Trucks, trains and ships using hydrogen fuel cells for propulsion are no longer just theoretically possible: they have reached the trial stage. Decades of work on refining the technology have coincided with the need to store surplus energy from solar and wind farms when supply exceeds demand. And making and storing hydrogen from surplus renewable energy that can then be used as fuel for vehicles is good economic sense, according to the Norwegian research group SINTEF. Fuel cells are much lighter than batteries and with hydrogen fuel they provide a better method of propulsion for all sorts of freight and passenger transport. The only residue of burning hydrogen is water, so there is no pollution. Top-secret research and development has been going on since 1980 at SINTEF in an attempt to make fuel cells competitive with the internal combustion engine for transport. The technology is already used in some niche markets, but it is now expected to become mainstream, according to Steffen Møller-Holst, vice-president for marketing at SINTEF. He says: “In Japan, 150,000 fuel cells have been installed in households to generate power and heat, and in the United States more than 10,000 hydrogen-powered forklifts are operating in warehouses and distribution centres.” In Norway SINTEF has been working on advancing that technology. Engineers there also want to power forklifts, but they’re planning more: they want as well to power heavy duty trucks and passenger ferries with fuel cells. Norway is also working on a plan to make its railways greener, running long-distance trains on hydrogen as an alternative to electrifying lines currently operated by diesel locomotives. “In Germany, the first fuel cell train is already undergoing trials, and Norway is one of many European countries now considering hydrogen-powered trains based on the conclusions of a study carried out by SINTEF for the Norwegian Railway Directorate,” says Møller-Holst. He is convinced Norway should follow the German example. Surprisingly, the report concluded that between €36 and 45 billion could be saved annually on one section of the line if battery- or hydrogen-powered trains were used instead of the more conventional electric trains drawing power from overhead wires.
Climate News Network 1st July 2017 read more »