To pave the way for hydrogen infrastructure, a number of significant alliances have been announced. In Europe, Shell has invested in the world’s largest hydrogen production facility in Wesseling, Germany, which will be operational in 2020. At the same time, a joint venture is targeting having 400 new H2 fuel cell stations in Europe by 2023. In Japan, a joint venture is targeting the installation of 300 H2 fuel cell stations by 2025. In the U.S., a partnership targets introducing a fleet of 40-ton heavy-weight trucks with a 3,000km range to U.S. transport routes by 2021. And in China, the country’s most recent Five Year Plan targets the introduction of 3,000 H2 fuel cell stations in China by 2030.
Fuel cell technology produces power when the hydrogen reacts with oxygen from the air to produce water vapour, heat and electricity. Since the source of energy generation is permanently on-board the vehicle (as opposed to batteries, which store electricity produced by other means), the size of the battery on fuel cell-driven vehicles can be significantly reduced. One concern with this technology is that the hydrogen needs to be transported in large tanks that can withstand internal pressures of 700 bar or more. Hydrogen fuel cell tanks have traditionally been made from steel, and are therefore very heavy. Yet it is possible to create a lightweight hydrogen gas tank using engineering plastics.
DSM has already launched a lightweight Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) tank that combines a blow-molded inner liner made from Akulon polyamide 6 (PA6) with an outer composite structure made from EcoPaXX polyamide 410 (PA410) tapes. The inner tank eliminates the escape of hydrogen by evaporation, while the outer composite structure protects against the high burst pressures essential for hydrogen storage. The combined solution provides excellent mechanical performance at temperatures from -40°C to 85°C – superior to the performance of competitive aromatic polyamides. It outperforms competitive materials, demonstrating very good compatibility with hydrogen, higher burst pressures and better economics. At the same time, the solution is fully recyclable.
To learn more about how to create strong yet lightweight hydrogen fuel tanks, download the white paper here.