This is part 5 of a seven part series which explores some of the issues around zero carbon vehicles and which future technologies might be best for HGVs to avoid carbon emissions. The seven parts are:
- Understanding the Typical Power Requirements of an HGV
- Basic Designs of Diesel, Battery and Fuel Cell Powertrains
- Comparing Diesel, Battery and Fuel Cell Powertrains
- Assessing Future Manufacturing Costs of Diesel, Battery and Fuel Cell Powertrains for HGVs
- Costs of Hydrogen Fuel / Building A Hydrogen & Electric Charging Infrastructure (this post)
- Commercial Viability of Operating A Battery or Fuel Cell Powertrain HGV
- Summary, A Look at Developments Which May Help Achievement of Zero Carbon In-use HGVs.
Part 5: Hydrogen Fuel Costs, Hydrogen Refuelling Stations & Electric Charging Infrastructure
Part 5 explores the likely future cost of hydrogen fuel along with the challenges of building fuelling stations for hydrogen and battery electric vehicile charging
5.1 The Challenge of Green Hydrogen & A Hydrogen Infrastructure
A key appeal of hydrogen FCEVs is the potential for zero GHG emissions both from the truck tailpipe and from production of the hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen can be considered an energy carrier rather than a primary energy source. To achieve low or zero well-to-wheels emissions requires competitively priced alternatives to producing hydrogen from hydrocarbons, currently used for 96% of global supply (Sharaf & Orhan 2014, Alezemi 2015). Electrolysis, using electricity from renewable sources to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, is seen as one suitable technology to achieve this. A hydrogen price of $4.23/kg (£3.20) appears achievable for fuel station forecourt production of 1,500 kg/day using PEM electrolysis. This is the untaxed cost of hydrogen produced, delivered and dispensed to the vehicle. Electricity is the majority of the cost (82%), based on an average electricity price of $0.0688/kWh (£0.0521/kWh) over the life of the plant (SA 2016c). Work in Europe confirms that electricity cost is the key driver to cost, with an indicative best-case cost in 2030 for forecourt production of 2,000kg/day using electrolysis in Germany of $4.52/kg (£3.51 /kg). UK projected prices in the same report were slightly higher using an off-grid connection to a wind farm at $5.22/kg (£3.95/kg). (E4tech 2014)
In the short term there are a number of issues for policy makers and manufacturers to overcome, which can be described as the Hydrogen Supply Challenge and illustrated in Figure 22. A high hydrogen fuel price deters the purchase of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (as cost of ownership is greater than fossil fuel equivalents) which results in low demand for hydrogen which creates little incentive to reduce the cost and efficiency of hydrogen production and fuelling equipment which in turn means hydrogen fuel prices remain high.
The approach adopted in California to address this challenge has been for the State government to commit to funding the building of 100 hydrogen fuelling stations by 2020 at a cost of circa $160m. It is believed that this will drive reductions in the operating and capital costs of fuelling equipment, leading to lower hydrogen prices over time and encouraging greater fuel cell vehicle ownership. Toyota are at the same time offering free fuel for 3 years with Toyota Mirai car purchases. The building of multiple stations is an opportunity to identify technical issues related to safety and planning, building familiarity with regulations and addressing certification issues for new and evolving equipment. Whilst state investment has partly addressed the access issue, with 34 publicly accessible hydrogen stations now available in California, lower hydrogen pricing has yet to feed through in a visible way. Some older station source a percentage of their hydrogen from fossil fuel sources with California requiring at least 33% of hydrogen fuel to be renewable. Consistent reporting of hydrogen fuel pricing is hard to find, despite the big state investment in fuel stations. Department of Energy tracking studies on fuel cell bus operation costs in California, whilst reporting fuel economy, avoid mentioning fuel costs. Indicative retail prices range from $9.99- $16.63/kg. (CFCH 2018, CARB 2015b, PNNL 2018, Toyota Santa Monica 2017, Air Products 2017, NREL 2018b).
Nikola are planning to adopt similar approaches for their long-haul HGV. They have announced plans to build their own US network of hydrogen fuelling stations on major routes working with a Norwegian equipment supplier, Nel. Nikola plan to offer per mile lease options inclusive of hydrogen fuel for the Nikola trucks, presumably to address concerns amongst truck operators about both hydrogen fuel costs and overall FC truck operating costs. There is no information from Nikola on fuel dispenser delivery rates. Based on a standard dispenser rates of 120kg/hour the Nikola truck would take 30 minutes to dispense 60kg of hydrogen, some 26 minutes longer than refuelling an equivalent diesel truck (Nel 2018). To achieve an equivalent refuelling time to diesel, hydrogen dispensing would have to be around 1,000kg/hour.
The renewable hydrogen situation is mirrored in the UK, which has circa 14 locations where hydrogen fuel can be accessed, many by special arrangement or linked to fuel cell bus refuelling (Netinform 2018). The plan for development of fuelling stations in the UK is to build clusters of stations in areas, such as the South-East and Aberdeenshire, and then locate stations along major North-South and East-West motorways (H2Mobility 2017). In Aberdeen, where bus operator Stagecoach has been encouraged to operate ten hydrogen fuel cell buses, the hydrogen refuelling station is not accessible to the public although a second fuelling station has recently opened. This second station is linked to a fleet of ten Toyota Mirai cars, operated by public bodies. There is again little visibility of forecourt prices. A recent exercise by Autocar, driving a Toyota Mirai the length of the UK, produced an average pump price for hydrogen of £9.99/kg ex UK VAT ($13.19/kg) (FON 2018, Autocar 2018, Insideevs 2018). The development of hydrogen fuel for transportation in the UK is still at an early stage, with H2Mobility suggesting 2025-2030 as a time when the market could become established, so the building of fuelling station clusters is a first and necessary step. With the capital costs of fuel cell trucks predicted to be higher than their fossil fuel equivalents for the foreseeable future, it is important that hydrogen fuel prices drop over time towards the longer-term levels predicted, to encourage greater ownership.
Policy makers have so far avoided applying fuel duty to hydrogen used for FC vehicles (OLEV 2018b). In comparison there is fuel duty of £0.5795/litre on diesel used for transportation in the UK which would equate to £2.20/kg ($2.90/kg) of hydrogen. With fuel duties raising £28 billion in the UK in 2017-18 (including heating and transportation fuel), zero duty on hydrogen could substantially reduce tax income as transportation switches from heavily taxed to non-taxed fuels. The switch to zero emissions will provide health benefits as well as reduce GHG emissions but policy makers will need to identify solutions to close revenue gaps. In the US, fuel taxation is applied at a standard national (federal) level and additional taxes then vary by state (ORNL 2017).
5.2 Ensuring Hydrogen FCEV Safety in Operation
Whilst operational and refuelling safety experience with hydrogen fuel cell cars and buses is encouraging there is no room for complacency. A wide range of advice, codes and standards available focus on reducing potential safety risk (DOE 2015a, NHTSA 2011) and the high specification for hydrogen storage tanks and refuelling station design reflects a “safety first” approach from FC vehicle developers. In the US, guidance by NREL (2016) covers the planning of hydrogen refuelling stations and USDRIVE (2017b) gives a good overview of the codes and standards related to hydrogen fuelled vehicles.
With a wider adoption of the technology, more individuals and organisations will need awareness and training on potential risks. Policy makers will need to ensure that hydrogen FCEV are adequately covered by appropriate guidelines and regulations in a timely manner. In the UK, the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulations 2017 requires that hydrogen refuelling vehicle connectors comply with ISO 17268 and the vehicle meets ISO 23273. There are additional requirements that hydrogen fuelling stations comply with ISO/TS 20100, and that hydrogen fuel quality complies with ISO 14687. Other policy areas such as maintenance need further focus, as the technology becomes more common; as an example, the guidance given for MOT testers on hydrogen fuel cell systems on the UK’s Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency is currently “Call the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for advice before carrying out an MOT on a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle” (DVSA 2018).
5.3 Hydrogen Fuel Cost & Infrastructure Summary
Provided that the overall cost of ownership for fuel cell vehicles is competitive at hydrogen pricing of circa $4.23/kg, the hydrogen supply challenge, to deliver competitively priced hydrogen that is widely available, appears solvable with the right initiatives from policy makers and manufacturers. A question remains over the speed of hydrogen fuel dispensers for high volumes of fuel; refuelling 60kg tanks could take circa 30 minutes which, for a truck operator, will add to operational costs. The impact of losing fuel duty has the potential to create major financial challenges for policy makers.
5.4 Building An Electric Charging Infrastructure
It is likely that initially any HGV charging infrastructure will be built at vehicle operating centre’s where vehicles park overnight and at unloading bays on regular delivery routes. In some ways this mirrors the existing charging behaviour of users of plug in electric cars with charging generally at the home and office locations. For cars 3kW and 7kW chargers are the ones most likely to be found installed in the home. HGV chargers will be much higher output with a 50kW charger likely to be the starting point for small vehicle operators, with availability of 150kW and in the future 350kW chargers gradually improving (ICCT 2019, CCC 2020). Tesla suggest that 1 MegaWatt chargers will also be needed but these will potentially put the electricity grid under severe strain (1,000 vehicles charging at the same time would put a demand of 1 GigaWatt or the output of a medium sized gas fired power station).
Costs for charging infrastructure are mainly driven by grid infrastructure. For example a 300kVA grid connection, capable of providing upwards of 240kW charging, could cost £72,000 whilst a 800 kVA grid connection with new substation may cost £574,000. For setting up a commercial charging station costs vary but two examples:
- £274,000 for a station with two 50kW chargers, with a basic grid connection and earthworks & fencing
- £854,000 for station with four 50kW chargers, four 100kW chargers and an upgraded electricity supply (EU 2017).
For a publicly accessible rapid charger network in the UK, capital spending of circa £10.1-11.3 billion would be required by 2060 (CCC 2019).
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