Grasping Hydrogen: Mobility projects in action

The future of hydrogen-fuelled transport is exciting. With more and more Linde projects around the world, the potential of the gas has never been clearer.

Buses, trucks, trains, cars and ferries: Linde’s pioneering hydrogen mobility projects are showing the world how it’s done. With ideas, concepts and innovation continuously evolving, Thomas Schaefer, Marketing Manager for Linde’s Hydrogen Mobility Solutions Team, keeps us up to speed on the latest developments.

Thomas Schaefer is a mobility man. One of the original co-founders of BeeZero, a car-sharing project Linde used to showcase the potential of hydrogen mobility in the city of Munich, he is now in charge of promoting hydrogen infrastructure to potential clients. By infrastructure, we mean hydrogen-refuelling stations.

Refuelling stations are at the core of Linde’s work with hydrogen mobility. “This is where our knowledge and expertise lies,” explains Schaefer, “in other words, in the storage, compression and dispensing of hydrogen.” As a result, Linde often works with mobility providers, such as bus fleet operators or fuelling station operators.

Old favourites: Buses

Hydrogen-fuelled buses are familiar territory for Linde. The first reference case was the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project, launched by BOC in 2015. The initiative created Europe’s largest fuel-cell bus fleet to date and the largest hydrogen refuelling station in the UK. It was followed by a similar project in Bolzano, Italy. In 2018, the Linde ionic compressor, the IC 90, was used to fuel buses at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. “Buses are currently easier to manage, due to the so-called ‘back-to-base’ factor,” explains Schaefer. Back-to-base refers to fleets of vehicles that operate in a fixed area and regularly return to the same point – and therefore the same refuelling station. The same is often also true for forklift trucks, delivery lorries and certain car and ride-sharing schemes. 

In 2018, Linde announced new plans involving buses and the latest in innovation: constant pressure storage. The innovation enables a larger amount of hydrogen to be added to vehicles in a shorter amount of time – an important development for the future expansion of hydrogen refuelling stations. It will be rolled out with the Regionalverkehr Köln GmbH (regional transport Cologne) in the German city later this year, making Linde the first to bring this new technology to the market

Breaking new ground: Trains

While buses represent roads well-travelled, train networks are newer territory for Linde. In late 2017, Linde announced a collaboration with Alstom, a multinational company operating worldwide in rail transport markets. Linde refers to the collaboration – in which Linde contributes the holistic hydrogen storage and fuelling infrastructure – as a milestone in the application of the fuel cell for emission-free traffic. “It’s the first of its kind,” says Schaefer.

The common project concerns the first hydrogen-run passenger trains. Fourteen in fact. Running on the line between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude in north Germany, all hydrogen will be supplied by Linde filling stations, while Alstom will produce the trains. Known as Alstom Coradia iLint, they are set to officially hit the tracks in December 2021 – so stay tuned.

On the horizon: Ferries and cars

Next on the agenda are ferries. “Although there are no official plans yet, we are aware of initial concepts to try out hydrogen as an alternative fuel for diesel or LNG,” Schaefer reports, “and most new projects start with the engagement of operators.”

A longer-term objective is cars. Unlike many other means of transport, private cars do not have the aforementioned ‘back-to-base’ trait. As a result, it is not possible to know when and where vehicles will need to refuel. In order to make hydrogen an attractive alternative, it needs to be readily available on the road – with a comprehensive network of stations available to drivers. At present, H2 Mobility, a consortium of which Linde is a founding member, plans to open 100 refuelling stations in Germany by end of 2019. Beyond 2019, this target increases to 400 – based on one condition: “Only when there are a certain number of hydrogen cars on the road, will it make sense to invest in that many stations,” says Schaefer, “and that is a decision and development that is out of our hands alone.”

»Only when there are a certain number of hydrogen cars on the road, will it make sense to invest in that many stations.«

»We are the company with the most experience and the most refuelling stations worldwide.«

Building a global network

Linde wants to keep developing so-called reference cases for different means of transport. These cases can be used as the basis for new partnerships and new projects. “The more we can demonstrate the potential of hydrogen, the more we can generate interest and curiosity – and with that comes opportunity,” says Schaefer. There are projects happening on all continents, but the current pioneering areas are California, Japan and the EU.

As awareness grows, Linde plans to stay at the forefront of the market and the technology globally: “We are the company with the most experience and the most refuelling stations worldwide – and thus we can provide the technology with the lowest total cost of ownership per kg.” With that in mind, Linde will continue to move hydrogen mobility forward, one refuel at a time.