As the energy system transforms to include the use of regenerative sources of energy, the importance of hydrogen as a source of chemical energy is taking on a new level of significance.
The use of hydrogen here is not just limited to a fuel for vehicles. In the context of the overall changes to energy and mobility it can also be used for stationary electricity and heat generation purposes in gas turbines, in combined heat and power plants (CHP) or in fuel cells.
Adapting the grid infrastructure, acquiring the necessary storage capacities, and stronger integration of renewable energies in the energy supply system are major challenges. Because of the considerable fluctuations inherent in the generation of energy from wind and photovoltaics, chemical fuel sources in particular, such as hydrogen, are becoming increasingly interesting. It represents a flexible solution for the question of medium and long term storage of energy and the stabilisation of the power grid. Water is split into the elements through electrolysis so that the hydrogen can be stored and fed to different applications. These range from use as fuel for vehicles, to use in stationary electricity or heat generation systems in gas turbines, CHBs or fuel cells.
There are major differences in drive types within the electric mobility system, and fuel cell technology is another type of drive, alongside vehicles with purely battery-powered and hybrid drive technologies. Compared to battery-powered vehicles, hydrogen permits better performance and range. Fuel cells can be used here in all vehicle classes, right up to buses, which potentially means a largely CO2-free transport system. There is a possibility of market shares of 20 – 50% in vehicle sales worldwide in the year 2050.
On the subject of stationary energy supply systems, fuel cell-based systems offer a way to save energy not only in industry, but also in private and public buildings. Thus, rising sales figures are expected in this area too, beginning in 2015. Even more potential lies in larger stationary industrial plants, but also in the early markets which are already operating commercially, such as uninterruptible power supply systems, emergency power supply systems, recreational applications or specialised and conveying vehicles.
On the whole, hydrogen produced through regeneration as fuel source and its use in fuel cells as an efficient energy converter can contributed to achieving global and national climate protection goals even faster. The dependency on fossil fuels is also reduced considerably at the same time, while the installation of added-value processes and the creation of jobs in the country are advanced. This way, despite the initially higher costs, considerable economic opportunities will open up when the technology breaks through worldwide, especially in the fields of electric mobility, stationary power generation, and the energy economy.
The e-mobil BW study “Energy sources of the future” [Energieträger der Zukunft] offers detailed descriptions of technical concepts behind hydrogen production as well as various forms of the fuel cell. It also highlights the economic potential available in the industrialisation of these technologies, analysing it down to the component level.
The study “Hydrogen infrastructure for sustainable mobility - state of development and research needs” [Wasserstoff-Infrastruktur für eine nachhaltige Mobilität - Entwicklungsstand und Forschungsbedarf], offers a comprehensive overview of the current state of the hydrogen infrastructure and available technical concepts and components at filling stations.
If your company or institution wants to get involved in the industrialisation of fuel cell technology, opportunities are available to do so in the framework of the cluster, Fuel Cell BW.