21st July 2024

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One of many attention-grabbing issues I’ve been doing is taking part in a evaluate group for a European examine on heavy car decarbonization comparisons and simulations. Which means, amongst different issues, that I’m poking on the assumptions getting used.

Because the paper is in evaluate and assumptions are being examined and improved, I gained’t establish the creator or group at the moment. This isn’t about them being mistaken or proper, however a couple of bunch of assumptions being made about gas cell heavy car upkeep that don’t stand as much as scrutiny, but are in quite a lot of research which are thought-about credible.

Let’s begin with first ideas. A heavy obligation gas cell car like a freight truck or transit bus is a battery electrical car with added gas cell drive prepare parts. That signifies that the battery energy prepare has batteries, an electrical energy charging system with no shifting components besides the flap over the plug, an influence administration unit to maneuver electrical energy throughout wires to the motor, and a motor. There are sensors, computerized controls and the like, however only a few shifting components and little or no that requires a lot upkeep. That’s born out by upkeep research of pure battery electrical automobiles.

A gas cell car is a battery hydrogen hybrid car. It provides a classy 700 environment hydrogen tank or an much more refined liquid hydrogen tank with stress sensor and reduction methods, a posh hydrogen gas motion system which has to take care of very giant stress modifications within the case of the pressurized tanks or very giant quantity and therefore stress modifications as liquid hydrogen is warmed to gaseous kind, very giant thermal administration challenges and therefore thermal administration sensors, actuators and parts in each circumstances, an costly and life-limited gas cell which requires pure hydrogen and and clear air, an air consumption and filtering system in consequence and an exhaust system for shifting the resultant water from the gas cell out of the car with out freezing therefore a heating resolution.

Schematic of just air management system for fuel cell vehicle courtesy US DOE
Schematic of simply air administration system for gas cell car courtesy US DOE

This diagram of simply the air administration course of, which isn’t required for battery electrical automobiles bear in mind, ought to make it clear {that a} gas cell car’s added parts are non-trivial. There are lots of extra factors of potential failure and lots of extra issues that require scheduled upkeep.

The closest instance is hybrid electrical automobiles. The information from mild automobiles exhibits that upkeep on the drive prepare prices much more on hybrid automobiles than on pure battery electrical automobiles, about the identical as inner combustion automobiles.

One of many issues I criticized the Worldwide Council on Clear Transportation’s deeply flawed trucking examine about final 12 months was that that they had important upkeep value enhancements for hydrogen drive prepare vans and none for battery electrical vans. The truth is, they assumed that heavy obligation, long-range vans — the one phase the place some organizations nonetheless maintain out hope for gas cells — would have very related upkeep prices to battery electrical after 2030, and equal upkeep prices to diesel vans instantly.

The numbers are all in euros per 100 kilometers.

Table of maintenance costs for heavy trucks from ICCT total cost of ownership report
Desk of upkeep prices for heavy vans from ICCT whole value of possession report

After I first reviewed it, I used to be scratching my head about giving the advantage of the doubt to maturation of hydrogen gas cell vans vs battery electrical vans. In any case, gas cell buses have been working around the globe in trials since 2000, and gas cell fork lifts for longer. Battery electrical vans and buses are comparatively new.

However now I’m scratching my head about why everybody believes hydrogen gas cell heavy automobiles will likely be low upkeep in any respect.

I’ve been amassing anecdotal knowledge about upkeep prices. The Pau, France fleet operator made it clear once they ditched the hydrogen buses in 2023 after 4 years of operation that that they had been very excessive upkeep, and that retaining them operating was a relentless problem.

“The manufacturing station has extra issues than anticipated and the buses have a number of very small breakdowns. As for me, I spend three quarters of my days there although it’s only one among 17 strains!”

Equally, the Whistler, BC expertise from a decade earlier discovered double the upkeep prices, per Ballard itself.

In keeping with Burnaby’s Ballard Energy Techniques, which manufactures gas cell engines, Whistler’s hydrogen buses value $1.34 per kilometre to keep up, versus 65 cents per kilometre for diesel-powered buses.

Two bus operators, separated by a decade and an ocean, each had similar experiences with buses from completely different producers. However nonetheless, anecdotal. If that was all the info, I’d write it off to a few unhealthy experiences.

However when a rail OEM gross sales govt for Stadler in Germany has this to say about his personal merchandise, I believed one thing was up.

“As well as, hydrogen gas cells require considerably extra upkeep than a batteries alone, requiring alternative inside three years on common.

“Due to this and the hydrogen tank on board, the upkeep effort is after all extra advanced in comparison with battery trains,” Obst defined, including that hydrogen trains additionally require a battery for back-up energy.”

In consequence, after I noticed very low upkeep prices assumptions within the examine I’m reviewing, I supplied this materials and urged that assumptions of virtually similar upkeep prices was inappropriate. The lead researcher pointed on the supply, so I went to that. It was a German working group examine, in the identical effort because the examine I assessed a few months in the past.

The examine, translated because of a really helpful on-line webpage which goes to be sending me pleading emails to provide them cash perpetually now, was the 2020 Workshop Report Altering the Drive of Business Automobiles: Methods to Decarbonize Extra Troublesome Vehicles with a Give attention to Electrification from the German Nationwide Platform: The way forward for Mobility effort.

I dove into that anticipating to discover a reference to research and empirical knowledge. What I discovered was that three researchers from two establishments — Wolfgang Schade of M-5 and Patrick Fieltsch and Heike Flamig of the • Technical College of Hamburg had supplied upkeep assertions with out reference or citations. There was nothing within the bibliography which may clarify them both. I couldn’t discover some other research in German which may have been the supply, however Googling in German isn’t my prime ability, so I’ll have missed one thing.

So we have now ICCT, M-5 and TUHH all asserting what look like low numbers for upkeep and to this point no knowledge or research backing them up.

I went again to the ICCT TCO examine to take a look at their upkeep numbers, and it cites one other 2023 publication by the lead creator, so I went to take a look at that examine. It factors to a College of California, Davis paper from 2022 by Wang et al, Estimating Upkeep and Restore Prices for Battery Electrical and Gasoline Cell Heavy Responsibility Vehicles.

Does it have knowledge? No, no it doesn’t. It lists the studies it drew on, acknowledged clearly that there was no knowledge to attract on and that everybody was assuming that gas cell vans could be about the identical as battery electrical vans or possibly a bit dearer.

Up to now I’m half a dozen studies in on two continents in two languages and haven’t discovered something besides guess work. However I’ve two quotes from bus fleet operators, a car sort that’s strongly adjoining and just like heavy obligation vans with a excessive obligation cycle, a decade aside making it clear that they very excessive upkeep prices and a quote from a prepare OEM govt who makes it clear that his gas cell product’s upkeep prices are a lot increased as effectively. The truth is, he says nobody would purchase it except the request for proposal explicitly known as for hydrogen trains and nothing else.

This led me to go and take a look at gas cell bus upkeep knowledge, with the hope that regardless of all the failures which have been swept underneath the carpet within the 25 years that hydrogen buses have been trialed and deserted in dozens of locations around the globe, somebody would have truly captured some knowledge.

And lo, California got here by way of. As all the time with the USA, they publish every thing about themselves, making knowledge out there for analysts like me to attempt to extrapolate to locations with vastly decrease budgets or any sense that everybody will care about them.

I discovered three research of bus fleets in three completely different transit organizations in California,

This US OSTI examine of a fleet of ten gas cell buses in Oakland, California for the total 12 months of 2020 discovered that the common upkeep for distance traveled was a lot increased than the upkeep prices for diesel buses, about 59 cents per mile vs 35 cents per mile. By the way, that was very near the hybrid battery diesel fleet, which was at 62 cents.

This examine from Southern California by NREL of of 10 gas cell buses for 16 months discovered prices per distance traveled decrease than the OSTI examine at 42 cents per mile, however nonetheless increased than the 35 cents per mile diesel baseline. Notably, propulsion associated upkeep was 37.3% of whole.

This NREL examine masking six years of upkeep for gas cell buses in Riverside County, the long-running Sunline County, Coachella adjoining metropolis, discovered upkeep prices have been 2.5 occasions increased for the gas cell fleet than the older CNG fleet for the interval, 56 cents per mile or very near the primary examine.

A bit extra looking discovered no different empirical knowledge out there in English on upkeep prices.

However now the info set is the next:

  • Bus fleet research from California totaling over eight years between three fleets discovered a lot increased upkeep prices than for a diesel baseline.
  • Revealed articles with quotes from Whistler, BC and Pau, France make it clear that upkeep prices for his or her bus fleets, each the 14 12 months outdated Whistler expertise and the one 12 months outdated Pau expertise have been very excessive. A decade with zero motion just isn’t indicative of a maturing trade.
  • The Stadler govt on report as saying that upkeep prices are a lot increased for his or her model new trains.

To me what seems to be clear is that there are a bunch of transportation researchers who’re all guessing primarily based on actually no proof that clearly extra advanced and failure inclined hydrogen vans will likely be about the identical as a lot less complicated battery electrical vans, or possibly a little bit dearer. Additional, they’re all assuming that they are going to be less expensive to keep up than diesel vans, the place no less than they’ve the transmission system to level to.

None of them seem to have gone to take a look at upkeep knowledge for carefully adjoining hydrogen buses the place there’s a 25 12 months historical past, or checked out rail operator statements, though that quote was pretty latest. None of them seem to have gone to OEMs which have run trials of hydrogen vans and requested about upkeep experiences. None of them seem to have seen the $100,000+ gas cell alternative cost a Hyundai automotive proprietor had and began asking questions.

As a reminder, nearly all of those buses have Ballard gas cells in them, expertise that Ballard has been promoting globally for over 25 years, with losses of $1.Three billion since 2000. This isn’t an immature expertise, it simply fails to commercialize at scale after each single trial.

Like the belief of low-cost inexperienced hydrogen, the belief of low-maintenance gas cell vans doesn’t stand as much as the slightest of scrutiny. Street freight researchers within the 2010s made some baseless and low-ball assumptions and within the 2020s these assumptions are thought-about legitimate as a result of they’ve been cited so typically.

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