Hydrogen is becoming cheaper – and hydrogen production is likely to get rid of its image of poor energy efficiency. Euisun Chong, vice chairman of the Hyundai Motor Group and co-chair of the Hydrogen Council, has announced a series of measures to promote hydrogen propulsion. According to media reports, these include cost reductions through technical innovations, the establishment of a safety management system and various political measures.
The Hydrogen Council has published a report that expects the cost of hydrogen solutions in a wide range of applications to fall by 50% by 2030. This could make hydrogen significantly more competitive – not only with respect to battery electric propulsion, but in some cases even with respect to conventional options, it says.
One of the reasons for the Council’s optimism is likely to lie in new processes for producing hydrogen. Until now, the gas has been produced almost exclusively by electrolysis from water. However, this requires electricity – and that is considered inefficient. Now it has become known that the Russian energy company Gazprom is working at its R&D center in Tomsk to produce hydrogen from fossil natural gas by methane pyrolysis. The process requires only a fraction of the energy compared to electrolysis, according to media reports. In this process, natural gas is broken down into its components hydrogen and carbon by adding thermal energy. No greenhouse gas CO2 is produced in the process – a significant aspect against the backdrop of the current climate discussion.
Research is also being carried out on this process in Germany: the energy company Wintershall Dea is also working together with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) to develop a pyrolysis process suitable for industrial use.
The development in the field of hydrogen technology has also reached the automotive supplier Robert Bosch GmbH: The company has now increased its stake in Ceres Power from 3.9 % to around 18 %. To increase its stake, Bosch is subscribing for new shares in Ceres Power and acquiring additional shares from existing shareholders. In total, Bosch is investing some €90 million euros. In order to underpin the strategic investment and drive forward the industrial application of the technology, Bosch will receive the right to appoint a member to the supervisory board of Ceres Power as part of the transaction.
Since signing a strategic agreement in August 2018, Bosch has been cooperating with Ceres Power in the development of fuel cell stacks for stationary applications. This enabled Bosch to start small-series production of its first fuel cell systems in fall 2019. The increase in shareholding is intended to strengthen the cooperation with a view to possible industrial large-scale production of Ceres SteelCells for a wide range of applications. For example, the technology will be used in the form of small, decentralized power plants in cities, factories, data centers, and in the operation of charging points for electric vehicles.
“For Bosch, the highly efficient solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is an important contribution to the security of supply and flexibility of energy systems,” says Dr. Christian Fischer, member of the Bosch board of management with responsibility for the company’s Energy and Building Technology division. “Together with our development partner Ceres Power, Bosch has made great progress in the development of fuel cell stacks for stationary applications. With this further investment in Ceres Power, we want to expand our successful cooperation”.
Ceres Power is considered one of the leading players in the development of next generation solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology. Strategically, the company intends to industrialize the technology through licensed volume production with partners and use it for networked and distributed power generation.