To support the global Hydrogen sector and the Transportation industry in their effort to transition mobile applications to hydrogen and reduce the use of fossil fuels, NanoSUN introduced the Mobile Pioneer Hydrogen Refuelling Station.
We interview Charlie Clegg, NanoSUN’s Sales & Marketing Director, who answers the most common questions asked around NanoSUN’s Pioneer HRS to provide you with an insight into why and how mobile hydrogen refuelling technology is key to building a successful and reliable hydrogen refuelling infrastructure; delivering hydrogen fuel to end users anywhere at any time.
A real focus for NanoSUN has always been on producing a solution to accelerate the adoption of hydrogen as a fuel. Industry often refers to the ‘chicken and egg’ problem in hydrogen mobility and NanoSUN believes mobile refuelling is a way to break that gridlock. Mobile stations offer significant reductions in capex and time to deploy, allowing small to medium introductory fleets of hydrogen vehicles to hit the road faster.
With NanoSUN’s aim being to accelerate the industry, it was really important for us to develop a solution that needed minimal infrastructure to deploy. We didn’t want customer sites to have to think about major civil or electrical works in order to refuel maybe just a handful of vehicles. Even small compressors require 3-phase power which may not be readily available. Compressors also require regular maintenance due to moving parts. We really wanted to focus on our solution being quick, easy to deploy anywhere and highly reliable in the field.
Our Pioneer Mobile Refuelling Station utilises cascade refuelling. This is a method used to transfer gas from the trailer to a vehicle but allows for far better utilisation of the gas than the straightforward decant method.
Essentially, we split our hydrogen storage into individual banks of gas and initiate an automated sequence of individual decants. This maintains the pressure differential between the trailer and the vehicle for longer. We store our gas at 425 bar and cascade to fill 350 bar vehicles.
That said, we do see a shift to 700 bar vehicles coming in the future, even in these heavy-duty sectors. Pioneer is capable of providing partial refuels of 700 bar vehicles today. We can get to around 50-60% state of charge. Whilst this may not be the ideal solution with the industry in its infancy, at the demonstration and proof of concept stage perhaps this is good enough. We are, however, very conscious of this impending shift to 700 bar and NanoSUN’s product roadmap is working towards how we can better support this.
NanoSUN does not supply hydrogen. It is usually our customers who supply hydrogen and we don’t want to compete with our customers. We are a hardware supplier, so it’s up to our customers to decide what colour and quality of hydrogen they want to fill their Pioneers with. We are colour and quality agnostic. With regards to quality, this is entirely dependent on the gas put into Pioneer but nothing in the construction of the Pioneer system would degrade or affect the quality of the gas.
On the subject of our customers, these could be fleet owners or operators and fuel distributors, but predominantly to date, we have sold Pioneers to hydrogen producers. They have seen Pioneer as a means to provide delivered hydrogen as a service to mobility end users.
Because we’re targeting introductory fleets of heavy-duty vehicles, these are often captive fleets and this is what we have designed Pioneer around. So firstly Pioneer needs to be used on private land like a depot for example. We do require that the Pioneer is only used by authorised, trained personnel. It should not be accessible to members of the public.
You need to have a hard standing, Pioneers are quite heavy at around 24 tonnes. You also need to have adequate space, Pioneer fits in the envelope of a standard 20ft ISO container, however, it may sit on a trailer larger than this and that trailer will need to be manoeuvred around the site.
We also need to be mindful of the BCGA guidelines on separation distances between other compressed gas equipment and ensure Pioneer has an ATEX zone.
In terms of power requirement, I’ve already suggested this is pretty low. Pioneer draws just 500W, it needs a single phase 230V/16A mains connection. We also have the ability to accept a 24V DC supply.
As we’re a hardware manufacturer our preference is to sell. However, we do see a need in the market right now for flexibility so we are open to offering lease options. These lease agreements would include all planned maintenance and spares and would run for a minimum of one year.
Whilst in practice the basic operation of Pioneer for refuelling vehicles is not much different to traditional petrol and diesel stations, we do require that all operators have a basic level of training.
Other Pioneer operations such as refilling it at a mother station, performing weekly visual inspections and having an understanding of safety procedures require a higher level of technician training. Both training options are included with the sale or lease of Pioneer.
Because Pioneer is targeted at captive fleets of heavy-duty vehicles we anticipate depot-based refuelling where there will be site managers and site technicians who would be trained as appropriate.
We store a maximum of 420kg of hydrogen at 425 bar but not all of this can be dispensed for full vehicle fills. We expect around 200-250kg of usable gas for 350 bar refuelling before the Pioneer needs to be returned to the source for replenishment. You can, of course, dispense more gas after this point but this would be at diminishing pressures, this could for example be used for partial vehicle refuels or lower pressure demand such as hydrogen generators.
Due to the cascade technology on board, we do not have to wait for any regeneration of storage capacity. We can achieve back-to-back vehicle refuels.
This is entirely dependent on the end user’s demand. It may be that they have a fleet of vehicles, say ten large buses which require 200+kg of hydrogen a day, to which Pioneer would need to go and be refilled once a day. Smaller fleets might be once a week.
In terms of logistics, this isn’t something we offer directly. Pioneer customers would need to arrange a logistics provider to supply a suitable ADR certified trailer to do the movements. In the UK NanoSUN have a non-exclusive partnership with Reynolds Logistics who is well-placed to support our customers.
Pioneer has a cloud-based remote monitoring system which provides the overall health and status of the system. From this web portal customers can see the onboard inventory of each cylinder.
We’ve talked a lot about how Pioneer can enable the acceleration of introductory heavy-duty fleets, but there are longer-term use cases too. If fleets grow to a size that warrants a fixed filling station Pioneer can provide refuelling availability whilst fixed infrastructure is being planned, built and commissioned. Once operational Pioneer can act as a backup in case of downtime or maintenance. Pioneers can also quickly extend the refuelling network between fixed filling stations. Having Pioneers available could support a fixed filling network during seasonal fluctuations in demand, for example, extra delivery vans on the road in the run-up to Christmas.
NanoSUN’s focus is very much on supporting hydrogen mobility particularly the hardest to electrify and decarbonise sectors. We see hydrogen as being a fundamental solution for transport applications in the transition to net zero.
Whilst industrial use and hydrogen for heating can likely be supported by pipeline distribution, mobility applications are likely to rely on road transportation of hydrogen. Transport applications are more demanding in their requirements. They need the gas to be delivered in the right place, at higher pressures and with higher quality.
The mobility sector is very wide. In addition to highway applications, we see huge potential for mobile refuelling in off-highway applications such as construction and agriculture. We are also exploring how Pioneer can be used in marine, aviation and rail projects.
Interested in finding out more about how Pioneer can help you?