Plans for the introduction of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure in Ireland are accelerating, and a group representing those interested in using hydrogen as a fuel source projects that there will be 80 hydrogen refueling stations by 2030.
Hydrogen Mobility Ireland is made up of industry and government representatives, and includes, among others, BOC Gases, Bord Gáis Energy, Toyota Ireland, CIÉ Group, Hyundai Ireland and government departments both north and south of the border. The group wants to evaluate, and then push forward, ideas for introducing hydrogen fuel into vehicles and public transport in Ireland.
The group's initial report has already been published, and one of its members confirmed that it will initially target "captive" fleets, where vehicles can be refueled at a central depot. "It's a central depot model, for now, rather than a distributed network. We are focusing on captive fleets, and both Dublin Bus and CIÉ are part of the group and contributing to the discussions. Those first hydrogen refueling stations would also be available to private users, to help encourage those who are interested in the technology."
The great advantage of hydrogen as a fuel is its speed and ease of use by the driver. Refueling takes no longer than a conventional gasoline or diesel car, and the range of a fuel cell vehicle is about the same as that of a normal car. Given current battery and charger designs, this is an advantage that hydrogen is unlikely to yield to electric cars in the near future. There is also the fact that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and is relatively easily extracted from water. The only emission from a hydrogen-powered vehicle is water vapor, as hydrogen combines in the fuel cell with oxygen, forming water and generating an electric current.
However, that is a rosy view of hydrogen. While it is true that large solar-powered seawater hydrogen extraction operations have been planned in the past, most of the commercial hydrogen available today is a byproduct of fossil fuel extraction. In addition, compressing, transporting and storing it has significant energy consumption problems. Fuel cells themselves also suffer from some of the same problems as batteries, such as the use of rare earth metals, which must be extracted in expensive and complicated ways.