Will Japanese city be the first?

Hydrogen technology is, with solar energy, mentioned as having the best chances to replace fossil fuel on big scale. How Japan considers renewable energy and hydrogen technology?

Edouard Tripkovic Katayama

Edouard Tripkovic Katayama Advisory Consultant

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Since stepping in 21th century, consciences for ecologically clean environment become one of humanity priorities. Kyoto Protocol being first important international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005. In 2015 COP21 underlined importance sharply accelerating decrease of atmospheric warming.

Hydrogen technology is, with solar energy, mentioned as having the best chances to replace fossil fuel on big scale. Hydrogen is high in energy and produces almost no pollution. Used since 1970 by NASA and recently there is a world movement wheeling to make public transportations run by hydrogen.

European Commission identified fuel cells as new technologies that could respond to common energy problems, providing energy supply security while reducing air pollution. In 2003 transit authority of 8 European cities decided to participate to joint hydrogen and fuel cell bus fleet project as Clean Urban Transport for Europe (CUTE). In 2001 European Commission decided to support this project, approving one of the largest budgets for single research for a total of 27 buses. After CUTE project, HyFLEET: CUTE project started involving operation of 47 hydrogen powered buses in 10 cities on three continents. It was co-founded by the European Commission and 31 Industry partners. Next stage of development started in 2010 with Clean Hydrogen in European Cities (CHIC) project, involving 8 European cities and Whistler in Canada for a total of 23 partners from 8 countries. 56 fuel cell buses were manufactured by different bus OEMs. Today, there are over 90 fuel cell buses in operation in Europe and +100 bus projects.

1st International Zero Emission Bus Conference was held at London’s City Hall on 30th November 2016. Event was combined with 10th International Fuel Cell Bus Workshop. Organized by Element Energy, Centre for Transportation and the Environment (CTE), and the CHIC project. The event was a huge success with over 250 high level stakeholders from 22 countries. Mayor of London, Mr. Sadiq Khan, unveiled the world’s first double-decker hydrogen bus.
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For more than 15 years European Commission, in collaboration with European cities and several cities beyond, is initiating and investing in hydrogen technology. In March 2017 French company Alstom successfully completed first zero-emission passenger train Coradia iLint test drive that runs on just steam and condensed water. First passenger test run is scheduled in the beginning of 2018.

Several benefits result from using fuel cell buses.

  1. High daily range – 300km without refuelling
  2. Zero tailpipe emissions – only water vapour emitted, CO2 emissions savings
  3. Passengers and drivers comfort – reduced noise & vibration levels and smooth driving experience
  4. Complying with legislation – answer to ambitious targets set for transport decarbonisation

On the other side of globe, China is also doing efforts in Earth warming prevention. Not so many know China was a world leader in renewable energy production back in 2013. They generate more wind power than any other country in the world and their investment in clean energy accounts for almost 30% global bases. Two month ago, Chinese company, CRRC Qingdao Sifang announced they signed contract to supply 8 hydrogen fuel cell trams in Foshan city.

How Japan considers renewable energy and hydrogen technology?
With COP21 Treaty, Japan targets CO2 decrease of 26% until 2030, compared to 2005 level. On 11 April 2017 first Ministerial Council on Renewable Energy, Hydrogen and Related Issues was held and discussion took place on measures to accelerate the introduction of renewable energy.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: “Japan will be the first in the world to realize a hydrogen-based society”. Japan is making efforts to decrease CO2 diffusion in atmosphere and in several years sharply increased cars production running with electric or natural gas energy or smart houses building. It is recently Japan started considering hydrogen as major source energy.

However, in 2009 Japan was first in the world to propose fuel cell commercialization hydrogen energy system for households. It was a fuel cell public-private collaboration which is said to be the most successful program in the world. In 2017 new model arrived, being smaller, cheaper and easier to install than previous models, totalizing 200,000 units for Japanese market in May 2017. New model achieves 95% combined heat and electrical efficiency, responding to the home’s demand for electricity and hot water. The overall result is decrease up to 38% in CO2 emissions, and a consumer electricity cost savings of around ¥50,000 per year (household with 3 person or more).

Another hydrogen development is in automobile industry. In 2014 Toyota launched Mirai (the future) FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) model and since 2015, Mirai is sold on different continents. In February 2017 Toyota delivered first Fuel Cell bus to Tokyo Metropolitan Government and it is planned to have additional 100 within Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

End of May, Toyota, Nissan and Honda for a total of 11 companies signed agreement to manage 160 hydrogen stations to be installed in the country until 2020, servicing 400.000 FCV. Further target is already announced, doubling stations number to 320 up to 2025 and increasing cars number to 800.000 units until 2030.

Let’s try imagine a city which will have whole public transportation run by hydrogen technology, people using FCV making streets more quiet, without noise created by oil fuel engines. Air will be much cleaner, allowing trees and plants to develop better, offering more green spaces and better quality life. At the same time, hydrogen energy system houses will also contribute to environment and allow to spend more money on our interests and hobbies. Does it sound good?

For the moment there is no any city or region in the world having “0 carbon” public transportation infrastructure. Could it be a ‘clean’ strategy to attract world attention?

Source: COP21, CHIC, The Telegraph, Bloomberg, IEA, Greenpeace