hydrogen fuel-cell technology buses

Are hydrogen fuel-cell buses headed to South Africa?

The following has been reproduced from “Creamer Media’s Engineering News” (September 2017) with kind permission of Kenneth Creamer, and continues the subject of hydrogen fuel-cell technology, which we’ve touched upon in previous issues.


“Electric buses powered by platinum-catalysed fuel cells are attracting the attention of South Africans, who will visit Germany next month to update themselves on passenger carriers that emit zero pollution into the atmosphere.


There’s a lot of interest in fuel cell buses simply because the refuelling points can be centralised at a depot. In February, South African fuel cell protagonists and government officials met their German counterparts in South Africa to discuss a pilot project involving the introduction of hydrogen fuel cell buses in cities in South Africa.


Germany, which has already rolled out some such buses in Berlin, Stuttgart and Hamburg, earlier this year shared its experiences with a range of interested South Africans from municipal officials and the platinum executives to universities and Hydrogen South Africa.


In Aberdeen, Scotland, the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project currently has 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses operating, the largest fleet in Europe.
“In Aberdeen, Scotland, the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project currently has 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses operating, the largest fleet in Europe.” – pictures found on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell_bus


Now, representatives of many of South Africa’s metros, with officials from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, will be visiting Germany to see first-hand what is being achieved with fuel cell powered passenger transport.


Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has reported that China is targeting one-million fuel cell electric vehicle sales by 2030, with orders for 18 000 fuel cell buses and light delivery vehicles placed in the first five months of this year.


Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity through a chemical reaction that relies on platinum’s catalytic role.  Implats has developed fuel cell applications, including a fuel cell driven forklift, and identified an original equipment manufacturer for the development of fuel cell driven load haul dumpers (LHDs) and underground equipment.


Several mining companies are considering how fuel cells can be used within their own operations. From a pure zero-emission perspective, it makes sense to use fuel cell equipment underground, but a prototype that works is needed first before that can actually happen.


Many believe that South Africa should be supporting and promoting its own fuel cell applications and own technologies to create demand for platinum. An SEZ where fuel cell manufacture can take place could lead to the commercialisation of items like fuel cell forklifts and buses.


When it comes to fuel cells generating clean electricity, the combination of heat-and-power applications makes economic sense.


In the 1960s, United Technologies Corporation of the US developed fuel cells for the Apollo space mission and since then, fuel cells have been supplied into every manned space mission.


Meanwhile, fuel cell electric vehicle sales are expected to grow by more than 200% this year, with Japan targeting 200 000 fuel cell electric vehicles on its roads in 2025 and 800 000 in 2030”.


Note that this article has been considerably reduced in size and content for brevity, but the full piece, “Electric buses expected to spur platinum demand – Implats“, provides a lot more detail linking this technology to the future of our valuable platinum industry, and also other potential uses such as clean electricity generation.



Read more: Fuel Cell Technology For Materials Handling Equipment

Read more: Would you like to reduce energy usage in your freezer store?

Read more: Newly built cold & freezer stores should be independently inspected