Electric vehicle chargers can’t fuel hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen chargers can’t juice up electric vehicles.
But what if there’s a solution to charge both at the same time?
Che Hoo-seok, chief operating officer at Doosan Fuel Cell, the hydrogen business unit of South Korean conglomerate Doosan Group, says the infrastructure conundrum can be addressed with a breakthrough “triple” energy generation technology.
“With natural gas, Doosan Fuel Cell’s Tri-gen system can produce electricity, hydrogen and heat simultaneously on-site. The system will become the cheapest hydrogen production and charging solution in the early stages of the hydrogen economy,” the COO said in an interview with The Korea Herald.
Hydrogen can’t be transported through the existing underground natural gas pipeline network due to a leakage issue, as hydrogen is a much smaller molecule than natural gas.
For this reason, hydrogen has to be compressed inside special tanks and delivered by trucks, but this drives up the cost significantly.
“Tri-gen can produce 220 kilograms of hydrogen per day and generate 350-440 kilowatts of electricity to fast-charge electric vehicles. With Tri-gen, you can operate an EV charger and a hydrogen fueling station at the same time,” the Doosan executive said.
Some 220 kilograms of hydrogen is enough to fuel 40 to 60 Nexo hydrogen SUVs. Also, 350-440 kilowatts of electricity can quick-charge Hyundai’s Ioniq5 in 10 to 12 minutes.
“We are planning to install the Tri-gen system in locations such as bus depots where steady demand for hydrogen exists. To save space, Tri-gen can be built underground or stacked in multiple stories,” he said.
Tri-gen, which looks like a small container, won the CES 2022 Innovation Awards last month, as it is expected to contribute to expanding the much-needed hydrogen charging infrastructure.
In South Korea, there are some 100 hydrogen filling stations, but only 20-30 of them are operational. Most of the stations struggle to turn a profit as there aren’t enough hydrogen vehicles on the road yet.
Doosan’s ambition isn’t just limited to dominating the local hydrogen charging infrastructure. It also aims to control the domestic commercial hydrogen vehicle market, which is currently up for grabs, as established automakers cannot easily enter the market.
“We will also develop a hydrogen power pack for land vehicles such as hydrogen buses,” the executive said.
A hydrogen power pack is a type of generator equivalent to the engine of a car. Inside, fuel cells are installed to generate electricity and power an electric motor.
Doosan previously manufactured hydrogen power packs for drones only, and this is its first time developing them for cars.
Conventional automakers such as Hyundai Motor already manufacture hydrogen buses, but the world’s No. 3 carmaker has yet to achieve an economy of scale. A domestically made hydrogen bus costs around 400 million won ($339,000), which is 100 million won more expensive than a Chinese-made model, sources say.
This is why Doosan is entering the commercial hydrogen vehicle market with its hydrogen power pack. Immediate demand is expected, as the government plans to switch 2,000 public buses to hydrogen buses next year. More orders are on the way, as the government aims to put 40,000 hydrogen buses on the road and export 20,000 by 2040. As for hydrogen trucks, the target is 30,000 for domestic use and 90,000 for export.
To further bolster its hydrogen strength, Doosan Group in September formed Doosan H2 Innovation to consolidate the group’s hydrogen research and development efforts dispersed across different affiliates.
“Through the newly formed entity, Doosan will maximize its development capabilities of next-generation fuel cells such as solid oxide fuel cells and solid oxide electrolysis cells, which exhibit greater life span and safety,” the COO said.
In September, Doosan Fuel Cell shipped four hydrogen fuel cells worth $13.2 million to China in what was marked as Korea’s first export of the product.
The fuel cells, with a combined capacity of 1.8 megawatts, will be installed at seven apartment buildings of 400 households and one commercial building in Foshan, Guangdong province, to provide heat and electricity.
“Doosan Fuel Cell will also bolster its global competitiveness in fuel cells for ships and distributed power generation,” the official said.
By Kim Byung-wook (email@example.com