Hydrogen fuel cell fans are determined to contribute to the electric mobility revolution one way or another, and it looks like EV charging stations are the way in. The idea seems to be catching on with an assist from the new Extreme E racing circuit, which showcased the concept last year with the help of the fuel cell firm AFC Energy. The two are back together again for Round 2 this year.
Have Some Hydrogen With Your New Battery Electric Vehicle
Extreme E is the brainchild of Formula E founder Alejandro Agog. Formula E launched as an FIA-sanctioned showcase for new cutting edge battery-electric vehicle technology, and the Extreme version is intended to demonstrate the ability of an electric SUV to handle any conditions that Mother Nature can throw at it.
The inhibiting factor would be how to stage EV charging stations in remote locations where grid connections are not available. On-site wind or solar generation with battery-type energy storage is one option, and the US military is among those exploring that avenue. Extreme E went another route and settled on hydrogen fuel cells.
CleanTechnica caught wind of the Extreme E fuel cell EV charging venture in time to catch the inaugural round of the series in 2021.
The 2021 Extreme E series put AFC’s hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle charging station to the test, complete with a solar-powered electrolysis system that produces green hydrogen on site.
Recapping the system’s global travels in service for the first three races last year, Extreme E explained that “the system has been able to charge all race vehicles across each race weekend, showing its dependability in harsh conditions following thousands of miles of sea travel.”
“The technology has already proved to be game changer right from our first race event in Saudi Arabia in April. As our first location, this was incredibly challenging for everyone involved – not only were we positioned completely remotely within the desert of AlUla, no roads, no infrastructure at all – but it was very hot and there was so much dust which would affect any sensitive machinery,” added Alejandro Agog.
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Charging Today, Killing Diesel Generators Tomorrow
AFC announced the return of its hydrogen fuel cell EV charging station for the 2022 season earlier this month.
“The new contract, signed yesterday, will see the Company’s fuel cell system again being rented to Extreme E on commercial terms and used to generate power for all of the race vehicles at each of the five rounds in the 2022 season, which will include races in South America for the first time,” AFC enthused.
Last week, CleanTechnica had a chance to speak with AFC’s CEO, Adam Bond, about Extreme E and the company’s plans for a fuel cell future in the electric vehicle field.
Bond made it clear that the charging station is just one part of a plan that encompasses a broad array of use cases for hydrogen over and above the mobility market.
“If you look at the targets and some of the statements coming out of the Hydrogen Council and governments, the expectation is that up to 20% of the world’s energy will be fueld by hydrogen or some form of hydrogen carrier,” he said. “The scope of growth is enormous, and the use cases for green hydrogen are becoming more clear.”
The electric vehicle market is only just beginning to accelerate, but Bond indicated that incumbent industries provide pathways for the rapid growth of green hydrogen right here and now. One good example is the diesel generator market, which he estimates at $25 billion USD. If all goes according to plan, fuel cells could reduce that to zero.
Of course, fuel cells have to compete with battery storage systems enabled by wind or solar power, but Bond anticipates plenty of opportunities for hydrogen to gain an edge.
“For Extreme E we are showcasing you can make your own fuel irrespective of where you are in the world with a little bit of ingenuity and capability,” he explained. “The aim is to replace diesel generators in areas and locations that are hard to electrify.”
The Green Ammonia Connection
The sustainable H2 trend is already beginning to ripple out in the form of green ammonia, and that is an advantage for fuel cell stakeholders like AFC. The company has been collaborating with the Swiss firm ABB on fuel cell technology, and last fall two companies inked a deal for AFC’s high performance “S” Series fuel cell system, which can run on hydrogen or ammonia.
As with Extreme E, part of the ABB plan is to provide for high performance electric vehicle charging in locations where grid connections are slim to none. That does a big favor to electric vehicle marketers, who are trying to convince the car buying public that electric vehicles can be charged up practically anywhere.
As for other use cases, there is plenty of room for hydrogen fuel cells in the electric mobility market of the future. Skeptics continue to scoff at the notion of a breakthrough moment for fuel cell electric passenger cars, but the list of other mobility formulations includes aircraft, watercraft, heavy duty trucks, and locomotives.
Aside from use in a fuel cell, green hydrogen can also decarbonize other industries. One good example is the power generation field, where stakeholders in the gas turbine industry have been tweaking their designs to enable gas power plants to transition from fossil fuel to green hydrogen.
What’s Next For Formula E
The likelihood of a Formula H popping up seems likelier, now that a number of leading automakers have introduced fuel cell SUVs. If you have any thoughts about that, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Better yet, head on over to the Formula E website, where they just announced Extreme H over the weekend. Set your clocks for 2024, because that’s when it will launch.
Meanwhile, Formula E is still running strong for its 8th season this year. The series launched with a two-day event in Diriya, Saudi Arabia on January 28 and traveled to Mexico City earlier this month.
Rome is next on the list with a two-day affair launching on April 9. The series also includes stops at Monaco, Berlin, Jakarta, Vancouver (Canada, not the US), New York, and London before wrapping up in Seoul.
If you want to catch Extreme E 2022 there is still plenty of time. The season launched in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, and the series picks up again in May in Sardinia.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Extreme E electric vehicle series featuring hydrogen fuel cell EV charging stations (courtesy of Extreme E).
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