Hydrogen powered scooters take on Taiwan

Written by Gerry Runte

The worldwide population of motor scooters is approaching 130 million. China alone produced over 40 million gasoline powered motor scooters in 2011.

Many of these engines emit 8 to 30 times the hydrocarbons and particulates emitted by automobiles.

Several companies are developing fuel cell powered scooters to reduce these enormous emissions. Fuel cells are devices that make electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, emitting only water vapor as exhaust.

When the hydrogen is produced from renewable sources, or even from natural gas, the emissions are far less than those resulting from oil refining and combustion. Fuel cell powered scooters run on that electricity.

全球目前使用小型摩托车人口已达1.3亿。在2011年仅中国就生产了超过四千万的燃油驱动摩托车,这些摩托车引擎比汽车所排放的碳氢化合物及微粒多出了8至30倍。现有数家公司研发燃料电池摩托车,以减少巨大的碳排放量。燃料电池利用氢和氧发电,唯一的副产品是水。当我们使用可再生能源,或甚至是天然气来制造氢气,都能使废气量远比炼油和火力发电来的更少。燃料电池也能作为摩托车运行的动力。

APFCT fuel cell powered scooters for demonstration riders near the Taipei 101 tower in Taipei, Taiwan.
A line of Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies, Ltd. (APFCT) fuel cell powered scooters await demonstration rides near the Taipei 101 tower in Taipei, Taiwan.

Two years ago I wrote about a very forward thinking fuel cell technology company in Taiwan, Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies, Ltd. (APFCT). The company had just rolled out its first major demonstration of fuel cell powered scooters.

两年前我在台湾为一家非常具有前瞻性的燃料电池公司 – 亚太燃料电池科技公司写了一篇文章。该公司当时刚举行其首次大型燃料电池摩拖车的示范运行。

What was unique about the company and its scooters was the approach APFCT took to fueling. APFCT designed their system with simplicity and consumer convenience in mind. Instead of taking the path of nearly all fuel cell transportation devices that require the refilling of an onboard cylinder with highly compressed hydrogen, the APFCT units use small canisters that store hydrogen in metal hydride powder.

Instead of driving the vehicle to a fueling station and waiting for a cylinder to be filled the user simply takes their empty canisters to a vendor who exchanges them for filled canisters (with about the same internal pressure as a racing bike tire).

亚太燃料电池公司的独特之处是在充氢方式。其设计概念是系统简单性和对消费者便利性,所以设计团队并未采用现在大多数燃料电池车所使用的高压氢气瓶,而是运用低压的小型储氢罐,内装金属氢化物粉末,氢气罐的内部压力约同于竞速自行车的胎压。

驾驶不需至加氢站,而只需把空罐子给供货商并同时换取新的氢气罐。

Refuelling the scooter is easy, simply replace the two hydrogen canisters and continue on your way.
Refuelling the hydrogen fuel cell scooter is easy — simply replace the two hydrogen canisters and continue on your way. In Taiwan, each canister exchange costs the equivalent of one US dollar per canister (NTD 30), so to exchange 2 canisters will cost you two US dollars (NTD 60). Two fresh canisters will take you approximately 80 km.

In its first demonstration APFCT put 80 scooters on the road at a beach resort in southern Taiwan. Tourists were permitted to use the scooters for free.

When they ran out of hydrogen all they needed to do was to take the empty canisters to any 7–Eleven convenience store, repair shop or police station for exchange. Why 7-Eleven? Taiwan has the fifth largest number of 7-Eleven stores in the world, behind the U.S., Japan, Thailand and South Korea. There is a 7-Eleven within walking distance of almost any place in Taiwan.

亚太首次大型燃料电池摩托车示范运行是在台湾南部的海滨度假胜地垦丁。

游客可免费自行骑乘亚太所提供的80辆燃料电池摩托车。当游客发现氢气耗尽时,他们只需将空罐子带到任何一间7-Eleven便利商店,维修店或派出所进行储氢罐交换。你可能好奇为什么是7-Eleven呢?因为台湾7-Eleven营业据点数量排名全球第五,仅次于美国,日本,泰国和韩国。台湾几乎任何地方都可步行至附近的7-Eleven。

glacier color scooter
APFCT says this scooter will sell for about $3000 dollars (NTD 90,000) when it hits the market.

APFCT has continued to build upon this hydride storage fueling model over the last two years. It has tested a number of different vehicles, all of which use identical canisters. Those with larger hydrogen demands simply require more canisters for operation.

亚太燃料电池在过去的两年持续建立低压储氢的商业模式。目前使用相同的储气罐在数个不同类型的车辆上进行测试,如车辆运作需使用大量的电力,只需要增加储氢罐的数量。

Scooters 2.0
燃料电池托摩车

Last November, APFCT began a second scooter demonstration in Taiwan with the city government of Taipei. In this demonstration 20 scooters have been deployed for use in environmental auditing site inspections and surveying by city officials.

去年十一月,亚太燃料电池在台北市政府展开第二次示范运行。在此示范当中,台北市政府使用亚太二十辆摩托车作为公务车,在官员环境审计及现场检查时使用。

APFCT’s current scooter model has a range of approximately 80 km.

亚太最新一代摩托车续航力约80公里

Fueling costs can be very economic – in the Taipei demonstration, the local cost of electricity to generate the hydrogen results in a canisters exchange cost of NTD 30 (about USD 1).

充氢成本可以是经济实惠的 – 在台湾示范运行中储氢罐交换价格为新台币30元 (约一块美金),此价格包括当地产氢所使用的电力及物流费。

APFCT says this current model would sell for about NTD 90,000 (about USD 3,000). That’s not quite a commercial price, but getting close. Assuming a successful demonstration, orders from city governments and the public could generate sufficient volume to get the price down, which would make APFCT fuel cell scooter be competitive with gasoline powered scooters.

根据亚太表示,最新燃料电池摩托车售价约新台币九万元,约三千美金。这并非商业化的价格,但已经愈来愈接近了。如未来有一个成功的示范运行,让亚太能从政府和民众取得大量的订单,将有望大规模经济生产并降低价格,并使亚太燃料电池摩托车车与传统燃油驱动摩托车相抗衡。

 

Gerry Runte is Managing Director of Worthington Sawtelle LLC a consulting and research firm which provides a full portfolio of business planning and strategy services to both new and existing participants in emerging energy markets. Recent engagements include market assessments, policy analysis and development; business strategy; go-to-market planning and launch; product commercialization strategies; feasibility studies; and due diligence on behalf of investors.

Gerry has 38 years of experience in the energy industry, much of which at the executive level. He holds a B.S. and M.Eng in Nuclear Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. Contact gerry.runte@worthingtonsawtelle.com; tel: +1 (207) 361-7143; skype: gerry.runte

Japan agrees with ‘All of the Above’ Energy Policy

by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

President Obama’s famous All of the Above energy policy released during his first term and perfected in his second term seems to have gained some attention and perhaps some followers around the world. The latest is Japan, which has decided to embrace more and different types of energy to replace the lost nuclear power capacity since the Fukushima incident.

Prior to the earthquake and tsunami of March 4th, 2011, Japan received 29% of its electricity from its nuclear reactor fleet. Subsequently, many of the country’s 54 nuclear power plants were shut down for inspection and stress testing, and some have been scheduled for complete decommissioning at a total cost of well over $100 billion dollars, but possibly approaching $1 trillion dollars over 50 years if the damaged reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant begin acting up and leaking even more than they have. Which could happen.

With almost 30% of their electricity production permanently unavailable or temporarily offline, the ever-industrious Japanese are looking to a better energy policy — one that will not leave them dependent on foreign politics, international trade disputes or shortages. Energy cost is a primary concern.

The good news is that Japan hopes to hit 20% of total electricity demand with renewable energy by 2030.

Japan’s energy choices include solar

Extensive research into solar utility-scale installations and rooftop solar for residential use in Japan have netted some amazing results. Japan ranks fourth among the nations with the most amount of solar capacity installed and continues a massive solar installation campaign. Some 10 Gigawatts of solar are being added to Japan’s grid this year.

Some farmers in Japan are finding that they can make more money with much less toil by turning their rice paddies into solar farms. In other cases, huge blocks of solar panels are mounted on floating pontoons in sheltered bays and lakes.

Japan-Energy-Transition-slide-1
Japan shows a clear preference for solar power, even as it experiments with other renewable energy such as wind, tidal, hydrogen and methane hydrate ice.

Wind energy in Japan

Wind energy is making strides in Japan and the future of that is under discussion. However, Japan feels a need to protect its tourism industry and does not want monstrous turbines cluttering up shoreline tourist areas. Nevertheless, the country is forging ahead with plans for the largest offshore wind farm on the planet in non-tourist regions of the country.

Tidal energy

Japan is a pioneer of tidal energy, with some locations producing power via underwater propellers anchored to the ocean floor via cables allowing them to be suspended in the water near the sea bottom safely away from ships hulls.

Undersea Methane Hydrates

Japan has sent ships to the Arctic ocean in recent years to mine methane hydrate crystals that line the sea floor for hundreds of miles in all directions. It turns out that just off Japan’s coast there is a gold mine of methane “ice” also known as clathrate (more specifically, clathrate hydrate) just sitting there waiting to be picked up. In fact, some successful prototype operations have been reliably producing power in Japan, using only locally-mined clathrate.

It is a clean burning fuel, as methane clathrate hydrate composition is (CH4)4(H2O)23, or 1 mole of methane for every 5.75 moles of water, corresponding to 13.4% methane by weight. There is nothing else to it. No sulfur, no nitrogen, no trace contaminants. Pure fuel mixed with water ice.

“Japan hopes that the test extraction is just the first step in an effort aimed at bringing the fuel into commercial production within the next six years. That’s a far faster timetable than most researchers have foreseen, even though there is wide agreement that the methane hydrates buried beneath the seafloor on continental shelves and under the Arctic permafrost are likely the world’s largest store of carbon-based fuel. The figure often cited, 700,000 trillion cubic feet of methane trapped in hydrates, is a staggering sum that would exceed the energy content of all oil, coal, and other natural gas reserves known on Earth.” – National Geographic

Hydrogen fuel for electrical power production and for vehicles

As a clean burning fuel, hydrogen shows great promise. The only catch with this fuel are the costs associated with splitting ocean water into its constituent molecules, which, after you filter out the salt and any contaminants is; 1 hydrogen atom + 2 oxygen atoms = 1 molecule of water. Using electrolysis to convert vast quantities of water into hydrogen takes a huge amount of electricity, which is fine if it can be had cheaply enough. With the advent of solar power gird-parity, hydrogen production suddenly looks attractive at a large scale.

“Now that Toyota Motor says it will release mass-production fuel-cell vehicles powered by hydrogen, Japan has set an even bigger goal of making hydrogen a main energy source for the nation’s electric utilities. The nation’s first “hydrogen energy white paper,” released Monday, calls on the country to become a “hydrogen economy” by adopting the fuel for utility power generation. The paper was produced by the government-affiliated New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.” – Wall Street Journal

We are at a unique period of human history where doors that were once solidly closed are now opening. Our energy future will be more diverse and cleaner for those nations and corporations that are open-minded enough to see the possibilities of clean and renewable energy.

Although there have been some failures in the business of renewable energy (as in any new field of endeavor) things renewable energy are starting to gain traction and acceptance not only by the public, but by policymakers around the world.

Japan, after initially reeling from the tsunami and Fukushima incident, has profoundly embraced solar and wind power and experimented with the promising tidal energy technology and has advanced clean burning energy solutions such as undersea methane hydrates and hydrogen fuel.

Certainly, fossil fuels have their place and they will be with us for some time to come. However, rather than tying ourselves to One Big Energy source (fossil fuels) an All of the Above approach may turn out to be the best, long-term solution after all.