Monday 14 October 2019

Zero-emission hydrogen vehicles could be on our roads as early as 2023 - new report

Toyota Mirai
Toyota Mirai
Refuelling the hydrogen cell in the Toyota Mirai
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

YOU could be driving a zero-emission hydrogen vehicle in little more than three years - if government and business back radical plans.

According to a new report, hydrogen cars, buses and trucks can be on our roads as early as 2023 with as many as 39,000 being driven within a decade.

Authors of the report, Hydrogen Mobility Ireland, claim that such a level of use would remove 300,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.

Fuel cell vehicles combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity. The electricity runs a motor which drives the vehicle. The only by-product is water so it is emissions free while hydrogen itself is a low carbon gas.

Refuelling the hydrogen cell in the Toyota Mirai
Refuelling the hydrogen cell in the Toyota Mirai

The Hydrogen Mobility Ireland group includes leading transport and energy companies. It is making a business case for government and private sector backing to make hydrogen a viable fuel for car, bus and truck drivers.

Their report, published today with Environment Minister Richard Bruton in attendance, wants the government to give hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles similar incentives to those bestowed on battery electric vehicles (BEVs). That would help make hydrogen vehicles cost-competitive with conventional fuel vehicles by 2025 or so.

The group see buses, vans and taxis leading the way as the fuel cell is particularly suitable for heavier vehicles. The gas will be produced in Ireland.

The report says hydrogen models can complement battery electric vehicles as they offer “greater range and faster refuelling”.*

It recommends building clusters of refuelling stations and suggests a pilot project of two hydrogen production sources and three refuelling stations. That would cost €34m and needs €14m government funding.

Looking further ahead, the group envisages a network of 76 stations by 2030. That would mean half the current population would live in a town with a hydrogen refuelling station. A 27-strong network of what they call ‘electrolysers’ would be located with renewable generators (mostly wind farms) to supply the hydrogen.

All that would translate into a national fuel-cell fleet of 2,000 lorries, 880 bus/coaches, 6,800 vans and 29,000 cars by 2030.

Mr Bruton said the research was “a valuable insight into a potential pathway for the introduction of hydrogen vehicles in Ireland between now and 2030”.  He said the Climate Action Plan, launched earlier this year, is designed to adapt to emerging new technologies.

Hydrogen Mobility Ireland chairman, Mark Teevan, said: “The challenge is to get started since not only is a new infrastructure needed but also the production of a new fuel.” He said the next part of the challenge is to implement the findings.

Dr James Carton, DCU, said the group sees hydrogen playing a role in achieving Ireland's climate targets in transport, heating, energy and storage.

*(One of the best examples of a hydrogen vehicle is the Toyota Mirai which I have driven and refuelled at a filling station on the continent. There was no appreciable difference in driving compared with an electric vehicle.)

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