Aside from the actual vehicle technology the creation of a fuelling station network is essential to the market development of these new vehicles. FCEVs can be refuelled in 3-5 minutes at a hydrogen refuelling station (HRS), offering refuelling times similar to those of conventional petrol or diesel cars.
At the moment there are a limited number of HRSs in each of the partner countries and H2ME will help expand these networks.
When hydrogen is in a tank, there is no danger of explosion. Hydrogen is an energy source that is – as is the case with every other fuel – flammable in contact with air. Risk assessments show however, that hydrogen is no more dangerous than petrol or natural gas for example. In addition, hydrogen has also been used commercially safely for more than 100 years in large quantities, including in the chemical industry.
The energy content of hydrogen tanks in vehicles is typically less than that of regular petrol or diesel vehicles. The automotive industry has agreed globally on a pressure of 700 bars for hydrogen in cars – the pressure of hydrogen storage systems is mechanically controllable. Hydrogen vehicles driven in demonstration trial programmes have all undergone the automotive manufacturers’ complete development cycle, including crash tests, and are cleared for road use. The vehicles are therefore as safe as conventional vehicles.
Different refuelling strategies will be investigated under H2ME:
FCEVs and the associated refuelling infrastructures are currently in the very early stages of the market introduction. The current priority is to introduce vehicles in markets where a strategy is in place to support their use with an appropriate infrastructure for hydrogen fuel supply, distribution and sale.
Inevitably in the early years this infrastructure will grow slowly as the demand for vehicles raises. During the introduction phase (i.e until 2020), the number of stations will remain low but will increase faster than the demand for hydrogen to ensure an adequate hydrogen refuelling network coverage allowing FCEV sales to a broader market. This requires a deployment of 100’s of stations per country.
The HRS investment costs will remain relatively high in the early years and with equivalent low utilisation, station investors require support in the early years to justify the challenging early investments in the stations before vehicles arrive in large numbers. As demand on the stations increases, they can become profitable investments.
A mature market (i.e self-sustaining) is expected to be reached by 2025, beyond which point all that will be required to sustain this environmentally valuable market is a favourable regulatory regime.