HyFLEET:CUTE FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Click to view answer: What is HyFLEET:CUTE? Who are the partners involved in HyFLEET:CUTE?
Which countries and cities are involved in HyFLEET:CUTE? What are the different technologies being used in the vehicles? Is hydrogen safe?
How is hydrogen produced? Are there advantages of one technology over another? is there anything different or special about the refuelling stations?
When is this technology likely to become available to the general public? Why hydrogen? How do fuel cells work?
Why should we worry about energy? Who needs the energy? Energy and climate?
Renewable energies? Is this the 'hydrogen economy'?? Air quality and noise?

 

1.       What is HyFLEET:CUTE?

HyFLEET:CUTE is a project which is demonstrating, testing, and developing hydrogen powered public transport buses and the supporting hydrogen production and distributing infrastructure in regular public service operation.   The Project is supported by the European Commission through the Sixth Framework.   The Project is part of the "Hydrogen for Transport" program of the Commission.

The Project involves 31 partners from Government, industry, and academic and consulting organisations.   Forty seven hydrogen powered buses will operate in ten cities on three continents around the world.   The project commenced in January 2006 and will end in September 2009.  

The overall objective is to establish a basis for efficient, environmentally clean, sustainable public transport systems based on hydrogen.  

The project has a total budget of 43.16 Million Euros with European Commission co-funding of 19 Million Euros.

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2.       Who are the partners involved in HyFLEET:CUTE?

There are 31 partners in HyFLEET:CUTE.   The Project is financially supported by the European Commission as part of its Sixth Framework, "Hydrogen for Transport" Initiative.

The Project Partners comprise automotive companies, Governments, transport companies, energy companies and infrastructure suppliers, and academic and consulting organisations.

For details of the various partners go to partners page .

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3.       Which countries and cities are involved in HyFLEET:CUTE?

The buses are being trialled in ten cities on three continents around the world.

The cities are Amsterdam (Netherlands), Barcelona and Madrid (Spain), Beijing (China), Berlin and Hamburg (Germany), London (United Kingdom), Luxembourg (Luxembourg), Perth (Western Australia) and Reykjavik (Iceland).

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4.       What are the different technologies being used in the vehicles?

Hydrogen can be burnt directly in either Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs), or used as a fuel for producing electricity in fuel cells.   Both these technologies can be used to propel vehicles and both are being used and developed in HyFLEET:CUTE.   Automotive and technology companies all around the world are working hard to develop both technologies and bring them to the point of commercialisation.

The buses in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, Madrid, London, Luxembourg, Perth and Reykjavik are based on fuel cell technology.   Gaseous hydrogen is stored in the tanks of the bus.   The buses use the hydrogen in fuel cells to produce electricity.   The electricity is produced by an electro-chemical reaction.   The electric power is then used to power an electric motor in the bus.  

Fuel cell driven vehicles have great potential to be more efficient and cleaner than current vehicles.   The vehicles can operate without producing any emissions except steam.   Many automotive companies have already presented prototypes and they are being tested around the world.  

The buses in Berlin use the hydrogen in Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs).   With hydrogen ICEs, the general technology arrangements are similar to those that are commonly in cars and buses that are on the road today and have been developed over the last century of automotive history.   Some adaptations have to be made to enable the use of hydrogen as a fuel.   Capitalising on the history of development of the ICE is one of the advantages of this technology system as it can potentially be brought to commercialisation in perhaps the next 5 years.   The cost of the technology is also much lower.

Go to   the Technology section of this web site for more details.

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5.       Is hydrogen safe?

Yes.  

As with any vehicle fuel, hydrogen must be treated with care.   However it is widely acknowledged that Hydrogen is no more dangerous that fuels such as petrol, diesel, natural gas, and LPG, as long as it is handled with the appropriate level of care and safety precautions.  

This is the same as for all other transport fuels.

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6.       How is hydrogen produced?

Hydrogen may be produced through a variety of methods.   Currently the most common method is through the steam reformation of natural gas.

Hydrogen may also be produced by electrolysis using water plus renewable energies such as solar, wind and geothermal power.   The production of hydrogen through these methods creates no greenhouse gas emissions.

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7.       Are there advantages of one technology over another?

There are arguments for and against different technologies.   Different automotive manufacturers are emphasizing different technologies in their future development efforts.

One advantage of hydrogen ICEs is that they can take advantage of the century of development of their technology and can be brought to commercialisation relatively quickly with comparatively low costs.  

One advantage of fuel cell technology is that it can be very efficient.

Both technologies take advantage of the significant benefits that a hydrogen based transport energy system can give.

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8.       Is there anything different or special about the refuelling stations?

Hydrogen refuelling stations are designed, constructed and operated on the basis of the same safety principles as all other refuelling stations.

One of the major differences from conventional petrol and diesel stations is that they need to be able to store hydrogen mainly as a gas.   This requires special engineering techniques and technology.

Compressing and dispensing hydrogen also requires different technology from conventional filling stations.   One of the major developments needed is for compressor technology to be able to operate reliably and efficiently.  

Improving hydrogen storage technology is also very important.

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9.       When is this technology likely to become available to the general public?

Hydrogen technology in vehicles is likely to become available in the next decade.   Internal combustion engines using hydrogen are likely to become commercially available first.   Fuel cell driven vehicles may be commercially available by 2015.

There is research and development on hydrogen for transport, fuel cells and various related technology being undertaken in all over the world.

An important precondition for the use of renewable energies is their economic viability. When this technology is used more widely the cost of the technology and therefore the power produced will decrease.

While the extent of real shortages of fossil fuel, particularly oil, is debated, we are still experiencing rising prices and price instability.

As real shortages become more evident, and the more people realise that fossil fuel resources are finite and limited, the more society will invest in the search for alternatives.

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10.     Why hydrogen?

A hydrogen based transport energy system has the potential to be highly efficient and virtually emission free.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe.   However it never occurs by itself and is always with some other element.   For example with oxygen in water H2O.

Fuel cells can use hydrogen extremely efficiently - far more efficiently that internal combustion engines - and their operation can be without any emissions.

The main issues with hydrogen are concerned with production, purification, distribution and dispensing.   Fuel cells in vehicles commonly require very pure hydrogen and this can be very difficult to produce.

Currently most hydrogen in the world is produced from natural gas.   The production of hydrogen can be very inefficient and still produce environmentally harmful emissions.   The challenge is to produce hydrogen through electrolysis from water using renewable energy sources.   HyFLEET:CUTE is demonstrating how this is possible and the energy mix for hydrogen for the HyFLEET:CUTE buses is based on a dramatic increase in renewable energy that would not have been possible except through the use of hydrogen.

As hydrogen technology is becoming increasingly the focus of Governments and companies around the world, considerable effort is being invested into researching and developing all the related technologies.

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11.     How do fuel cells work?

Fuel Cells work through an electro-chemical process.   They generate electric power from hydrogen and oxygen.   The hydrogen is fed into the cell as a fuel, and the oxygen is commonly obtained from the air.

Go to the Technology section for more details.

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12.     Why should we worry about energy?

We need energy for a lot of purposes in our every day life.   Whether we use the refrigerator, TV, computer whether we drive by car or by subway or whether we only enjoy light and heat, the driving force is always energy.

But energy is finite and this is especially important when we consider our transport system.

More than 95% of our transport energy comes from oil.   While the exact time frame is a subject of considerable debate, it is un-arguable that the global oil supply is reducing.   Some experts argue that more than half the world's oil has already been used and all the easy to obtain oil has largely been depleted.

This concern about supply and security is the reason for the steadily increasing price of oil on the world markets.

And of course the use of fossil fuels in transport is a source of environmental damage.

It is high time to think about the energy of the future!

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13.     Who needs the energy?

The industrial nations are consuming almost all the energy: 17% of mankind consume more than 60% of the energy stocks.

Most of the world's population does not participate in energy consumption yet!

Today more than two billion people have no access to electric power and the world population will at least double in the next 100 years!    If   all of the world's population had the standard of living of the industrialised world, the remaining petroleum and gas would be used up in twenty years.

 

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14.     Energy and climate?

More than 90% of the world's energy requirement are met by burning fossil fuels. By burning fossil fuels carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted. This gas is the main cause for the greenhouse effect and therefore responsible for the warming of our planet.

During the last 100 years the average temperature on earth increased by one degree Celsius.   It is anticipated that this will rise further as a result of changes which have already commenced.

Further warming is inevitable if we do not reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.   

A reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases can only be achieved by 'cleaning up' or reducing the burning of coal, oil and gas - and this has to be done in spite of the increasing demand for energy.

The European Union and its Member States are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol and are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.   A hydrogen based transport system has the potential to play an important role in helping meet these commitments.

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15.     Renewable energies?

The only really reliable long term solution for all energy problems is the use of solar energy! Every renewable energy source like windpower, waterpower, solar, biomass or photovoltaics is ultimately based on the use of the power of the sun.

An energy supply which is based on renewable energy sources will be a mixture of a lot of different technologies. Energy efficiency, decentralized generation of energy from renewable energy sources and the import of solar energy will enable a secure energy supply in the future!

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16.     Is this the 'hydrogen economy'??

The term 'hydrogen economy' is often used to describe the wide scale use of fuel cells through out a community.

Fuel cells are a group of related technologies with a range of operating characteristics.   They can also be built in various sizes and for various purposes and to use different fuels. They can be extremely small e.g. mobile phones or lap top computers, or larger to power a space craft like the United States Space Shuttle, or in a size that can be used in power stations.

Small fuel cells systems similar in size to a washing machine or a refrigerator could be installed in houses.   They could heat and electric power for the household, and any excess electricity could be fed back into the electricity grid.   They could be fuelled from the existing natural gas pipeline network which already exists in many cities.

Large power stations could be replaced by several millions of residential fuel cell systems.   This would reduce emissions because the fuel cell would use the fuel more efficiently than is the case with conventional power stations.   The residential fuel cell systems would also generate heating for the home as well as the electric power.   However there are many complex technical hurdles to overcome before this vision could become a reality.

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17.     Air quality and noise?

Most hydrogen produced today is generated from natural gas.   However there is great potential for hydrogen to be generated from renewable energy sources.   HyFLEET:CUTE is demonstrating how it is possible to greatly increase the contribution from renewable energy resources to provide power to public transport bus fleets.

Even with hydrogen produced from natural gas, total life cycle emissions can be significantly lower because of the higher efficiency.

The local emissions of road traffic can also be greatly reduced.   Noise can also be reduced as fuel cells operate without any sound and electric motors are also very silent.  

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