SAE technical experts: fuel cell technology has advanced significantly, FC vehicle production has begun, further cost reductions & infrastructure development required
Wrapping up the track on the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure held at the 2016 SAE World Congress (earlier post), a panel of technical experts agreed that while significant progress has been made with the technology, and while the first generation of consumer-available fuel cell vehicles is now being sold in parts of the US, there are still challenges to overcome with respect to the cost of the technology and the build-out of a supporting hydrogen refueling infrastructure.
The panel, moderated by Jesse Schneider, BMW, included Takashi Moriya, Senior Chief Engineer at Honda R&D; Dr. Will James, Manager, Safety, Codes, and Standards at the US Department of Energy (DOE); and Dr. Ralph Clague, Head of Motive Systems and Architecture, Intelligent Energy.
Honda. Takashi Moriya, Senior Chief Engineer at Honda R&D, re-iterated Honda’s strategic focus on electrification as the main pathway toward reducing greenhouse gases, and shift to renewable sources of energy. For Honda on the vehicle side, that strategy encompasses ongoing development of more efficient hybrids, as well as battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles. Honda has set a target of two-thirds of its overall unit sales coming from plug-in hybrid/hybrid vehicles and zero emission vehicles (BEVs and FCVs) by around 2030. (Earlier post.)
Like Toyota, Hyundai, GM (Honda’s partner in future fuel cell development), and other OEMs, Honda sees a role for both battery-electric as well as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, depending upon application. Honda also sees the possibility of a “hydrogen-powered society” based on renewable energy and renewable-energy-generated hydrogen. Accordingly, Honda has not only launched FCVs that use hydrogen, but has also developed compact hydrogen stations that generate hydrogen, and external power output devices that get connected to FCVs.
Honda’s work on hydrogen-powered vehicles stretches back to the 1980s, when it began basic research on fuel cells, and engaged in research and development of FCVs. Honda’s current state-of-the-art vehicle is the Clarity Fuel Cell, currently available in Japan, and to be available in the US and Europe by the end of the year. (Earlier post).
Employing original Honda technologies, the fuel cell stack for this model was downsized by 33% compared to the previous version of the fuel cell stack yet delivers 130 kW of output, with an output density of 3.1 kW/L–approximately a 60% improvement. The fuel cell powertrain was made as compact as a Honda 3.5L V6 engine, enabling it to be packaged under the hood of a sedan-type vehicle for the first time.
Earlier this year, Toshihiro Mibe, Senior Managing Officer and Director, Honda R&D Co. observed that:
Developing FCVs is not enough to speed up the realization of a hydrogen society. Without hydrogen stations, FCVs do not sell. Without more FCVs on the road, the number of hydrogen stations cannot grow. The only way to solve this chicken-and-the-egg problem was to create our own hydrogen for FCV use, which was realized by joint-development with Iwatani Corporation.
During the SAE World Congress panel, Moriya reinforced that concerted effort among related industries /companies; the establishment of global standards; and the creation of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure are also required if FCVs are to be marketed as scheduled.
Moriya also noted that Honda is focusing on continuous cost reduction and quality control to further widespread commercialization of the fuel cell vehicle technology. To that end, Honda is partnering with GM on next-generation development, with a focus on 2020.
Intelligent Energy. While legislation has been a strong technology driver to date, the direct customer benefit that legislation-related technologies bring are limited, said Ralph Clague of Intelligent Energy, a UK-based developer and manufacturer of fuel cells.
Accordingly, to offer a product with a competitive value proposition, the industry focus has shifted to increasing the value of the product for the end user from a total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective. Cost, productivity, efficiency and fuel economy now offer the highest focus for technology investment, he said.
Intelligent Energy showed the progress of fuel cell shipments in the UK, and the prognosis of the “ramp up” for the automotive fuel cell market until 2020 (see diagram). The FC market is slated to increase at a 40% per annum rate including the Asian Pacific, North American and US Market.
Intelligent Energy also highlighted their fuel cell range extender project with multiple collaborators which is planned to have demonstration units by 2017 targeting 2018 for the first level of production.
US Department of Energy (DOE). The US Department of Energy (DOE) has been supporting the development of hydrogen and fuel cell technology as part of the US effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to shift to a cleaner set of energy sources and to reduce reliance on imported petroleum. Dr. James noted that considerable progress has been made toward achieving the DOE cost targets, although challenges, of course, remain.
In addition to emphasizing the importance of the ongoing development of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure, James also touched on the critical role that global standards and codes have in laying the groundwork for widespread commercialization of the technology. The Safety Codes and Standards programs at DOE support and facilitate the development and promulgation of essential codes and standards to enable widespread deployment and market entry of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and completion of all essential domestic and international regulations, codes and standards (RCS). The DOE also conducts R&D to provide critical data and information needed to define requirements in developing codes and standards.
Direct US DOE supports has saved 3–5 years in the development of relevant Codes and Standards, Dr. James said.
James also indicated the DOE was instrumental in forming the US Hydrogen Infrastructure, Public/Private Partnership called H2USA which has more than 45 Partners in 2015. He indicated this group is working on a variety of topics from Market Support & Acceleration, to Locations Roadmap (currently focused on assisting in the Northeastern US States), Financing Infrastructure and the Hydrogen Fueling Station Specification Group.
Jesse Schneider said that in addition to the 8 automakers teaming up for fuel cell vehicle commercialization (GM/Honda; BMW/Toyota; Daimler/Ford/Nissan; and Hyundai), work on infrastructures is underway in three continents: Asia/ Japan; North America/US and Europe. In 2016, each of these areas plans to have more than 50 stations and 100s more within the next 5 years. These stations are being helped to be standardized with the ISO Technical Specification 19880-1 which is to be published in 2016, giving a baseline of safety and performance.
Questions were raised at the panel related to driving range and storage for electric and fuel cell vehicles. Schneider showed a “Standards” comparison between SAE J2601 (Hydrogen Fueling) and SAE J1772 (Conductive Charging) vs. electrical storage with FCEVs and BEVs. The main difference he stated is charging time and storage of electrical energy on the vehicle. From the table below (with the current state of the art) Fuel Cell Vehicle Storage ranges is about 100kW Hours equivalent vs. 30–60 kWh for Battery Electric Vehicles for a C-Segment vehicle. Charging Time is in about 5 minutes to achieve 500km (300 miles) with hydrogen vs. about an hour + with a high power fast charger or overnight with a home charger to achieve the same range.
Although there are clear advantages to the fuel cell and hydrogen technology and fuel cell technology has advanced significantly to the point where the first vehicle production has started, further cost reduction and infrastructure development—with industry and government working together—is required to realize success in the market, according to the panel.