hydrogen storing capabilities. The technologies available at
present such as liquid hydrogen tanks and high pressure tanks might be
used for road tests but they do not have all the necessary properties to
make hydrogen vehicles a huge success. In a recent paper [22], the state
of traditional hydrogen storage technologies like high pressure tank
systems and cryogenic storage methods has been presented. Most of the
commercial vehicles that are being tested have a composite high pressure
storage tank. They are preferred because they have a simple structure and
the charging and discharging function is carried out relatively easily.
Another possible method would be using hydrogen absorbing alloy but has
several problems before implementation such as low temperature
discharge characteristics and quick charge capability because of heat of
reaction. A new idea was also tested [22] which would help reduce some
problems and also improve factors such as gravimetric density.
The present Hydrogen tank systems:
High-pressure tank system
High pressure tanks can be categorized into 4 types. The first 2 typesV1
and V2 are used to store natural gas where the pressure is normally
around 20-25 MPa. The next 2 types V3 and V4 where the pressure is
higher at around 35 MPa is used to store compressed hydrogen. The use of
these tanks gives simple shade and design. Recently there has been a
trend in the market to move to 70 MPa tanks in need to extend the vehicle
range. But double pressure has not been able to store twice as much
hydrogen; it only stores 40-50% more.

24
Figure 7: Wall thickness of different types of tanks,Source [22]

Liquid hydrogen tank

Hydrogen is liquefied when it is cooled down to 20 K (-253pC) at


atmospheric pressure. At `liquid stage its density is much higher than in
the gaseous form (mentioned above in the section Physical properties of
Hydrogen). Hence liquid Hydrogen (LH2) becomes a more viable option as
a fuel for automobile in terms of storing large amount of energy and hence
improving the range of the vehicle. Also LH2 becomes much easier to
transport with respect to CGH2. Although the liquefaction of hydrogen
consumes a lot of energy, this expense of energy can be compensated by
the easiness of delivery and storage with respect to CGH2.

The liquid hydrogen tank has a double wall construction to maintain the
ultra low temperature with thermal insulation provided. The thermal
insulation along with the multi-layer insulation (MLI) helps in minimising
the heat conductivity. MLI has a thin metal on the spacer material to
prevent radiation and thermal irradiance between the layers and also
prevents heat intrusion from irradiation and gaseous convection.

25
Figure 8: Liquid Hydrogen Tank System, Source [22]

Hydrogen absorbing alloy tank


The metal hydride tank has a characteristic of reversible hydrogen charge
and discharge capability and it also offers the advantage of storing
hydrogen in a more dense way than liquid hydrogen. Hence, a smaller tank
than LH2 tank will allow the same amount of energy to be stored.
However, since in metal hydride there is a combination of metal and
hydrogen, the gravimetric density (hydrogen weight per tank weight) is
low. Several materials such as Ti-V-Mn, Ti-V-Cr, Ti –V-Cr-Mn and Ti-Cr are
are being used and could provide a capability up to 2.8 % H2 by mass [23-
25]

Figure 9: Schematic Diagram of High Pressure MH tank, Source [22]

26
4.2 The issue of production of clean hydrogen
The issue of production of clean hydrogen has always been a major issue.
However clean the FCV or HICEV may be if the production of Hydrogen
involves large amount of pollution is involved, it makes little good to the
issue of Global Warming and reducing GHG. At present, about 48% of
world’s hydrogen is produced by steam reforming of Natural Gas, about
30% is produced by processing of Crude Oil Products such as Naphtha,
around 18% via coal, and around 3% as a by-product of the Chloro-alkali
process [34].

4.3 Issues related with FCVs


Fuel cells have developed much in the last 10 years and seem more likely
to be a suitable alternative to petroleum product fuelled ICE. Yet there are
still some technical and economical issues related to fuel cells that need to
be resolved [14].

 Vehicle cost, performance and safety that meets customer expectations


In order for the Fuel Cell vehicles to overtake the market from the existing
ICE engines, the technology must be fully competitive with respect to the
latter and also with other hybridised alternatives. The technology must be
competitive all in terms of cost, performance and safety. As in terms of
cost, there are many subsystems that need cost reduction: Fuel Cell Stack.
H2 Storage system, the sensor that senses the condition of incoming H2
and air, electric drive motors, high voltage batteries for storing
regenerating braking energy. Ongoing researches have been providing
with new and less expensive solutions but at the moment the viability
seems to be a bit further away. As for the technology itself, the fuel cell
must prove to be more reliable, durable in every condition and safe.
According to Waterstof [15], the cost to produce a fuel cell is around 3000
– 8000€/kW whereas an ICE would cost only €50/kW. It is however
expected that the cost of the fuel cell will decrease to €200/kW within the

27
next decade [15]. Even in the latter case the fuel cell seems to be 4 times
as expensive as an ICE. But the environmental benefits of being a Low Emission
Vehicle (LEV) should also be taken into account as a positive point for fuel cells
while making a comparison between ICE so that the extra costs of the fuel cell
nullifies with the equivalent economic loss due to the pollution caused by the
fossil fuel vehicles.
 For performance improvement of fuel cell and its cost reduction, technological
Breakthrough technologies are needed in the following areas [14]:
 Stack

The PEM (Proton Exchange membrane) is the main element of the stack that
permits the flow of hydrogen ion through makes the electrons to take the path
of the outer circuit and hence generates electricity. Therefore PEM can be
referred to as the heart of the Fuel Cell. However, it has got some technological
and cost challenges. If the fuel used is only a fraction impure it might cause
undesirable side reactions with the materials in the fuel cell stack. Proper inlet
gas humidification level should be maintained else it would retard the
performance of the fuel cell and damage it. These has been an issue with the
fuel cell of having a poor start-up performance in freezing conditions. Progress
has been made in addressing these issues along with the target to increase the
life of the fuel cell to 6000-8000 hrs within 10 yrs (corresponding to equivalent
life of gasoline and diesel engines).

 H2 Storage

Currently most viable storage is the Compressed Gaseous Hydrogen (CGH2). But
CGH2 has a very low density and due to the packaging constraints (heavy and
thick tank), it limits the storage and hence the range of the vehicle. In order to
compete with the fossil fuel counterparts the Hydrogen Vehicle needs to be
equivalent with the former in terms of storage capacity. With the present
technology, a CGH2 tank has to be 5 times the size of a conventional gasoline
tank to store equivalent amount of energy at 10,000 psi (700 bar) and if the
pressure is to be reduced to 5,000 psi (350 bar) the size must be 7.5 times the
former [14]. This signifies that a breakthrough technology is needed in the
design of these tanks as well as a material with higher strength to weight ratio
needs to be discovered to form the wall-lining of the storage tanks.

28
 Fuel cell system

The fuel cell system controls the flow of hydrogen and conditions the incoming
reactant gases (hydrogen and air). It also maintains the proper level of
humidification so that the PEM functions efficiently. At present the fuel cell
system is a complex assembly of mechanical components and electronic
controls. In future, however, with mass production of the Fuel cell systems
some of the components are expected to be merged helping both in the
reduction of cost and also in complexity.

 Electric drive motor and High Voltage (HV) battery

The future of the batteries provide very much optimism due to the extensive
research taking place in order to improve existing electric and hybrid vehicles.
The consequences of the researches in this field have been in the invention of
batteries with a high energy density and with a faster charging rate.

 Platinum and Palladium

At present, Fuel cells incorporate Platinum as a catalyst at both the anode and
the cathode which facilitates the dissociation of the hydrogen into ions at the
cathode, and reacts the oxygen molecules with the electrons and hydrogen ions
from the PEM to form water molecules. As platinum is the most expensive
metal in the universe, the price of a fuel cell is bound to be high. The cost of
Platinum accounts for as much as 40% of the cost of the fuel cell. Apart from
being expensive platinum also has availability issues. So the use of platinum not
only increases the price of fuel cell but also decreases the probability of the
mass production of it. In 2001, a research paper in SAE concluded that platinum
loading in the fuel cell must be reduced to 0.2g/kW to be economically viable
[16]. At present platinum loading are 0.7 g/kW which is significantly lower than
fuel cells of previous generations. However to reach 0.2g/kW will take a
significant time and more importantly a breakthrough technology. Material
Industry Analyst Jack Lifton writes:

“Hydrogen availability could make the mass production of fuel cell


plants possible and the development of a substitute material for
platinum could make it practical. But as long as a fuel cell of

29
vehicle operation capacity requires the long-term use of 1-3 troy
ounces of platinum then no more than a maximum (at 1 troy
ounce per vehicle) of 12 million vehicles a year could be built even
if all the platinum and palladium produced yearly in the world
were dedicated solely to this use.” [17]

Research shows palladium as a replacement for platinum but both has issues
relating to cost and availability as drawbacks. In March 2007, US Department of
Energy Ames Laboratory Scientist Alan Russell, one of the investigators on
project designed to find alternatives to Palladium quoted as, “Palladium is
US$11,000 a kilogram, and even if you don’t choke at the price, there isn’t
enough Palladium in the entire world to convert the world’s automobiles to
hydrogen power.” [18] Hence palladium as a substitute for platinum does not
seem to be viable options and advanced engineering materials are to be
searched which has got the same properties as that of palladium and which is
both readily available and cheaper.

 Rare earth elements

Platinum/palladium is not the only materials in the fuel cells that are rare. New
efficient electric motor particularly designed for FCVs (and other electrified
propulsion systems) involve the use of rare-earth-elements (REE). REE is an
important element for super strong magnets used in minute and delicate
mechanical components, electronic devices, nano-materials and catalytic
converters. As per the current scenario, the demands for these elements are
predicted to be more than their availability in the future. If this happens it
would result in a negative impact in the overall system cost.

In the years from 1997-2001, the demand for rare earth permanent magnets
grew at 21% per year. The 2005 global production was somewhere about
103,000 – 130,000 tons, with 95 – 97% being produced in China. The average
annual growth is projected at 10% for years 2005-2010. Demand projections for
2010 are 154,312 – 200,000 tons – almost double of what it was 5 years ago
[19]. If this projection holds true, the supply will fall short. Hence, the cost of
the electric motor used in FCV will continue to be an unsolved issue.

 Manufacturing capability and efficiency

30
Fuel cell stack, fuel cell system, hydrogen storage, electric drive and high
voltage battery are the major components of the FCV. Currently, since the
technology is not fully reliable there are only a few manufacturers making these
components. As we know that economically FCVs will be viable only if they be
produced in a mass scale and for the manufacturers to produce it in mass scale
the components have to be reliable and proven to be efficient and more
importantly is should have a positive impact on people. For all of these to
happen, it takes time so in the near future with the principles of Fuel Cells
proven to be reliable and the most efficient number of manufacturers would be
manufacturing it in mass, hence the prices might be reasonable then.

 Supplier availability/ maturity for key systems /components

As stated above, technology must be fully proven. Only when this is the case,
various manufacturers would be interested in entering the market. However,
the case may be just the opposite. Even if the technology is not fully proven but
the need of FCV is felt by the society, various manufacturers amateur in the field
of FCV but very experienced in manufacturing field might step in enhancing the
mass production of FCV which would increase the reliability and performance of
FCV components and help decrease the price. Another scenario might be
possible as well. New technologies evolving: possibility that completely different
suppliers emerge in the market with completely different alternative
technologies offering improvements in cost and/or performance.

4.4 Issues related with HICEV


There are various issues related to HICEV. HICEV would be an easy way to
transform the transportation sector from petroleum to hydrogen. This is because
conventional IC Engines could be converted to HICEV with negligible cost
compared to FCV. HICEV would also allow the use of bi-fuel, i.e. it can run on
gasoline if needed. However, HICEV needs to be viewed on by other aspects as
well, i.e. well-to-wheel (cradle-to-grave) primary end use, GHG emissions, tailpipe
emissions relating to local pollution, cost, public acceptance, etc which makes it
difficult to differentiate between it being advantageous or disadvantageous.

31
Shelef and Kukkonen [30] made a comparison between FCV and HICEV compared
to gasoline and electric vehicles on the basis of well-to-wheel carbon dioxide
emissions and primary energy use. They concluded that there would be a
decrease in primary energy use and GHG emission with the use of FCV but HICEV
would increase both. Although the study is 15 years old, the scenario for FCV and
HICEV remains similar. Another recent study at Argonne National Laboratory [31],
compared the fuel economy potential of hydrogen powertrains to conventional
gasoline vehicles. The study concluded that by 2045 a HICEV hybrid-electric
vehicle would only consume 9% more than a FCV hybrid, as a result of the recent
and expected future significant improvements in hydrogen engine technology.

Technical issues related with the HICEV are:

Pre-ignition and knock:

Although the auto-ignition temperature of Hydrogen is higher (858 K) [4],


hydrogen has a low ignition energy. This means that the Hydrogen Internal
Combustion Engine is very prone to pre-ignition, i.e. ignition occurring before the
power stroke. However, knock, defined as auto-ignition of the hydrogen –air end
–gas ahead of the flame front that has originated from the spark [40], is less likely
to occur. This is due to the high auto-ignition temperature, finite ignition delay
and high flame velocity of hydrogen. This results in hydrogen having higher
research octane number (RON) (RON> 120 [41, 42] compared to gasoline (RON =
91 -99 [40]).

Nitrogen Oxides (NOX)

One of the main advantages of H2ICE is that it can undergo combustion in ultra-
lean mixtures (F << 0.5). This condition is synonymous to mow temperature

combustion which enables NOX reduction. However when F = 0.5 for hydrogen,

the combustion starts emitting NOX. So for no or ultra low NOX production in an
hydrogen engine, the equivalence ratio (F ) should be limited to 0.5 [4].

32
4.5 Hydrogen Infrastructure Requirement
Building a Hydrogen Infrastructure is one of the major challenges which need to
be overcome in order for the Hydrogen Vehicles to become a practicably viable
option for the permanent replacement of conventional IC Engines. Many studies
have been carried out for the development of hydrogen infrastructure for the
transport sector. Most of the times these studies have been targeted for a
particular area or region. For example Melaina [23] for the US, and Mercuri et al
[38] for Italy. These studies often seem to overcome the chicken-egg problem of
“no hydrogen infrastructure, therefore, no demand for hydrogen vehicles” and
“no hydrogen vehicles so no incentives to build a hydrogen infrastructure”.

The main obstacle in the introduction of hydrogen infrastructure is the issue of


cost. Also there are many others factors that play an important role. For example,
people will not purchase a hydrogen vehicle unless there are sufficient refuelling
stations; manufacturers will not start mass production of the vehicles unless
people tend to buy it and fuel providers will not install hydrogen stations for
vehicles that do not exist [26]. Hence there are various factors – social,
environmental, economic and judicial- which will affect the development of
hydrogen as a practicable fuel for transport. The main focus while analysing the
infrastructure needed for hydrogen in the transportation field is on hydrogen
supply.

Design of a Hydrogen System:

The design is a hydrogen system needs to be strong and should take into
consideration the local data of the locality where for which the system is to be
designed. Hydrogen demands are identified on the basis of population size and
density, car ownership and average vehicle use. The simplest approach in
designing a hydrogen system in a locality is by applying a certain percentage to
the current number of petrol stations in that area. For example, to attain a stage
for enough hydrogen stations to satisfy the refuelling needs of many early
adopters of the hydrogen technology, hydrogen stations should be in a
percentage of 5% of that of the petrol stations [27]. For a stage to be attained
where enough hydrogen stations are in place to satisfy a much larger portion of
the general public, 15% should be the target [27]. Apart from this , the hydrogen
system developed and the hydrogen supply should be reliable.

33
Capital Costs:

The establishment of a hydrogen station would include more capital cost than
those by other alternatives. According to Wang et al. [28], the cost of converting
a current filling station to dispense 50,000 gallons of gasoline equivalent per
month is US$1.4 million in case of Hydrogen, 0.9 million in case of CNG, and 0.6
million in case of LNG. According to Hart et al [29] for the supply of methanol as a
alternative to the same case, the cost would be GBP 30,000. The capital cost
depends upon the path in which the hydrogen vehicles are produced to
penetrate the market.

Hydrogen Prices:

Hydrogen prices need to be competitive with respect to the conventional


petroleum fuels. It should also be reasonable for the companies which produces
hydrogen for them to invest in it.

4.6 Issues affecting the acceptance of hydrogen fuel


There are various issues that need to be addressed before hydrogen can be fully
accepted as fuel. One of the issues is how the general public will take it. Spitzley
et al [32], mentioned the following factors as being important in determining
whether a vehicle will penetrate the market or not:

 Performance (including acceleration, ability to move up the slope,


range)
 Fuel consumption
 Noise and vibration
 Cost to the Consumer
 Durability
 Safety

A new product is expected to have an exceptional gain in at least one of the


influencing factors in addition to better grading in all the influencing factors.
Spitzley found that in terms of noise and vibration, and fuel consumption the FCV
was superior with respect to IC engines whereas cost is a major factor that needs
improvement. Although this study is about 10 years old, the scenario for
Hydrogen Vehicles now still is similar.

In an attempt to get an insight about the public perception of hydrogen, Ricci et


al [33] made a study about the public perception towards hydrogen. Their key
findings were as follows:

 Awareness and knowledge of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

34
There seems to be a lack of knowledge in general public about Fuel Cells
and related Hydrogen Technologies. Demonstration Projects on Hydrogen
Vehicles, Information about the pros and cons of hydrogen seem to be
less noticed by the general public with exceptions to some a few
geographical areas where the local nature of the demonstration project
or the effectiveness of communication campaigns increased general
public interest. Overall demand for more information needs to be quite
high.
 Perceptions of, attitudes towards and acceptance of hydrogen and/or
associated technologies
The perception of the general public seems to be rather neutral or dull
towards hydrogen and fuel cell. The perception that Hydrogen Fuelled
vehicles had many technical difficulties like range, refuelling, etc seems to
bother less as it is the same case with all the other Green alternative
technologies. The high price for hydrogen and other alternative fuels
raises questions to general public of social equity amongst all. Paying
more price for ‘green’ fuel seems to be associated with ‘luxury’ in terms
of general public perception and thought that only rich could afford this.
 Attitudes towards hydrogen refuelling stations
The general public seems to be indifferent towards the acceptance of
hydrogen refuelling stations, majority of them having willingness for it if
it is supplied with gasoline at the same refuelling station.
 Preferences and willingness to pay for the introduction of hydrogen
technologies

4.7 Economic feasibility of Hydrogen as a fuel


There are several factors influencing the economic viability of hydrogen as a fuel
for automotive sector. These factors are: hydrogen production method, hydrogen
production cost, cost of the Hydrogen Vehicle, the social costs inflicted by GHGs
and regulated air emissions, the efficiency of the Hydrogen vehicle, capital costs
of H2 stations.

Hydrogen production:

The cost of producing hydrogen depends upon the method by which hydrogen in
produced. The cheapest way to produce hydrogen would be to produce it via
hydrocarbons. Considering the fact that Hydrogen is ought to be a “Clean”
energy, the fact might not hold true in this case. However if proper carbon
sequestration techniques are applied, H2 might then be able to have the impact of
clean energy. Presently, almost all of hydrogen is produced commercially using
the hydrocarbon (Natural Gas, Naphtha, and LPG). This is because it is very cheap

35
with respect to hydrogen production from renewable resources like Wind, Solar
or even Nuclear Energy. The cost of hydrogen produced via electrolysis would be
high due to the high prices of electricity. The cost of hydrogen production via
renewable resources and via nuclear energy is high because of the huge
investment cost involved in it.

Well-to-wheel (WTW) cost:

The cumulative cost of the fuel from origin to a fuel station (well-to-tank) price
and the cost of fuel utilization (tank to wheel) comprise the well to wheel price.
The well-to-tank cost comprises of capital costs (production equipment, tank
trailer, dispenser, etc), the operation and maintenance costs (material costs,
energy costs, labour costs) and other costs like tax, insurance, etc. The tank to
wheel cost consists of vehicle purchasing cost, operation and maintenance cost. It
is important for a hydrogen vehicle to have as low as possible WTW costs and if
possible lower than that of fossil fuels.

Hydrogen Vehicle Prices:

The price of the Hydrogen Vehicle, both FCV and HICEV, will play an important
role in the feasibility of using Hydrogen. Prices of FCVs have decreased
significantly from the past mainly due to the technological advancements and
experience the automotive companies have gained with it. However they are still
higher than their gasoline counterparts. According to the predictions from
Hyundai Motors and Toyota [36, 37], the price of an FCV is expected to range
between US$ 49,850 to US$ 60,750 in 2015. The well-to-wheel predictions for
gasoline vehicles are around US$ 70,040 for gasoline and US$ 66,970. From this
scenario [38], hydrogen vehicles are likely to be economically viable. However,
this is just a prediction assuming mass production of FCV and even though FCV
prices are lower, the price and availability of refuelling hydrogen would largely
affect its sale.

Social costs inflicted by GHGs and regulated air emissions:

While talking about the advantages of a Hydrogen Vehicle, one should not forget
its potential to reduce the emission of harmful gases like CO, NOx, SOX, and CO2. If
the amount of reduction in these gases were regarded as profit (in a way it is a
profit considering bulk of the money saved that an individual, in large a nation,

36
would have spent in curing health problems and in making the environment
pollution free), hydrogen production from hydrocarbons might not seem much
cheaper than hydrogen from electricity via renewable. According to a research
carried out by Lee et al [39], the cheapest method of production of hydrogen with
respect to well-to-wheel cost among Steam reforming of Naphtha, Natural gas,
LPG and hydrogen via electricity supplied preferably by Wind Power was from
Steam Reforming of Natural Gas. This was because of the cheap cost of the
Natural Gas. However while taking into consideration the social cost benefit,
hydrogen via the electrolysis of water was concluded to be the cheapest. The
electricity would be generated from Wind Energy. But if the hydrogen were to be
produced via electrolysis, and the electricity would be provided from the coal
power plant, then the produced hydrogen would not have the benefit of saving
social cost and might be resulted more expensive than those from steam
reforming.

Effect of capital cost of Hydrogen Station

The term “Hydrogen Economy” would only be achieved if there are enough
refuelling stations for the maximum numbers of Hydrogen vehicles that can be
developed. It is only in this case that the consumer will be willing to buy a
Hydrogen vehicle without fearing how much miles would he need to travel to fuel
his vehicle or would he be able to drive his hydrogen car everywhere. It is evident
that hydrogen fuelling stations need to be ubiquitous or at least cover a certain
portion of current Petroleum stations in each geographical area. The capital cost
of hydrogen fuelling station is expensive at present because of the cost of its
equipments. Since the hydrogen equipments are produced in small quantities,
they cost more. Would they be produced in mass, their unit cost will be a lot
lesser.

Again referring to the study done by Lee et al [39] in determining the most
effective method of hydrogen production among Steam Reforming of Naphtha,
Natural Gas, LPG gas, hydrogen production via electrolysis: electricity provided
via the grid and electricity provided via Wind Power, the authors concluded that
all of the methods would be economically competitive with the gasoline and
diesel by 2015. The study had taken into account all the factors mentioned above
during the analysis. Each of the methods for the production of hydrogen had a

37
huge advantage in one of the factors. For example Steam reforming of
hydrocarbons had the advantage that the raw materials were cheap and the
process itself was cheaper than Wind Power. The method of electrolysis via
electricity provided by wind had huge advantage of emitting the least GHG and
other pollutants whereas electricity from the grid was in the midline between the
two. The other boon for these was the rapidly increasing price of gasoline and
diesel. Although this study was done for Korea, the methodology and conclusions
would hold true for everywhere else; the changes would only occur in the price of
raw materials and electricity.

However, another study [40] done in the Europe concluded that hydrogen
production via electrolysis would not be economically feasible regardless of the
source of electricity. It quotes: “The cost of hydrogen production could vary
between 22€/GJ when electricity is generated by low cost nuclear power plant
and 450€/GJ when renewable electricity coming from photovoltaic is used.” It is
obvious that this study did not involve the cost of social benefit. Also because the
costs of crude petroleum products were cheaper and electricity was much higher
in Europe such a conclusion was reached. The study conclude that hydrogen
production via the gasification of biomass would be the cheapest (10-12€/GJ).
The authors say that hydrogen production via electrolysis would be suitable only
in the places without the access of natural gas.

38
5. DISCUSSION

Comparison between FCV and HICEV

FCV HICEV
The transition from petroleum It could make the transition phase
vehicles to hydrogen vehicles taking between ICE and Hydrogen Engines
FCV as base would take time. shorter it could also run on petrol and
vice versa
The cost of production will be high These engines won’t be much expensive
as of today’s technology. The high regarding the fact that much of the
cost mainly in the manufacturing of construction is similar to IC engine
Fuel Cell system due to the cost of
Platinum and rare-earth-elements.
Availability might also an issue owing No issues with availability cost
to the availability issues of Platinim
as well as REE
The fuel that we feed I must be 99% Hydrogen doesn’t need to be pure, but
pure. Since if fed impure fuels free from hydrocarbons and sulphur
catalyst (platinum) would be
poisoned
Not reliable in all weather condition, Rather reliable since the principles are
like its difficult to start in Cold same with the IC engines.
Conditions because of the
inappropriate temperature in Fuel
Cell

Time to transition to Hydrogen


The transition from ICE to FCV will take a long time and HICEV could more
effectively act as a link to bridge the gap between FCV and ICE. The main problem
for now is the supply of hydrogen (discussed in section below). Even if enough
hydrogen were supplied at enough refuelling stations over the world, the
transition from ICE to Hydrogen can take a long time. There are billions of ICE
vehicles today. Let us create a scenario that we have enough hydrogen to fuel the

39
FCV and also enough FCV’s manufactured at reasonable price. Let us also assume
that the production of IC Engines has halted. Even so there would be huge
number of IC engines over the world that scrapping them at the instant would be
impossible. Also if those vehicles are in a rather good condition the consumer will
not be able to throw it away. If he is to scrap the vehicle, he would want to be
paid a reasonable value for his car. And there might not be so much money in the
world to pay the scrap value of all the IC engines. Hence even if all the odds were
in the favour of hydrogen economy, the transition phase would take some time.
How long will it take depends upon the number of IC engine vehicles. The idea of
switching into hydrogen economy would still seem further both from the
consumers as well as the manufacturer’s point of view.

40
Comparison between different methods of Hydrogen Production

41
6. CONCLUSION
The need for alternative vehicle powered by renewable source has always been
felt ever since the issue of global warming and fossil fuel crisis has been
addressed. Hydrogen has proved to be superior amongst other alternatives
because of its capacity to power a fuel cell as well as an internal combustion
engine. With the introduction of HICEV vehicle by BMW and a lot of automotive
industries developing FCV vehicle, it has now been time to transform to hydrogen
economy. However, there are still obstacles for hydrogen to replace fossil fuels.
As for fuel cell itself, mass production of it is still a major issue because it uses
platinum as a catalyst and rare-earth-elements in its electronic components, both
of which have got an issue with sufficient availability. This makes the price of an
FCV higher would compete with the IC engine vehicles. The storage of hydrogen
has another issue along with it. Since hydrogen has a very low density, much
energy cannot be confined in a fuel tank of a vehicle as gasoline. The hydrogen
needs to be highly compressed or liquefied for storage, both of which at present
consume a lot of energy in them. A solution to this would be the storage of
hydrogen in Metal Hydride tanks but that too has its own issue of having low
hydrogen density. When talking about the production of hydrogen, at present
most of the hydrogen seems to be produced from natural gas or naphtha, both of
which are related to petroleum products and moreover emit CO2. Hence a proper
carbon sequestration planning should be done in order to make the carbon
capture positive. Hydrogen could also be produced via electrolysis and the
required electricity be generated by renewable resources as wind, solar or even
by nuclear resources. But the infrastructures needed for renewable resources are
expensive making the produced hydrogen expensive as well. Nuclear energy on
the other hand has an issue of emitting radioactive emission and hence has not
been accepted globally. To conclude with, Hydrogen has got a huge potential to
replace petroleum products mainly because of its properties. But until the issue
mentioned above are solved hydrogen might not be economically feasible to
compete with petroleum in terms of ruling the automotive industry.

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8. GLOSSARY

Rare-earth-elements (REE): As defined by IUPAC, rare earth elements or rare


earth metals are a collection of seventeen chemical
elements in the periodic table, namely scandium,
yttrium, and the fifteen lanthanides. Scandium and
yttrium are considered rare earths since they tend
to occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides
and exhibit similar chemical properties.

Naphtha: A low octane gasoline product comprising of


different flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixtures, a
distillation product from petroleum or coal tar. It is
used primarily as a feedstock for producing high
octane gasoline components via the catalytic
reforming process. Also used for the production of
hydrogen

Chloro-alkali Process: Electrolysis of common salt or sodium chloride

𝒚𝒊𝒆𝒍𝒅𝒔
𝟐𝑵𝒂𝑪𝒍 + 𝟐𝑯𝟐 𝑶 𝑪𝒍𝟐 + 𝑯𝟐 + 𝟐𝑵𝒂𝑶𝑯

Depending on the methods used and the


temperature various chlorates and chlorides can be
formed.

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