Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No. 736: The realities of fuel-cell vehicles (2/2) (June 19, 2013)

There are 19 hydrogen stations for substantiative experiment, five of which are operated by JX Nippon and Oil that operates 40% of all gas stations in Japan. The oil industry plans to build 100 hydrogen stations across the country by 2015. The industry’s active attitude can be attributed to the profitability brought about by fuel-cell vehicles. An electric vehicle charging station can make several hundred yen per charge that takes about 30 minutes, while a hydrogen station can make several thousand yen per filling that takes three minutes. A hydrogen station becomes profitable if it can get 2,000 fuel-cell vehicles per day, and this is the same level of a gasoline station.

A hydrogen station operated by Idemitsu

A mobile hyddrogen station

A fuel-cell vehicle has higher energy efficiency than a gasoline vehicle. It is said that a fuel-cell vehicle has about two times higher overall energy efficiency that a gasoline vehicle. A fuel-cell vehicle has 40% energy efficiency, followed by a hybrid vehicle with 34%, electric vehicle with 33%, and gasoline vehicle with 19%. As a matter of fact, fuel-cell vehicles help Japan reduce energy consumption greatly, and it is not a dream for Japan to become a country of energy independence.

In a city devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, a public-private project to build a hydrogen town is under way. It aims to produce hydrogen from gases created by local wood and use the produced hydrogen for fuel of fuel-cell vehicles. It is a project for local production for local consumption of energy independent of oil and nuclear generation. A standard fuel-cell sedan can supply electricity to a standard household for more than a week, longer than an electric vehicle does. The government subsidizes private projects to build more than 100 hydrogen stations.

These projects are part of the driving force to create new markets related to the supply of hydrogen. A consulting firm reckons that the market of more than 10 trillion yen will be created for the construction of 10,000 hydrogen stations. Hydrogen can be produced in the oil refining process and steelmaking process. Oil refineries produce a large amount of hydrogen to eliminate sulfur in the refining process of gasoline, and surplus hydrogen will increase as the downsizing of oil refineries continues.

Japan imported 290 million kiloliters of oil for 8,670 billion dollars in 1973, whereas it paid 13 times more value to import 220 million kiloliters of oil in 2010. In addition, fossil fuel will surely be depleted in the future. Fuel-cell vehicles will be Japan’s powerful card to prepare for the energy crisis in the future.   

    Let's try to fill hydrogen 

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