Under the title Stimulating and Scaling Up, H2 View today held the second part of its three-part webinar series, picking up the baton of why hydrogen is so crucial to the world’s economic recovery plans and runs with a discussion of how we can get there.

Hosted by H2 View’s Managing Editor Rob Cockerill, this week the decade of the fuel cell, the move from grey to green hydrogen, and what it will take to truly move forward to a hydrogen society grasped the attention of webinar attendees.

Discussion and debate were once again driven by Cockerill, who was accompanied by an impressive panel formed of Dr. David Hart, Director of E4tech, Randy MacEwan, CEO of Ballard, and Jim Petrecky, Director of Hydrogen Energy at PDC Machines.

“Hello, and welcome to H2 View members, as we continue to explore the role of hydrogen in a post-coronavirus world – and the scale-up and investment required to realise it,” Cockerill said welcoming the audience.

“Last week we talked a great deal about the growing importance of hydrogen in the clean energies transition, and how there had never been such momentum behind it. We talked about the growing zest for hydrogen, about the mechanisms for facilitating its uptake, and we learned much more detail about the EU hydrogen strategy – all of which will be key to realising hydrogen’s future potential over the next decade.”

Read more: Biebuyck hails ambition of EU Hydrogen Strategy 

“That’s a decade that was described earlier this year as the decade of the fuel cell, by E4tech’s David Hart – and David is with us now to explain why, and tell us what’s require for that to happen. Over to you David…”

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A stronger supply chain

Recognised as one of the leading experts in fuel cells and hydrogen energy, Hart currently leads E4tech’s strategic advisory and consultation work on fuel cells and hydrogen globally. As he joined H2 View for the second webinar, Hart recognised the uptake of fuel cell technologies, and the not so negative effect the coronavirus pandemic has played in the increased deployment.

“One thing’s pretty obvious, we’ve had a hiccup in the global economy that we’re going to call COVID. Having said that, there is an enormous amount of positive momentum that has come out of that, for example the EU Hydrogen Strategy, which is linked to the Green Recovery Strategy, The Green Deal, which we have also heard a lot about,” said Hart.

“Those sorts of opportunities are starting to become more and more apparent as we look, not only on the political landscape, but also at the investment landscape. We are getting a lot of inquiries not only from venture capitalists looking to invest in fuel cells, which is something that hasn’t happened for a long time, but also from investment banks, from people who run the ESG teams, the sustainability corporate government teams within very large investors.”

“They’re after something that is climate friendly that also hits the bottom line which is to help on the social basis , and fuel cells tick all of those boxes. There is a big picture that fuel cells fit beautifully into at the moment, and that is partly because of hydrogen as a driver, but partly also about developing jobs, developing competitive industries, developing the next big green thing.”

“At the same time, companies are realising that batteries don’t do it all. Batteries are great, we are seeing a lot of electric vehicles come in, but if you want to go heavy-duty you really need fuel cells and hydrogen. It is very hard to run a big truck on batteries alone.”

“What we are seeing is partnerships between Daimler and Volvo and we’ve seen Cummins buy Hydrogenics amongst many others. All of these companies understand batteries but think fuel cells are now the way to go for heavy duty, and it has been very clearly laid out in a number of these strategies as well, the European strategy, the Japanese strategy and the Korean strategy all talk about fuel cells for heavy duty.”

“On the stationary side, how do you build out the digital economy? All of us are doing this by video. That requires server centres, server farms all over the place. There is an enormous amount of power that goes into that. Microsoft and other are now looking very hard into putting fuel cells into their data centres which is another big driver. All of this means the supply chain is getting stronger.”

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Trends for scaling up

Next it was over to Randy MacEwan, President and CEO of Ballard Power Systems, who holds extensive knowledge in clean energies, such as hydrogen fuel cells. Ballard has widely been regarded as the gold star in fuel cell technology leadership and performance for many years and the company continues to be at the forefront of developments.

“This sector was exciting a year ago and it’s only got more exciting since then. I probably couldn’t have forecasted the type of momentum we are seeing. But I think there five key trends that are important to understand, five key developments to understand, that over the past year that have got us to this point.”

“The first is policy. We have obviously seen a lot of policy support in the EU with green deals, green hydrogen, green recovery. Last year, I think under reported, were the changes to the heaviest trucks in terms of emission standards with a 15% emission reduction requirement by 2025 and a 30% reduction required by 2030. I think we are also likely to see that extended to buses in the 2022 timeframe. You go to California, just recently you had CARB releasing clean truck standards, and now 15 states in the US have signed an MoU to adopt similar emission reductions going forward.”

“Number two is the number of vehicles in the field. Just two years ago if we were having this discussion, the number of vehicles in the field was really de minimis, but today there are in the range of 32,000 plus fuel cell forklifts, 18,000-20,000 passenger cars, probably in the range of over 6,000 commercial trucks and buses operating in the field, and in the range of 400 plus fuelling stations – so that’s very significant and tells us that the technology is ready.”

“The third, and perhaps the most important, is the increasing recognition of the value proposition that fuel cells deliver, particularly for medium and heavy-duty motor applications. Fuel cells, in my mind, uniquely address zero emission mobility for those types of use cases.”

“The fourth is the growing investment that is now being made by the corporates. We’ve seen that not just on the fuel cell side but a lot of investment on the electrolysis side with Air Liquide and Linde as some examples. The corporates are now coming in and we will see billions of dollars to help scale the industry, improve the supply chain, and drive down the cost. “

“The fifth one, is the ESG investment phenomenon which is compelling. I think that is going to translate not just in investments from publicly traded companies and private investments as well, but project investment, much like what we’ve already seen it in the solar industry and the wind industry.”

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Compression technologies 

Last to speak was Jim Petrecky, Director of Hydrogen Energy at PDC Machines. Compression wasn’t originally on the agenda for the webinar, but as it appeared to be an incredibly hot topic in last week’s debate and discussion, H2 View just couldn’t let it pass without tackling it.

“Thank you having me here to talk about scaling compression, it’s a very important topic because compression is needed to make hydrogen useful in the applications that have been discussed so far.”

“So, let’s talk about a couple of case studies. The first is our latest hydrogen refuelling solution (HRS) which is currently being installed in Canberra, Australia, this station is the first of its kind in Australia and will fuel a fleet of 20 Hyundai NEXO vehicles. The station takes hydrogen for a 30bar electrolyser and provides T40 fast fills at 700bar.”

“I bring up this specific case because compression can scale at an existing station with future proofing, so the station is designed to grow with the vehicle fleet with minimal impact to the HRS. The Australian site’s capacity will triple next year by adding the compressor inside the existing enclosure without changing the station footprint.”

“The second study is the use of PDC compressors in several North American bus stations. In a similar way to the Australian site, our compression is taking onsite or delivered hydrogen and boosting it to 500bar to fill buses. With a single stage diaphragm compressor, we can boost about a tonne of hydrogen per day, alternatively, we can use a four-stage machine that can handle two tonnes per day in a single machine.”

The final instalment of H2 View’s three-part webinar series will take place next Friday (7th August) at 2:30pm BST. For more information and to register for free, click here.