Hydrogen in Transport: Scooting around the Islands – CleanTech Magazine
Islands and ‘energy islands’ (population centres remote from grid connection) are leading the pack in terms of fuel cell adoption. The scope to generate hydrogen locally, from renewable sources, is especially valuable on islands because the alternative often involves costly imports of fuel. Stationary power generation using fuel cell technology is increasingly common – and now islands are also forging ahead in terms of fuel cell vehicle adoption.
Italy’s Acta SpA (which is listed on the London Stock Exchange AIM market) has developed an innovative distributed hydrogen electrolyser solution, for fuel cell scooters, in partnership with Taiwan’s Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies Ltd (APFCT). APFCT has a unique hydrogen refuelling model for scooters involving low pressure hydrogen canisters which are exchanged when depleted. Acta and APFCT have developed refuelling stations, integrated into a vending machine, which use Acta’s electrolyser and enable the hydrogen for the fuel cell scooter canisters to be generated locally from solar energy.
APFCT’s PEM fuel cell generator powers the company’s ZES scooter. The company also works in partnership with other manufacturers, but the ZES 4.5 is currently the focus of attention. The ZES, which has received funding from the Taiwanese Government, is fuelled by two hydrogen canisters which can be removed and exchanged in under a minute. The low pressure metal hydride canisters are recognised as a safe hydrogen storage method, and the vision is for vending machines to be installed at existing retail points such as gasoline filling stations – overcoming the barrier of establishing a local consumer hydrogen infrastructure.
With scooters representing over two thirds of road transportation in Taiwan and some 1.4 million on the country’s roads, the roll-out of zero emission scooter solutions is a high priority for the Taiwanese Government. APFCT has been collaborating with the Government on the verification of technical standards and supervision regulations for hydrogen fuel cell scooters, and Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs recently announced approved safety and reliability standards for fuel cell scooters and motorcycles – paving the way for them to enter into mass production.
The Taiwanese Government has been trialling electric scooters on islands for some time. An extensive electric scooter programme featured as part of the US$300 million Low Carbon Island Development Project on Taiwan’s Penghu Islands, which have a population of 85,000 – the first ever large scale ‘eco- island’ project on an outlying island region. APFCT is currently undertaking a beta test to deploy 80 fuel cell scooters and refuelling points in tourist locations on islands in southern Taiwan. A large scale project involving the implementation of a refuelling kiosk system using Acta’s electrolyser on Taiwan’s islands looks set to get the green light in the near future.
Acta’s electrolyser technology is also being used across the Pacific in Hawaii. Acta has shipped a 500 L/hour electrolyser to its Hawaiian partner, H2 Technologies Inc., for inclusion in a clean transport demonstration using photovoltaic panels as the energy source – also involving the APFCT fuel cell scooters. The project on Hawaii is particularly significant owing to the key role of the state (which is heavily dependent on imported oil) in promoting renewable and clean technology solutions within the US. (The Hawaiian state Government is strongly promoting renewable and clean technology solutions, including the use of hydrogen for transportation and energy storage.)
Fuel Cell Today observes that the APFCT’s scooter project makes it clear that scooters are in a strong position to catalyse change domestically in “areas in which transport is poor, where scooters are most popular and where air quality is declining”. Medium term, the target market for the APFCT ZES is the short range transportation for inner city commutes. Over 50 million scooters are produced worldwide annually – of which 75% are sold in China, India and South East Asia. Short term, however, the ZES is well placed to become the transport solution of choice for ‘scooting around’ on islands – fuelled by hydrogen generated from solar energy using Acta’s electrolyser technology.