Hydrogen transport technology can serve the local taxi industry and can be used in large opencast mines where several haul trucks operate in a limited radius.
One hydrogen fuelling station could serve an entire fleet. Such applications would eliminate the need for a dispersed suburban and urban filling station network, says hydrogen engineering company RTS Africa MD Ian Fraser.
“The patterns of personal and commercial transport are changing. Mining and urban mobility are two applications that can serve as a stepping stone to realising the value of hydrogen transport technology and serve to usher in cleaner, environment-friendly transport in South Africa.”
The greater availability of hydrogen fuelling stations is key to unlocking the potential of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). An FCV has a range of about 600 km, with refuelling taking only a minute or two once it has reached its destination. Electric vehicles do not have the same range and recharging takes several hours, says Fraser.
RTS Africa’s international principal, Nel Hydrogen, has received an order to build two hydrogen refuelling stations for US automotive company Nikola Motor Company for a fleet of prototype hydrogen vehicles in the US.
The initial two demonstration stations will each provide 1 t of hydrogen for Nikola Motor’s prototype trucks and serve as design verification for Nel Hydrogen’s large-scale concept. This solution will be jointly developed by Nel Hydrogen and Nikola Motor Company and scaled into a network of low-cost hydrogen production and fuelling sites. The delivery of the demonstration stations is intended to start in the second half of 2018.
For the megastations, Nel Hydrogen will incorporate its clustering concept, where eight Nel Hydrogen A-485 electrolysers are integrated into one unit, which helps to lower capital costs.
Nikola Motor Company has an initial target to build 16 of the mega-scale hydrogen stations between 2019 and 2021, with a minimum of eight units of the Nel Hydrogen A-485 electrolyser per site.
Fraser says this order is the first part of an initiative to develop low-cost renewable hydrogen production and fuelling sites for the potential development of 16 large-scale sites with a capacity to produce up to 32 t/d of hydrogen.”
“Hydrogen can be generated by electricity or a steam reformer. The cleanest method splits water into hydrogen and oxygen by passing an electric current through water using electricity generated by renewable-energy sources. “The hydrogen is then used in a vehicle’s fuel cell to generate electrical power for the electric motors,” he concludes.