Government pushes for hydrogen infrastructure

Nick Clegg
31 Jan, 2014 12:07pm Steve Fowler

Hydrogen power part of new ultra low carbon Government support package

The focus of the Government’s new Go Ultra Low campaign may have been plug-in vehicles with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg casting his eye over the BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, Toyota Prius and Vauxhall Ampera, but hydrogen powered cars are very much on the Government’s radar.

BMW i3 vs rivals: electric car triple test

Speaking exclusively to Auto Express at the Go Ultra Low launch at London’s Ace Café, secretary of state for transport, Robert Goodwill, said: “The Government is an active participant in the joint industry-Government UKH2Mobility project, which was launched in January 2012 to evaluate the potential of hydrogen for transport.”

“The project’s work is ongoing and has highlighted some potential options and choices for both Government and industry stakeholders. These will be considered by participants over the next few months.”

• Nick Clegg launches 'Go Ultra Low' with £9.3m investment

Mr Goodwill also hinted that funding would be available for hydrogen fuel projects in the future: “The Government is now considering responses received following the call for evidence to inform the design of the £500m package of Government support for ultra low emission vehicles between 2015-2020. Any interventions from Government for the roll-out of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles and the associated refuelling infrastructure will be determined in the context of that wider package of support.”

Infrastructure for electric cars will receive a big boost from Government funding with additional cash being made available for ultra-fast charging points, according to Nick Clegg. He also told us that Tesla founder Elon Musk has been asked to advise the Government on the technology.

Answering questions from Auto Express readers about the lack of a national recharging scheme, Robert Goodwill said: “Drivers need to have the confidence that they can charge their vehicle with ease whilst going about their daily lives.”

“Since April 2013 all publically accessible charge points funded by the government have to have pay as you go functionality, ensuring that anyone can use them without having to sign-up to a membership scheme or carry a variety of membership cards around with them.”

“We have also seen the emergence of roaming agreements between regional schemes, which allow members of one scheme to use chargepoints in neighbouring schemes.”

Nick Clegg also told Auto Express that his family car is currently a Ford Galaxy, but he hoped that there would soon be an ultra-low CO2 car that would be suitable for him with his three children.

• Toyota to launch hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in 2015
UK hydrogen plans revealed 

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About time! Shame we are lacking what 5 years behind the states. I'd like to see all funds that are trying to put the charge points everywhere diverted to this, this is the future, plug in is a stop gap.

Hydrogen is all generated using natural gas by steam reforming and water-gas shift reactions. It all comes from fossil fuels. So much for carbon-free energy. You don't want to know how much it would cost to generate by solar-, wind-, or bio-derived energy. Sorry, H2 is a costly pipedream. As said on Dragnet, "Just the facts."

My view of these half-arsed measures is that our government is merely paying lip-service to clean motoring while throwing away millions of pounds of tax-payers money.
Yesterday bio-fuel was in the spotlight. Today the focus has shifted to electric chargers and hydrogen power. Tomorrow it'll be something else. May be CNG or shale gas!

Of course they are interested in Hydrogen because it will be much easier to slap on 70% tax like they do on petrol and diesel !!!

You can't make electricity so expensive and you can always install solar pv and/or a wind turbine.

Hydrogen production is hugely energy intensive and that wasted energy is far more efficiently put into charging batteries !

By the time fuel cells become affordable batteries will be more than good enough and charge much faster. A hydrogen infrastructure would be a complete waste of tax payers money.

If users are as stupid in dealing with hydrogen as they can be with petrol, then there will be some nasty incidents.

Actually there is catalysts in R&D that work right now that can produce with out the need for fossil fuels but they still need more R&D to bring the price and stability down. Like anything though they will develop and becoming cheaper and more efficient.

One big worry that has been over looked with all these electric cars is our ageing infrastructure. National Grid are currently upgrading a lot of routes but if we were all to suddenly switch to electric now we would crash the network and over load it and we still have at least 10-15 years until these upgrade works are completed. Then think of the demand on the stations,the hippies are so against us having nuclear power, if they get their way and stop the construction there is no way on this earth could we all go electric, not without the above mentioned inefficient wind turbines covering every spare bit of green land we have or covering all said land with solar panels.

Actually you can, they could force you to have an independent metered supply for your 3 phase charging point for a car thus enabling higher rate charging.

Yes the process is expensive now, but like the refinement of oil the process will improve and will reduce in price making it much better for the environment, batteries are a stop gap nothing more. These fuel cells have applications that can change the world, they will even be able to power your home thus making the hugely inefficient wind turbines redundant too.

Andy, - with all due respect, may I suggest you do some "in-depth" research of proper peer-reviewed articles on this topic?
Hydrogen is not an energy source, it is simply an energy storage medium and its production is neither cheap, efficient or clean.
Then you have to store and transport it, - at 700 bar! Do some research on that too!
As far as Hydrogen production is concerned, Photocatalysts and Biocatalysts are so far away from commercial viability that it's a joke.
We'll see game-changing advances in battery technology well before either PC or BC come anywhere close to viability. For example, the Lithium-Sulphur battery recently developed and patented by scientists at the US DoE Oak Ridge labs is a glimpse of what's to come. Four times the energy density of Lithium Ion, twice the workable charge/discharge cycles, half the charging time and it doesn't catch fire! Oh, and the raw material and production costs are estimated to be 20% less than LiOn batteries. (Imagine a Tesla Model S with a 1,600-2,000 km range on a single charge!)
Hydrogen is unfortunately the energy equivalent of the "Emperor's new clothes". The challenges faced by the "Hydrogen Economy" are frequently down-played by those with vested interests and by ignorant journalists who have no idea what they're writing about.
Do not be fooled. Do the research for yourself...

Petrol alone is not a fuel source, without the combustion process its just a flammable liquid. Same applies with hydrogen, it needs to be applied and used correctly. You seem to be missing the point that yes its expensive right now but as with all things the price WILL drop and become viable. Same as EV's have, the first one was made sometime back in the 60's and now 50 years on they are finally usable, all be it on a very small scale which frankly at the moment makes them a unrealistic replacement for the Internal combustion engine. They may make a great 2nd car at the moment but that's it.

The batteries you refer too are also years away from on the road commercial use for many reasons, safety is still yet to be proven in collisions, and mainly the required capacity needed for a day to day car hasn't even been explored as of yet. Many many hours of testing and R&D are still required until they become viable. Again these batteries maybe part (I stress the part) of the future but so is Hydrogen.

Also what about the national infrastructure upgrades that are going to be required to carry all this additional demand around the country and then we will need more power stations to be built than is already forecast thus landing us with billions upon billions of spend required from energy firms, how will this happen when we are struggling to get investment for even 3 new nuclear stations? I'm sure people will mention wind and solar as ways to charge the car but this just makes them an even bigger liability.

As an electrical engineer, Craig it's something I have a vested interest in and have looked in to many times. Sadly it would appear some people are taken in by the green propaganda and don't think about the full knock on effects that an EV powered society will have.

- thanks for your response. Seems your mind is made up. I still recommend doing some actual research, - but only you can do that.

In the meantime, consider a few things:

1. If up-grading the electricity distribution infrastructure is expensive and time-consuming, I urge you to quantify the cost of building a brand new hydrogen distribution infrastructure from scratch. The cost of upgrading the electricity grid pales to insignificance comparatively!

2. The transition to electric vehicles will not occur overnight.
Gradual upgrades to generation and distribution infrastructure can be made in step with electric vehicle adoption. This is not rocket science.

3. As an "Electrical Engineer" you would know that the difference between peak and off-peak load is such that with effective
implementation of OpenADR and V2G across the grid, there would be sufficient capacity to meet electric vehicle demand while baseload capacity is gradually increased over time as adoption progresses.

4. The Li-S batteries to which I referred are probably less than five years away from production in commercial quantities. The DoE want them out there in three years.
The commercial imperatives driving this go way beyond vehicle
applications (think power for any mobile device) and as a consequence the necessary investment WILL be made and it will happen long before any viable RENEWABLE Hydrogen production technology is available. (If ever...)

5. In rainy old England this may not be the case, but where I live, a grid-connected 4kW PV array is sufficient to meet the power demands of say, a Tesla S used for an 80km daily commute. Based on existing fuel vs electricity costs, the ROI on this private infrastructure is 2.5 years.
Think about that.
After 2.5 years, the energy to drive your electric vehicle every day is effectively FREE!
Can you do that with Hydrogen? Or will you be forever locked into the existing paradigm of dependency on large
corporations for your fuel and exposure to their pricing whims? It’s the potential freedom from this
dependency that scares the living bejesus out of politicians (tax revenue) and petro-chemical giants (sales revenue).

I won't go into elaborate detail, but my opinions are based on exhaustive research, direct discussions with scientists in the relevant disciplines and quantitative analysis of a range of potential scenarios.
On what have you based your opinions?