Zero emission hydrogen vehicles could be the future on Irish roads

Beibhinn Thorsch

Image Credit: Joseph Brent

The latest report published by Hydrogen Mobility Ireland (HMI) has addressed the possibility of introducing hydrogen powered cars into the Irish automotive market, between the years 2019 and 2030.

“Hydrogen is a clean fuel that can be produced domestically, helping to reduce the cost of decarbonising transport, industry and heat while supporting the economy…” the report says.

The report, published on October 3rd, commissioned the consultancy firm Element Energy as principal advisors with an aim to give a clear vision of what hydrogen mobility can achieve in Ireland over the next ten years.

Hydrogen Mobility Ireland was established in February of this year, and has already found that the cost of hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure is falling quickly and the number and type of vehicles available is increasing.

The main benefit which drives the motivation for the introduction of hydrogen powered cars, alongside increasing popularity of electrically powered cars, is the elimination of CO2 emissions. Hydrogen cars also offer greater range and faster refuelling than that of electric cars.

It is suggested in the HMI report that the majority of decarbonisation benefits will only be seen if work is begun immediately to introduce hydrogen cars into the market.

Hydrogen vehicles are filled similarly to petrol or diesel, as pressurised hydrogen gas is pumped into a tank on board the car, which is combined in a fuel cell with oxygen to power an electric motor. Instead of fumes emitting from the car’s exhaust, the product is water vapour.

To begin the introduction of hydrogen vehicles, the report suggests an initial deployment phase of three refuelling stations and three production sites to support a fleet of 30 buses, 50 cars and 10 vans.

“This would serve as a catalyst for the deployment of hydrogen in Ireland and would require significant state support.” the report says. Eventually 76 hydrogen refuelling stations nationwide are expected to be needed to ensure access to the population.

The cost of this initial phase is estimated at €34m and would, HMI says, require two main state interventions: a capital grant to help match fund the program of €14m, and inclusion of green hydrogen in the Biofuels Obligation Scheme. Zero emission vehicles in Ireland currently pay the lowest motor tax bracket of €120 per year.

Hydrogen is planned to be prepared by the electrolysis of seawater and sent to cities in pipelines, however electricity – produced by burning coal, oil, or even nuclear power – is needed for the electrolysis of seawater. Therefore, while hydrogen is the cleanest possible fuel it is not totally clean, as the report claims.

Author: Beibhinn Thorsch

Image Credit: Joseph Brent