California Greening

California Greening

As California looks to dramatically increase the use of hydrogen as a sustainable fuel, Ricardo's Marc Wiseman and Bill Elrick explain the California Fuel Cell Partnership.

The question of which will be the most sustainable method of powering vehiclesin the long term is still an open debate. Although the global focus is currently on battery electric vehicles, work is also progressing in California on bringing large numbers of hydrogen fuel cell electric
vehicles to the market over the next decade. Ricardo is at the forefront of this initiative, working on a project with the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) aimed at ramping up the number of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on California’s roads to 1 million by 2030, along with an
infrastructure of 1000 hydrogen filling stations to support them.

“Ricardo is active in assessing the potential methods for deploying the
hydrogen infrastructure, the likely cost of hydrogen to the consumer. and the vehicle cost of ownership,” explains Dr Marc Wiseman, president, global mobility programmes at Ricardo Strategic Consulting. “When the proposed numbers are reached, the environmental benefits will be substantial.”

The CaFCP estimates a reduction in gasoline consumption of over 693 million US gallons, with NOx emissions reduced by 3.9 million tonnes. Based on today’s energy mix of 33 percent renewable hydrogen, it also predicts a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 2.7 million tonnes. These numbers can be significantly boosted by increasing the proportion of decarbonized hydrogen.

The development of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle was seen as the next
big thing at the turn of the 21st century, and manufacturers and organizations ploughed huge resources into making them work. “The CaFCP has been in operation for 20 years and during that
time it hasn’t wavered in its mission to establish hydrogen as a primary fuel
for powering vehicles,” says Bill Elrick, executive director, California Fuel Cell
Partnership.

Hydrogen is already being produced from sustainable energy sources today and instead of finding ways to restrict the amount of renewable electrical energy to meet prevailing grid demand, that energy can be stored in the form of hydrogen for indefinite periods. In something of a
virtuous circle, the production of hydrogen by electrolysis can be used to expand the total output of renewable electricity eventually delivered, which helps improve grid stability and efficiency across the entire generation system.

Ricardo and the Toyota fuel cell electric truck

Earlier this year Toyota announced the next great leap towards the future of zero-emission trucking when it unveiled the second version of its Project Portal hydrogen fuel cell electric Class 8 truck. The new ‘Beta’ truck significantly exceeds the capabilities of the ‘Alpha’ demonstrator revealed in 2017, with a 50 percent greater range of over 300 miles per fill. The truck has enhanced versatility and manoeuvrability with the addition of a sleeper cab and a unique fuel cabinet combination that further increases cab space without increasing the wheelbase.

Ricardo assisted Toyota with a wide range of engineering functions on both this vehicle and the previous Alpha demonstrator. These included systems integration and packaging, including the fuel cells, power electronics, hydrogen tanks, cooling systems, batteries, electric motors and transmission. Many of the ancillary systems that are traditionally driven by the engine were also electrified, including the air compressor, power steering and HVAC system, the controls of which required integration into the vehicle’s J1939 CAN BUS. Both the Alpha and Beta vehicles were constructed by Ricardo at the workshops of its Detroit Technology Campus located at Belleville, Michigan.

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