For more than 20 years, California has been committed to protecting the environment and developing renewable energies. As the birthplace of the world's very first hybrid cars, it has introduced a number of tax incentives to encourage people to purchase electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. In 2018, Jerry Brown (the then Governor of California) introduced legislation to help the state reach its target of having 5 million electric or hydrogen-powered cars on its roads by 2030. The legislation also provided US$2.5 billion over eight years to encourage – among other things – the installation of hydrogen stations.
Current political investment has encouraged the introduction of three hydrogen-powered models. Two Japanese ones (the Toyota Mirai and the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell) and a South Korean vehicle (the Hyundai NEXO which replaced the Tucson / iX35 Fuel Cell). Meanwhile, the main US car manufacturers are focusing their efforts on electric technology but developments around hydrogen are in the works. Hydrogen Council member General Motors provided some insights on that matter.
California currently has 40 hydrogen stations and wants to bring this number up to a thousand by 2030. As a member of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, Air Liquide is involved in this deployment operation: the Group has already installed 4 stations across the state. In early 2019, the Group started work on building the first large-scale liquid hydrogen production unit. With capacity to produce nearly 30 tonnes of hydrogen per day, this unit will be able to fuel 35,000 fuel cell electric vehicles – almost the number of FCEVs expected to be running on Western US roads by 2022. The Group has also signed a long-term contract with FirstElement Fuel Inc. to supply hydrogen to its network of Californian stations.
Michael Graff, Executive Vice President & Executive Committee Member of the Air Liquide group said: “these agreements will accelerate the deployment of new hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles – cars, trucks, buses – planned by automotive manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda and other leading OEMs in California”.
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China's interest in fuel cells began back in the 70s during its space research. But it didn't start focusing on hydrogen mobility until 20 years later. Several of its five-year plans will therefore include research programs on the topic. In its “Energy Development Strategy Action Plan” (2014-2020), one of the 20 key actions identified concerns hydrogen and fuel cells. As is the case for Japan, Germany and California, hydrogen mobility is getting a great deal of support from the government.
In only a few years, China has accelerated the initiative. In the spring of 2019, the government amended its annual work report to include the construction of charging stations for hydrogen-powered vehicles. The country currently only has fifteen or so. But it will need to increase this number quickly if it is to power the millions of vehicles that it wants to have running on its roads by 2030.
This is why Air Liquide – which already has a presence in China with nearly 90 industrial gas production units – set up a joint-venture in spring 2019 with Chinese group Chengdu Huaqi Houpu Holding: Air Liquide Houpu Hydrogen Equipment. Its aim is to produce and sell hydrogen stations across the country in order to meet market demand.
Chinese automotive manufacturers are also going to have to pick up the pace if they want to catch up. Initially, priority will be given to utility vehicles and buses. Starting in 2019, 30,000 buses will be built every year. As far as private vehicles are concerned, Great Wall Motors has invested heavily in research & development and is aiming to bring out its first hydrogen-powered model by 2022. Dongfeng Motor Corporation has followed suit by entering into industrial partnerships with a number of local stakeholders.
Although combating fine particles is China's short-term aim, eventually it needs to encourage the emergence of national champions across the sector to feed the Chinese market, but not exclusively: hydrogen mobility will also provide jobs – something that China understands very well.
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Article published on September 06, 2019