Hydrogen Industrialisation – Are We There Yet?
By Dean O'Connor, NanoSUN CEO.
The acceleration of hydrogen that has occurred throughout the transportation industry during the last few years has challenged perceptions and has addressed many technology constraints needed to get hydrogen vehicles off the ground. But are we truly there yet? What more needs to be done?
We need to focus on transitioning hydrogen technology from lab scale to industry.
Some years ago, I had dinner with a former senior exec from one of the big Taiwanese TFT-LCD panel manufacturers. He told me the story of their entry into the 17” desktop monitor market in the early noughties. Desktop monitors were the killer app and 17” was the gateway size that could put clear water between CRT and the new TFT-LCD technology. This company wanted a piece. So, they decided to launch…early…at a price point of $3,000 per panel!
As eye-watering as this price was, the cost to produce each panel was $3,500! After a few years of making panels for laptops at scale, however, this company had confidence that industrialisation would turn the numbers right side up. And so it happened: Throughout the following 20 years, the cost of producing TFT monitor panels dropped to less than $100. Technology got better and monitors got bigger. This all happened through pure industrialisation, standardisation and scale.
So, what’s the relevance of this as we enter another year of growth for the hydrogen sector?
Having seen a few of these transitions now, where decades-old technologies transitioned from lab scale to industry, my instincts tell me that we may well look back on 2021 as the point where hydrogen also truly started its transition into an industry.
The major electrolyser players, like ITM Power and Nel, launched Giga factories to scale production of a core building block for a green hydrogen transition; most of the major heavy-duty OEMs have launched or accelerated hydrogen bus and truck programmes; Government incentives have swung towards favouring projects at scale and the debate has become much more about “how” and “when”, rather than “if”. We have also started to see more activity from the oil and gas giants and utility companies with BP, Scottish Power and Octopus initiating some big plays in the UK.
We do still, however, have a significant issue with speed of deployment. At the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, we saw limited demonstration of hydrogen mobility. Why? In large part because the UK was in shortage of hydrogen. What hydrogen we have is in the wrong places and it simply takes too long, and too much money, to set up the infrastructure to move it to the right place. What we need is a solution that is much more flexible, cheaper and faster to deploy…and more hydrogen!
The ‘more hydrogen’ side of the house does look to be in hand. This year, McKinsey and the Hydrogen Council reported that Europe is experiencing a wave of investment in, mostly green, hydrogen production worth over €30B. NanoSUN’s mission in 2022 is to address the other side of the challenge; to industrialise production of our Pioneer Hydrogen Refuelling Station, to ensure that the ‘more flexible, cheaper and faster to deploy’ infrastructure option is available for any fleet operator or fuel provider that needs one!
2022 will see NanoSUN industrialise Pioneer to ensure that we are ready to bridge the gaps between producers of hydrogen and operators of hydrogen vehicles, wherever they may be in Europe! We are confident this transition will be a pivotal step in reducing hydrogen refuelling costs and will further drive industry innovation to accelerate the roll out of heavy-duty, hydrogen fleets in the thousands over the coming years.
Our early customers have largely filled the order book for 2022, ensuring that Pioneers WILL be coming to a depot near you…very soon!
We look forward to seeing you out in the field in 2022, where we’ll be making a difference.
For more information on NanoSUN's refuelling technology, check out the Pioneer Solution.