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Japan team evaluates battery-assisted low-cost hydrogen production from solar energy

Researchers from Japan’s NIMS (National Institute for Materials Science), the University of Tokyo and Hiroshima University have jointly conducted a techno-economic analysis for hydrogen production from photovoltaic power generation (PV) utilizing a battery-assisted electrolyzer.

The results from this study suggested a cost of hydrogen as low as ¥17 to ¥27/Nm3 (US$0.16 - $0.25) using a combination of technologies and the achievement of ambitious individual cost targets for batteries, PV, and electrolyzers. This approximately converts to US$1.92 to US$3.00/kg of hydrogen, with 1 kg H2 equal to about 12 Nm3 of hydrogen. For comparison, the US DOE’s 2020 target for the levelized cost of hydrogen (production only) is $2.30/kg. The findings are published in a paper in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

The joint research team designed an integrated system capable of adjusting the amount of battery charge/discharge and the amount of electrolysis hydrogen production in relation to the amount of solar power generated. The team then evaluated the economic feasibility of the system.


System capable of adjusting the amount of battery charge/discharge and the amount of electrolysis hydrogen production in relation to the amount of solar power generated. Comprehensive analysis of various factors, including rechargeable battery and electrolyzer capacities, enables the estimation of technology levels required for low-cost hydrogen production. Credit: NIMS

The team identified technology levels necessary for the system to produce hydrogen at low cost through a comprehensive analysis of various factors such as rechargeable battery and electrolyzer capacities, considering the future technological advancements. For the study, the researchers optimized the installed capacity of each component technology for the wide range of unit costs of electricity from the PV, battery, and proton-exchange membrane electrolyzer.

For example, rechargeable batteries that can discharge only at a low rate but can be produced economically are expected to become available by around 2030.

Broadly, they found that with the leveling of PV electricity output through the use of the battery, the required capacity of electrolyzer is lowered and the operating ratio of electrolyzer increases.

The battery-assist will result in a lower hydrogen production cost when the benefit associated with the smaller capacity and higher operation ratio of the electrolyzer exceeds the necessary investment for battery installation.

In future studies, the team plans to determine component technology levels required for proposed systems and set R&D target values to achieve these levels.

The team will also investigate the system feasibility of renewable power generation systems even under output suppression control or restriction to electricity power grid connection in order to demonstrate a proto-type system of the proposed system.


  • Yasunori Kikuchi, Takayuki Ichikawa, Masakazu Sugiyama, Michihisa Koyama (2019) “Battery-assisted low-cost hydrogen production from solar energy: Rational target setting for future technology systems” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2018.11.119)



Nonsense on stilts


Of course, this will not please anti-H2 posters, even if and when clean H2 can/will eventually be produced with excess energy from adjacent REs and from excess base load electricity, at under $2/Kg.

Excess (unused/unsold) Hydro produced clean electricity in our region forced H-Q to dump load of water from their reservoirs in the last 4/5 years. Increasing rain/snow falls associated with warming weather is increasing H-Q potential production. All that excess energy could be used to produce low cost clean H2 for FCEVs and industries?


Keep on dreaming Harvey. I'll place my bets on present batteries and future developments thereof for unparalleled efficiency.


These are facts, not dreams:
1) Our region is getting more rain/snow falls favouring increased Hydro production for the last 20+ years or so.
2) Simultaneously, more water has to be dumped from reservoirs.
3) The unsold/unused clean Hydro electricity could be supplied/distributed PEM electrolysers at a much lower price to produce lower cost H2.
4) Many Hydro plants are installed in areas with very low population density and good winds and many more very large Wind turbines could be installed nearby.
5)The output of nearby Hydro plants can be adjusted and coupled with Wind turbines for 24/7 clean RE without costly battery storage.
6) The number of water and wind turbines can be adjusted to match clean electricity demands and reduce water dumping to a minimum..


Don't be too hasty, no ones betting houses on this but it will help with big picture questions.
I'll be interested to understand how battery energy density could come up to a level required for planes and shipping trains and what the suggestions on industrial substitution if not by electrolysis.
Surely there are sensible answers to this if you care to share.
Given there are easier and more economical ways to make H2 but we would have to
accept the ongoing contribution to destruction of our environment as an outcome.


Any way to store surplus energy is a plus; some fossil fuel power plants dump energy as demand drops because the stations can't respond fast enough. Also, this has occurred in Texas when there is a surplus of wind power with customers offered free electricity to use the surplus.

Creating compressed hydrogen from the surplus on site and selling it or reusing it in hydrogen turbines makes sense. I see aircraft and sea ships powered by hydrogen turbines and/or steady state hydrogen fuel cells as part of the clean future since both powered by fossil fuels are gross polluters. I think BEVs hold the edge over hydrogen cars because of the cost/efficiency/pollution differentials .


It would make a lot more sense to just put the available electric power in the grid to replace more polluting coal fired power. Japan certainly does not have an excess of "renewable" power and they increased their use of coal following the shut down of much of the nuclear power system.

Daniel Williams

This is great news. Yet more proof that hydrogen can be produced via electrolysis at a cost similar to or cheaper than natural gas.

There is now almost 2GW of power-to-gas in planning in Europe now, including a recent call by Siemens Shell and Tennet for 900MW of electrolysis linked to offshore wind between 2026-2030.

Unfortunately there is no way that the world can build enough renewables to power the electrolysis to replace natural gas between now and 2050. And so CCS is starting to scale up - because ultimately the cheapest way to do this is to site reformers at the point where gas enters the gas network, and have all users of the gas network using decarbonised gas.

And the cost increase for the end-user for conversion is only 7% as per the H21 North of England initiative.

All EU gas turbines will be hydrogen-compatible by 2030.


This whole project was just university research to get an article printed in a research journal and will probably end up like most university research projects. it added a small amount to the sum of human knowledge and helped educate a few students in the hope that they might go on to do something useful in the future.


This is interesting because it implicitly admits that the electrolyzer is either too expensive to leave idle, or requires a steady operating level to achieve a decent lifespan.  Adding a round-trip battery loss plus the capital cost of the battery to everything else is definitely going to kick the price up.

The FERC is reporting Asia Pacific LNG prices at about $10.15/mmBTU (I think, there are no units on the page and the links given are 404 but that's what they use elsewhere).  Figuring 55.5 MJ/kg, 1 kg of NG prices out at USD0.534.  Given SMR efficiency of 6 kg H2 from 16 kg CH4, feedstock cost comes to USD1.42/kg.

Looks like "renewable" hydrogen isn't going to be competitive any time soon.


@ Arnold
Have a peek at some of the latest developments.
This battery architecture is applicable to just about every practical battery chemistry.
These two examples are the most promising representatives for at least half a dozen presently in the pipeline preparing to penetrate the world market. IMHO these are definitely steps in the right direction and away from natural or synthetic fossil fuels.


I hate it when people use "inflammable" when they mean "non-flammable".


Solar energy and H2 are both clean, plentiful and basically free.

All what remains to be done is to convert both into affordable, clean, storable, usable energies. That will be doable by 2035/2050 and even before.

For those who want to continue to use NG or Methane, a compact light weight extractor will soon remove clean H2 from it, for use in FCEVs and industry. However, it will eventually be cheaper to extract H2 from fresh and/or sea water and produce fresh water for agriculture etc. ?


There goes that broken record again.

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