Hydrogen’s Role in Society

Global restrictions in CO2 emissions demand urgent changes at many levels. Technologies associated with hydrogen and electric vehicles have an important role. They are not competitors, as some voices claim, but allies in this struggle. It is not a question of whether hydrogen powered vehicle will beat electric vehicles or not. This is not about a format war, but about taking advantage of how these technologies complement each other.

Both require large enough recharging or hydrogen service stations, which are necessary to supply the carbon-free fleet renewal. But, of course, the fuel (or electricity) must also be generated carbon-free. This is where green hydrogen comes in, a sine qua non solution when developing the hydrogen economy. Green hydrogen will make it possible to close the green circle that is so necessary to halt climate change and may be a solution for storing electricity left over from intermittent renewables (mainly wind and solar).

Future challenges in the development of fuel cells and their influence in laboratories

The development of a competitive fuel cell, both in price and time, imposes a number of important requirements on testing infrastructures. They must be able to combine the real fuel cell system with a virtual simulation of the vehicle, thus allowing the battery to be subjected to real driving load requests, from the initial stages of development. This allows transparent integration into prototypes for validation.

In order to carry out validations in the scope of the different fuel cell technologies, namely PEM- Proton Exchange Fuel Cell and SOFC- Solid Oxid Fuel Cell, it is necessary to make the test system hierarchical. In this system we have: the test facilities, the test rooms (these are naturally integrated in test centers) which, instead of having a hydrogen room, will have to have others, such as roller benches, power-train banks , among others.

As a consideration for the future, it is possibile to convert the internal combustion engine (ICE) rooms, in order to develop hydrogen testing infrastructure. The size of the vehicles to be tested also influence the design of the installations and it becomes necessary to define whether the objective is to work with tourism-type vehicles or with truck or bus applications.

This definition is important not only for the size of the rooms, but also for the amount of thermal power that needs to be dissipated, the amount of hydrogen flow to be quantified and predicted, the power supply, the maximum exhaust flow, etc.

In these cases, the approach can be paralleled. That is, rooms that take two passanger vehicles simultaneously, or a single heavy duty vehicle if necessary, parallelizing the feeding systems. Finally, it is necessary to take into account the limitations of existing services. We cannot have all the electrical power we need, nor can we have the locations we want for the systems. We need to study the dimensioning of cables, pipes or, on the other hand, the regulations and legislation of each country with regard to the safe handling of hydrogen, as well as whether there are any conditions for the emission of hydrogen or other issues. There is no doubt that hydrogen will be a viable solution, but it is necessary to develop the infrastructures for recharging, transport, distribution and manufacturing. This technology has no “supply chain” problems as evident as batteries with cobalt and nickel. Europe can develop a hydrogen economy without depending on Asian countries, as is the case with lithium-ion batteries today. As these are complex and excessively expensive systems, the tendency is to create synergies by creating work teams with expertise in all areas involved.

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