BC’s Hydrogen Highway

British Columbia is actively pusuring a Hydrogen Highway, announcing Monday that

“The Province is a step closer to deploying the world’s first fleet of hydrogen buses with $45 million that will go toward the production of 20 buses and development of hydrogen fuelling stations in Whistler and Victoria. Premier Gordon Campbell announced [this] at the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells 2007 international conference and trade show in Vancouver.”

“Our goal is to see the world’s first fleet of fuel cell buses on B.C. roads by the end of 2009 to showcase B.C.’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the potential of hydrogen technology as an energy solution,” said Premier Campbell. “This funding will ensure that the hydrogen highway that will run from Whistler to Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria will become a reality. We will continue our work with our partners in the U.S. to extend the Hydrogen Highway from Whistler to San Diego by 2010.”

Now, there can be several drivers for this project. Clearly, that the region has hydrogen research and industry, check. How about, as well, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and having this as a showpiece for that?

For background, see the Hydrogen Highway website and this 29 March 2007 Fuel Cells Canada presentation.

6 responses to “BC’s Hydrogen Highway

  1. Only $2+ million per bus, for that money they could have about 200 biodiesel buses that were not perfect, but have decent ghg emissions.

    I’m betting the fact that one major fuel cell company whose name escapes me now is based in Vancouver is a major driver too.

  2. Wouldn’t surprise me to learn that most of the money is going to the hydrogen supply, storage and distribution issue.

    Really, that’s the main difficulty in hydrogen — changing a distribution system based on liquids that can be piped easily through and contained in welded steel to either a gas that has to be under tremendous pressure or a liquid that will go through a pipeline, but at 20 degrees Kelvin.

    It’s going to take point-of-sale generation (hydrolysis or liberation of H from hydrocarbons), or a totally new distribution network. Making an ICE run on something combustible is simple by comparison, making a fuel cell is more complex but not as expensive or disruptive as building a hydrogen analogue of the current petroleum distribution network.

    It’s a fair argument that we don’t have to rebuild hydrogen distribution along the lines of petroleum, but it’s a major technical and economic challenge nonetheless.

  3. The more I think about this the more I wonder about the process efficiencies of introducing the electrolysis of hydrogen and fuel-cell production of electricity instead of just going all-electric with batteries and regenerative braking, aerodynamics, solar panels on the roof, etc.

    I admit complete ignorance about the efficiency of hydrolysis, and I suppose the reason is that at this point energy is better stored in H2 and fed through a fuel cell than stored in conventional lithium batteries, or for performance reasons. If it’s being done to prove a point, and if the electricity needed for hydrolysis comes from non-CO2-emitting hydropower, then I guess it makes some sense. But if you have to burn natural gas, coal or oil to make the H2 in the first place it would seem to be a less-than-ideal situation unless the hydrolysis is more efficient than combustion in an ICE.

  4. I think that is the thinking that has developed in the last 3-4 years Darren, fuel cells are largely a bust, the clearer path looks like hybrid technology which evolves more and more into pure electric vehicles.

  5. It never ceases to amaze me. You guys are missing the point. You’re commenting about hydrogen production on a site that is totally about hydrogen production without electrolysis. As for the distribution system it’s quite possible Hydratus is thinking outside the box. In other words, the infrastructure changeover may not present the problem so many think it does. I think batteries are going to be part of the equation but at this point I’m not convinced they are the perfect solution. (Think steep grades=battery fade)

  6. The reason that I was commenting about hydrogen production is that I went to the BC Hydrogen Highway website, and they get their H2 from electrolysis.

    The announcement begs the question whether this is a stunt or a legitimate first step, at $2 million a bus it doesn’t seem realistic, the cost is only justified by the other hardware.

    Not to disrespect the hosts, but if you have the Big New Thing people tend to figure that out fairly quickly.

    The best thing I found while looking up H2 generation (and learning in general) is the always-popular Honda CHP system that also makes hydrogen to fill up your car. Now that’s a Swiss-Army-style home appliance: electrical power, heat and fuel.

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