Solving the Puzzle of Hydrogen

21 September 2020 - Published by Rachael Goodfellow
sometimes it is a bit tricky to get all the pieces to align

There is a mounting pressure to reduce carbon emissions on all fronts, for the transport sector in particular this task can appear quite daunting. When one considers the sheer number of fossil fuel vehicles on the road at present, and the pace at which change must be delivered, it can seem an insurmountable challenge. This is made more nerve-racking by the interdependence and complexity of alternative transport solutions.  

But you need not fear, HyTrEc2 is here!  

HyTrEc2 is an Interreg North Sea Region project made up of 8 partners. Our Project works to bring about a hydrogen transport economy to the region by tireless engaging with multiple sectors across five work packages. Our unique multifaceted approach ensures all the pieces fit together to create the robust network needed to have a self-sustaining sector post-project.  

In the lead up to the Regiostars final (14th October 2020), we will lend a hand to demystify sustainable transport solutions. Over the coming weeks, HyTrEc2 will help you solve the puzzle of creating a hydrogen economy in your region, and make sure the pieces fit together in a meaningful way 


The first piece of the puzzle: Hydrogen Refueling Stations (HRS)


It will come as no surprise, but in order to have a hydrogen transport economy we need hydrogen. Suring up a hydrogen supply is the first step to allow the sector to flourish.  

For those serious about hydrogen, a refuelling station is a must. You can produce hydrogen on site using electrolysis or receive your hydrogen from elsewhere via tube trailers. 

Did you know: Both the Aberdeen and Groningen stations produce hydrogen onsite & use shipping containers for their hydrogen refuelling equipment!  

When it comes to hydrogen transport refuelling, there are two main pressures for refuelling which depend your vehicleMost cars have smaller hydrogen tanks and refuel at 700 bar refuelling. Whilst larger tanked vehicles, such as buses and trucks, can have larger tanks and therefore refuel at 350-bar pressure. For 700 bar pressure the hydrogen is cooled to as low as -40°C, to ensure the gas is compressed enough to fit into the tank. We use nitrogen to cool our hydrogen to –40°C in order for it to squeeze into our hydrogen cars, which take around 5kg. 

Did you know: your bicycle tyre pressure is usually around 10 bar! 

Want to see around a Hydrogen Refuelling Station?  HyTrEc2 Partner, Aberdeen, has a video here. 

Further HyTrEc2 HRS reading can be found here and here


{Government Minister learning how to refuel a hydrogen vehicle in Aberdeen, Scotland} 


The second piece of the puzzle: Hydrogen Vehicles


Transport represents almost a quarter of Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in cities.  Incorporating hydrogen into transportation can radically reduce tailpipe emissions of carbon and other pollutants that damage human health.  

Did you know: 92% of transport in Europe is oil based. Over the past five years use of renewable energy sources in transport is 8.2%compared to 32% in electricity and 21% in heating and cooling (2018)  

There are many ways to integrate hydrogen into a transport fleet – dual fuel combustion engine, range extended Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) and pure Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV).  

Dual-fuel combustion is a tremendous interim technology for those first exploring hydrogen transport optionsA diesel combustion engine can be retrofitted to inject hydrogen into the enginereducing tailpipe emissions by around 30%. Dual-fuel combustion allows organisations to continue using their current vehicle but bridge the gap into hydrogen.  HyTrEc2 Partner Aberdeen has a hydrogen-diesel road-sweeper that can be seen here

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) can also incorporate hydrogen to extend their range.  A battery vehicle can be retrofitted with a hydrogen tank to boost their drive time.  This is a nifty solution for those suffering range-anxiety in the current electric models, particularly individuals who live in remote locations or rely on their vehicle to drive for lengthy, uninterrupted periods. HyTrEc2 Partner Groningen has a couple of hydrogen-electric vehicles, a Renault Kangoo and a Streetscooter, that can be seen here.

Finally, pure Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) are vehicles which are only powered by hydrogen. They have a hydrogen tank and fuel cell that combined with air converts to energy to move the vehicle.  FCEVs only produce water vapour as a tailpipe emission, so are healthier for the planet and our lungs. HyTrEC2 partner Drenthe has some fantastic FCEV's, learn more here. 

Did you know: In Aberdeen it takes 3 minutes to fully refuel your FCEV which will then travel several hundred miles – similar to diesel or petrol car! See for yourself here.

An additional benefit is that the acceleration achieved by fuel cell electric vehicles outstrips that of most petrol or diesel cars. Fuel Cell technology really comes into its own for large vehicles which travel significant distances and/or carry heavy loads as these are all at present stumbling blocks of comparative BEVs. The only draw-back is that the technology is very new, so FCEVs are more expensive compared to other vehiclesso it is logical to try and procure on mass to bring the price per vehicle down. 

At HyTrEc2 we have worked tirelessly to deploy vehicles, often entirely bespoke models, and rigorously test the driving performance. Further reading can be found here, here and here

undefined{Hydrogen-powered waste truck coasting by the canals of Groningen, The Netherlands} 


The third piece of the puzzle: Hydrogen Technicians


Hydrogen is a new technology and as with any new technology people need to feel confident to use it.  HyTrEc2 lets people try hydrogen vehicles, learn more here. 

Did you know: hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe! 

We also have a video on how to fuel your vehicle watch here.

Fully trained hydrogen technicians are also a vital part in establishing a local, self-sustaining hydrogen economy. In order for an area to truly reap the rewards of a hydrogen economy, it is important to have local companies involved in all aspects of the supply chain. Most crucial for wide-scale adoption is having highly trained technicians in the local area to provide continuous support.  

There are few specialist areas that must be considered when encouraging hydrogen technicians of the future. Large parts of the hydrogen economy (the vehicles and the production) require high voltage training In addition, any individual seeking to work with hydrogen must be trained to handle gas safely This means that with a small amount of retraining many oil and gas workers can handle hydrogen safely. 


{HyTrEc2 is currently working on a modular hydrogen training course, the above photo is the programme of the initial day course}   


The forth puzzle piece: Renewable Produced Hydrogen 


Drawing energy needed for electrolysis directly from renewable sources is a win: win situation. It ensures that the hydrogen vehicles have zero emissions from well to wheel.  Hydrogen storage also allows intermittent wind & solar farms to operate at maximum efficiency – storing energy in times of curtailment. In many regions around the world the periods of most intense sun or wind do not always align with the largest draw periods from the electricity grid, curtailment issues arise when the solar or wind technologies do not take full advantage of the weather conditions and simply just match the demand required. Hydrogen is a fantastic storer of potential energy, as such can plug this gap between supply and demand of renewable energy sources. 

Did you know: The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), currently hosts the world's most powerful wind turbines in Aberdeen, a rotation of its blade can power an entire home for a whole day! 

In addition, by using renewable sources to generate hydrogen through electrolysis it ensures that the hydrogen is entirely ‘green’ meaning that no carbon was emitted in the production of the fuel, thus radically improving its environmental credentials. As well, as crucially helping to reduce the price of production to akin with diesel, which can help to make an economic and an environmental argument for moving away from fossil fuels.  


HyTrEc2 is wholeheartedly behind making the hydrogen revolution as green as possible. Se more here and here .


{Solar-powered hydrogen production and refuelling station in Groningen, The Netherlands} 

 Fifth and final piece of the puzzle: Collaboration! 



In a young industry it is very important to have a broad spectrum of knowledge, expertise and viewpoints as this will help you see how to solve the puzzles ahead. Hydrogen is a hugely exciting sector which has great potential, but as first movers there are some challenges. Collaboration can help to lessen the riskTeamwork has proved to be invaluable for knowledge-sharing and creating alternative solutions when obstacles occur. Furthermore, by undertaking joint procurements together, we can see reductions in price per product, via economies of scale savings. So, it is clear in so many ways that working together is much more effective than apart.  

HyTrEc2’s success hinges upon the collaboration of our Partners, who have various different skills and strengths to share with the project. HyTrEc2 Partners come from all across the North Sea Region and they represent different organisations from Local Authorities to universities to expert- consultancies The geographical and professional range of our partnership allows huge scope for shared learning.   

Hopefully we have helped shed some light on how you might be able to help your Region develop a hydrogen economy!  Follow us for more stories in future! 




{Teamwork makes the dreamwork, thank you partners!}