By Jackson Carr, FCHEA Intern
The Northern European nations of Scandinavia, which include Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland, have been at the leading edge of energy efficiency and decarbonization efforts throughout the 21st century. With a significant share of the energy mix coming from biomass, hydropower, and wind resources, the Nordic region has some of the world’s most affordable and renewable energy systems. Working alongside industry leaders and the European Union’s (EU) Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), Scandinavian countries have been taking steps to further incorporate hydrogen and fuel cell technology into their energy profiles.
European Union initiatives have often targeted Scandinavian nations as ideal starting points for hydrogen and fuel cell infrastructure deployment. The EU’s Hydrogen Mobility Europe (H2ME) initiative, officially launched in 2015, has funded now-operational hydrogen refueling stations in Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland, and is expected to bring a total of ten refueling stations to Scandinavian countries by 2022.
Co-funded by the FCH JU, the Second Joint Initiative for Hydrogen Vehicles across Europe (JIVE 2) project was announced in January 2018. With plans to deploy 152 fuel cell buses across fourteen European cities in the next six years, the project expects to deliver ten buses to Norway, five buses to Iceland, and five to Sweden. The first phase of the JIVE project, launched in January 2017, still plans to deliver ten fuel cell buses to Herning, Denmark.
International leaders in clean transportation and energy efficiency, Denmark has been at the forefront of hydrogen and fuel cell development over the past decade. In 2013, the capital city of Copenhagen became the first city to receive a deployment of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), obtaining 15 of Hyundai’s earliest iX35 models. Since then, Denmark has taken great steps to establish a nationwide hydrogen refueling network, working primarily with FCHEA member Nel ASA and the EU Hydrogen for Innovative Vehicles (HyFIVE) project to open over ten stations across Denmark.
Last May, FCHEA member Hyundai presented two of its iX35 fuel cell vehicles (known as the Tucson in the United States) to the Copenhagen Mayor of Social Services, Mia Nyegaard and the Mayor of Employment and Integration, Cecilia Lonning-Skovgaard, to serve as the primary means of transport for the mayors in their official capacities. Copenhagen, a member of the European Union-funded Hydrogen Mobility Europe 2 (H2ME-2) program, now has more than 20 FCVs in operation.
FCHEA member Air Liquide inaugurated HyBalance, a pilot site for the production of carbon-free hydrogen, in Hobro, Denmark, in September of last year. With a capacity of 1.2 MW producing around 500 kg of hydrogen per day, the electrolyzer will serve both industrial customers as well as a network of hydrogen stations operated by the Copenhagen Hydrogen Network, a subsidiary of Air Liquide. Led by Air Liquide and industry partners, the HyBalance program began in 2016 with funding from the FCH JU, and support from the Danish Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program.
In October of 2018, Copenhagen Capacity, the official business development organization for Copenhagen, Denmark, was selected to receive funding from the EU for 200 hydrogen fuel cell buses. Through the "Connecting Europe Facility Program," the EU will subsidize €40 million (~$46 million) of fuel cell bus purchases for deployment in urban regions. According to Copenhagen Capacity, this funding is expected to bring 200 hydrogen buses to Denmark by 2020, which corresponds to ten percent of Danish city buses potentially running on hydrogen.
This January, the government of Denmark announced a plan to transition all taxi cabs to zero-emission vehicles starting in 2025. The mandate is expected to benefit the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell-powered taxis, according to Tejs Laustsen Jensen, CEO for the Hydrogen Denmark association. Of the 500 taxi licenses that the government will issue in 2019 and 2020, 300 will be guaranteed for zero-emission vehicles.
For decades, Norway has produced hydrogen in large quantities, and developed highly efficient water electrolysis technology with the help of clean hydroelectric power. Norway’s largest oil company, Statoil, was an early developer of the solid oxide fuel cell in the 1980’s. Today, Statoil works with other industry leaders and research institutions to develop a renewable and secure power supply based on natural gas and hydrogen. Norway currently has five hydrogen refueling stations in operation, including a fuel cell bus station provided by the European Union’s Clean Hydrogen in European Cities (CHIC) project, which has been refueling five zero-emission buses in Oslo since 2013.
Headquartered in Norway, Nel ASA has played an important role in the expansion of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies across Northern Europe and the rest of the world, taking on projects in South Korea, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States over the past year.
This past July, Nel was awarded over NOK 7.5 million (~$875,000) to construct two hydrogen refueling stations in Sønderborg and Herning, Denmark. The Sønderborg station will initially support a FCV fleet owned by municipal waste and recycling company Sønderborg Forsyning, and the Herning station will service a fleet of municipal government vehicles and other locally-operated FCVs.
In August, Nel ASA announced that they will expand their electrolyzer manufacturing plant in Notodden, Norway, to have a name plate capacity of 360 MW per year, the largest of its kind in the world. The NOK 150 million (~$17.9 million) expansion will accommodate fuel cell truck manufacturer Nikola Motor's order for 448 electrolyzers to produce on-site hydrogen fuel. Nikola is developing an American network of hydrogen fueling stations for heavy duty-trucks and passenger vehicles. Under their contract with Nikola, Nel will deliver up to 1 gigawatt of power from electrolysis, plus hydrogen fueling equipment.
In September, Nel announced the opening of a new factory in Herning, to enable large-scale production of its hydrogen fueling stations, H2Station. The facility, which can manufacture up to 300 stations per year, can produce H2Station models that meet certification in the United States, Europe, and Asia on the same production line, according to Nel. In December, Nel received a €1 million (~$1.12 million) research and development grant from the Danish Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program for the continued development of its H2Station technology.
Separately, Uno-X Hydrogen AS, a partnership between Nel, Uno-X Energy, and Praxair, is working to build a network of hydrogen refueling stations that spans across every major Norwegian city by 2020. Having opened three hydrogen refueling stations in Norwegian cities thus far, the partnership has received orders to more than double that number by the end of 2019. Nel has been contracted to deliver four refueling stations to Norwegian cities during 2019, and with NOK 24 million (~$2.8 million) from Norwegian public enterprise Enova SF, the joint venture will open an additional four stations in southern Norway.
Sweden’s national partnership for the deployment of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and refueling infrastructure, Hydrogen Sweden, was founded in 2007 and today has over 40 industry members including Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai. Already obtaining over 50% of its energy from renewable sources, Sweden is in a prime position to further transform its energy system with hydrogen fuel cells.
Sweden’s Nillson Energy, along with Danish firm Better Energy, are in the process of installing the world’s first fully off-grid, energy sufficient housing complex in Sweden’s Vårgårda Municipality, which will operate solely on solar energy and hydrogen. Launched in early 2018, the on-site solar generation and storage system will power 172 apartments across six blocks and will rely on long-term hydrogen storage to provide reserve heat and electricity during Sweden’s harsh winter months.
Sweden is also home to FCHEA member myFC, the world’s leading manufacturer of micro fuel cells and chargers for portable consumer electronics. In March 2018, myFC announced that the Swedish Patent Office would issue the company two new patents for its proprietary liquid hydrogen fuel. The two solutions put forth by myFC are intended to control and direct the chemical reaction as a means of making the liquid fuel easier and more efficient to handle.
This March, myFC announced a joint development project with Gränges AB, a global supplier of rolled aluminum products for heat exchanger applications. The project will focus on developing a liquid cooling solution for the fuel reactor of myFC’s LAMINA REX, the company’s first product targeted at the automotive industry. The LAMINA REX is a fuel cell-based range extender that has the potential to double the range of mid-sized electric vehicles by enabling on-board hydrogen generation.
In 2017, Scandinavian Hyon was formed by Swedish fuel cell manufacturer PowerCell, alongside FCHEA members Nel and Hexagon Composites to act as a “one-stop-shop” for renewable hydrogen solutions. In December 2018, the joint venture announced that it had been awarded grants for two maritime projects in Norway, part of the PILOT-E funding scheme launched by the country’s Research Council, Innovation Norway, and Enova. The projects include a zero-emission fast ferry powered by both hydrogen fuel cells and batteries, and a zero emission hydrogen fuel cell coastal freighter with automated cargo holding.
In 1999, Iceland announced serious intentions to end its dependence on fossil fuels, promoting clean hydrogen energy and establishing Icelandic New Energy Ltd. alongside industry partners. Despite successful research and demonstration projects with hydrogen fuel cell buses, light-duty vehicles, commercial boats, and refueling stations early on, economic downturn and market conditions slowed the ambitious efforts to transition to a hydrogen economy.
This past June, Nel ASA opened Iceland’s first hydrogen fueling station in the capital of Reykjavik, installing two hydrogen dispensers at an existing Orkan gasoline station. Funded in part by the FCH JU under the Horizon 2020 framework, Orka Náttúrunar (ON Power) will produce the hydrogen for the station at its geothermal power plant.
In October, Reykjavik bus company Strætó, which currently operates fourteen electric buses in the capital city, announced that they had received 95 million ISK (~$780,000) from the European Union to purchase hydrogen fuel cell buses by the end of 2019. While Iceland is not a member of the EU, they are still bound by most rules and are eligible for funding as part of the European Economic Area.
With continued enthusiasm from Scandinavian governments, the European Union, and industry leaders, fuel cells and hydrogen will continue to play an increasing role in energy efficiency and decarbonization efforts across the Nordic energy system. With Scandinavian companies contributing to significant advances in fuel cell technology, the impact of the Scandinavian fuel cell industry has already been felt far outside of Europe.