The role that hydrogen and fuel cells are playing in transforming the transportation sector was a major theme at several international gatherings in Vancouver, British Columbia in recent weeks. Vehicle OEMs, fuel cell suppliers, on- and off-road fleet operators and others gathered on May 22-24, 2019 for The Impulse Summit for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, also known as f-cell + HFC.  This well-known conference and trade fair features speakers from around the world and showcases the latest developments in the fuel cell industry through technical panels, keynote addresses, product exhibitions and workshops.

At this year’s f-cell + HFC event in Canada, Nuvera co-hosted a workshop highlighting the use of fuel cells for seaports and shipping. As we have discussed in previous blogs, ports around the world are concentrated sources of greenhouse gas emissions and criteria pollutants. Not surprisingly, policy-makers, community and environmental groups, as well as port authorities themselves, are recognizing that ports can play a significant role in improving local air quality by reducing their use of diesel fuel – and by making their operations more efficient and less costly through equipment electrification.

As a case in point, Nuvera’s Director of Marketing, Gus Block, spoke about how Nuvera is integrating two of its 45 kW fuel cell engines into an electrified Hyster® container handler for operation at the Port of Los Angeles. The Nuvera engines will enable the terminal operator to undertake its most intensive duty cycle – loading and unloading containers onto and off railway cars – using zero-emissions heavy equipment powered by Nuvera.

Railway Operation at the San Pedro Bay Ports in Long Beach, California

Railway Operation at the San Pedro Bay Ports in Long Beach, California

The product engineers who developed the electrified top loader at the Hyster® Big Truck Development Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands concluded that batteries alone were not a viable power source for the railway duty cycle. Not only would it require a battery pack more than twice the size of the available space in the vehicle; it would also require more hours to recharge than is available over the course of a day without disrupting operations. Using the fuel cell top loader, the operator will be able to accomplish normal daily work. Fueling will be performed in a manner consistent with current protocol, by bringing the fueling truck to the vehicle and quickly refilling the on-board hydrogen tanks.

In fact, “hydrogen is the new diesel” was a frequently heard theme among f-cell + HFC Summit speakers and participants, referring to how fuel cells enable the transition from portable fuel for internal combustion engines (diesel) to portable electricity for electrified powertrains in heavy-duty service (hydrogen).

Kicking off a half-day workshop on fuel cell electric buses attended by transit fleet operators, bus OEMs and system integrators, Jaimie Levin of the Center for Transportation and the Environment repurposed an acronym that became a rallying cry at the dawn of the digital age: KISS (“Keep It Simple, Stupid”). He suggests that transit agencies can greatly simplify their operations by adopting fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs) for their entire fleet, rather than a mixture of battery electric, diesel hybrid, and conventional platforms. FCEBs do not need maintenance personnel to connect them to battery chargers on a daily basis (or more frequently), and they can handle the same routes and weather conditions that conventional buses do. In practical terms this means that any bus in a 100% FCEB fleet can be used at all times without considering the difficultly of the terrain, the required range, or the ambient temperature on any given day.

Levin summarized four reasons fuel cells are a great fit for transit agencies:

  • Proven range: 300-350 miles on a single fill
  • Significant weight reduction vs. batteries
  • Rapid refueling speeds (6-10 min)
  • One-to-one replacement of conventional vehicles

These same considerations apply to many other heavy-duty fleet applications that require long range or high uptime, such as delivery vans, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), yard tractors and Class 8 drayage trucks.

The week after f-cell + HFC, the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM10) meeting got underway in Vancouver. CEM10 leaders announced that the International Energy Agency will be coordinating efforts among the U.S., Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and the European Commission to launch a new hydrogen and fuel cell initiative. The purpose of this partnership is to drive international collaboration on policies, programs and projects to accelerate the commercial deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies across all sectors of the economy, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Energy. Affirming the themes of the f-cell + HFC summit the previous week, a primary focus of the new initiative is enabling deployment of hydrogen fuel cell technologies in transport, including freight, mass transit, light-rail and marine.

Nuvera Fuel Cells was founded in 2000 to usher in “a new and novel era” in clean transportation solutions. Over the past two decades, we’ve been joined by many companies, organizations and individuals to lay the groundwork for making this vision a commercial reality. As a fuel cell engine provider, Nuvera is proud to be part of the industry that is defining the next generation of advanced motive power, which we like to call “Engines 2.0.”