2018 was yet another eventful year for hydrogen technologies, delivering a fresh crop of major advances and disruptive innovations. From new hydrogen fuel cell cars hitting the road, to new hydrogen production facilities breaking ground, 2018 has brought us one step closer to a clean future powered by hydrogen. With the grim forecast depicted by several climate reports published this year, it is clearer than ever that our society — and our planet — are in dire need of drastic change in order to avert climate catastrophe. As the following projects demonstrate, hydrogen can play an integral role in our urgent energy transition. Discover our list of the Top 9 most exciting hydrogen projects in 2018.
#1. Hyundai launches Nexo, a wildly futuristic fuel cell SUV with an autonomous driving feature.
One of the most exciting reveals from the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show came with Hyundai’s Nexo. The Korean automaker’s next-generation hydrogen fuel cell SUV has raised the bar for the auto industry with its full range of futuristic capabilities and extras, including an autonomous driving function. Enabling hands-free driving on the freeway and autonomous parking, Hyundai’s Nexo ties hydrogen to the future of the auto industry.
Further proof of the mounting success of FCEVs, the Nexo has become a massive hit since its unveiling. According to Dr. Sae Hoon Kim, head of hydrogen fuel cell research for Hyundai Motor Group, “After the launch of Nexo in March, we received a much stronger response from consumers than we expected, with orders far exceeding our projections. In Korea alone, we saw five to six times more vehicle orders than we anticipated.”
Hyundai Motor Group has also revealed its plans to spend 6.7 billion dollars through 2030 to raise its fuel cell production by more than 200-fold. The Korean group will boost its annual production capacity to 700.000 units from 3.000 today. Worldwide, the future is bright for FCEVs!
#2. The Port of Long Beach will receive the world’s first hydrogen truck refueling station.
Reports estimate that trucking in the United States, China and the European Union account for a full one-fifth of global oil demand: that’s 17 million barrels of oil per day! If we are to achieve the massive emissions reduction needed to avert climate disaster, trucking will have to step up its clean energy initiatives. Building on Toyota’s Project Portal, an ambitious pilot program aiming to get hydrogen-powered trucks onto the road, Southern California will soon become home to the world’s first hydrogen truck refueling station.
Confirmed in 2018 and intended for the Port of Long Beach, one the world’s largest freight hubs, the facility will supply hydrogen fuel cell trucks with hydrogen produced from 100% renewable biogas at Toyota’s nearby Tri-Gen facility. The project will receive $8 million from the California Energy Commission, as part of its program to encourage the use of zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell trucks. Keep on (clean) truckin’!
#3. Air Liquide promises to build the first world-scale liquid hydrogen production plant dedicated to hydrogen energy markets
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) have begun their conquest of the retail market. Nowhere have they made more progress than in California. That’s why Air Liquide has agreed to invest $150 million to build the first world-scale plant to produce liquid hydrogen to fuel these vehicles and support the state’s hydrogen merchant market.
For Air Liquide VP Michael Graff, hydrogen is a “an essential sustainable energy vector of the future and a cornerstone of the energy transition.” With construction slated to begin in early 2019, the plant will have a capacity of nearly 30 tons of hydrogen per day — an amount that can fuel 35,000 FCEVs. In the words of Joel Ewanick, Founder and CEO of California-based retail hydrogen station company FirstElement Fuel Inc., “This signals a transitional moment for the hydrogen automobile market. […] It’s yet another indication of the momentum for hydrogen as a replacement for gasoline.” Let’s make the switch!
#4. Hydrogen-powered trains hit the tracks in Germany
Hydrogen is picking up steam in every domain! Coradia iLint, the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell trains, have entered commercial service in Lower Saxony, Germany, in September. The zero-emission trains run silently on about 100 kilometers of line between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervorde and Buxtehude. Though rail transport is only a minor offender in terms of pollution, hydrogen can make a difference in this sector in regards to carbon neutrality goals. While batteries will play a role in reducing the rail industry’s carbon footprint, hydrogen will serve as the linchpin of these efforts to achieve the government’s zero-emissions target in rail transport.
The same year, the French Parliament submitted a report on “green rolling stock” to the French Ministry of Transport. In it, the deputies call for the French government to expand the hydrogen industry and integrate hydrogen into trains in order to replace diesel fuels. This comes in addition to the country’s “National Hydrogen Plan” announced in June 2018 to support the development of hydrogen.
#5. Hydrogen investment gains momentum worldwide
Next step: global mobilization! Governments and companies all around the world kicked their hydrogen investments into high gear in 2018. One of the year’s most promising developments came in the form of cooperation between the public and private sectors, a key to ensuring a sustainable market for hydrogen in the future. For example, Japan H2 Mobility became the world’s first collaborative enterprise consisting of hydrogen station owners and operators, automobile companies and financial investors working together on hydrogen mobility in Japan.
Meanwhile, China initiated a vast project to form a “hydrogen city” in Jinan, with the aim of mass-producing hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2020. Last but not least, South Korea pledged $2.3 billion through a public-private partnership to speed up the country’s hydrogen FCEV ecosystem. Meanwhile, there has been a fourfold increase in the number of members in the Hydrogen Council in 2018. Who’s next?
#6. 80 hydrogen stations built worldwide
It’s getting better all the time for hydrogen mobility! A key piece of the puzzle in terms of building a sustainable hydrogen FCEVs market, the hydrogen fueling station network continues to grow wider every year. In 2018, the world gained 80 new hydrogen stations, bringing the total number of hydrogen fueling stations worldwide to about 300.
California has kept the ball rolling with the release of a 2030 Vision, published by the California Fuel Cell Partnership. This wide-ranging report outlines an ambitious plan to roll out a comprehensive network of 1,000 hydrogen fueling stations placed strategically to serve consumers in all major markets in the state. Commitments like these are just what the hydrogen industry needs to reach scale!
#7. 10,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are hitting the world’s roads
2017 was already a big year for hydrogen fuel cell vehicle sales. In fact, that year doubled the total sales of FCEVs in all previous years of their existence on the market. Needless to say, hydrogen mobility is accelerating at a record pace! In 2018, the positive trend continued as the global fleet of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles climbed to a total of 10,000!
As recent investments continue to pay dividends throughout the hydrogen industry, who knows what 2019 may have in store for the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market.
#8. 231,660 trips made by Hype hydrogen taxis in Paris
Ride-hailing is cleaner than ever in the French capital, thanks to the city’s growing fleet of hydrogen-powered cabs known as Hype Taxis. In 2018, the Hype fleet reached the 100-vehicle landmark and racked up a new record: 231,660 trips made in Paris, amounting to a total of over 3.5 million kilometers!
Launched in 2015 by the French startup STEP (Paris Electric Taxi Association), Hype is the world’s first hydrogen-powered taxi fleet. Receiving support from Air Liquide and the FCH JU public-private partnership on fuel cells and hydrogen, Hype aims to expand its fleet to 600 vehicles by 2020. According to Mathieu Gardies, President of STEP, Hype Taxis show the vital role played by hydrogen in “facilitating and speeding up the necessary energy transition of urban taxis.” This is one initiative that lives up to the hype!
#9. 10,326 nautical miles sailed by hydrogen-powered boat Energy Observer
Hydrogen has the wind in its sails! Energy Observer is the world’s first hydrogen-powered vessel aiming for energy autonomy and zero emissions, both in terms of greenhouse gases and fine particles. A former race boat, Energy Observer was fully transformed into a vessel of the future, powered by electric propulsion thanks to a mix of renewable energies and a hydrogen production system that uses seawater to produce carbon-free hydrogen on board.
Energy Observer has covered 10,326 nautical miles on its mission to circumnavigate the globe in search of innovative solutions for the environment. Throughout this human and technical adventure spanning 6 years, 50 countries and 101 stopovers, Energy Observer conveys the crew’s vision of a future powered by energy drawn straight from nature, without harming the environment or wasting natural resources. Set a course for clean energy!