More fuel cell vehicles in China could help combat air pollution problems
Hydrogen-powered vehicles could be good for the country’s environment and save energy.
China is reportedly thinking about replacing gas-powered vehicles with fuel cell vehicles – cars, buses, etc. – powered by hydrogen. Experts believe that adopting these cleaner vehicles will help the nation save energy and combat its ever-increasing air pollution problems that U.S.-based Health Effects Institute reports is responsible for 1.6 million premature deaths in China, annually.
Hydrogen-powered vehicles offer advantages over total battery-powered EVs.
Zhang Weidong, a program manager at United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) told the Global Times that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles offer more benefits compared to electric vehicles (EVs) that run purely on battery power. These benefits include: longer vehicle life, low maintenance and faster-refueling speeds.
Additionally, Zhang believes that by promoting the use of these clean-powered vehicles, it could benefit poorer rural areas of China, particularly farmers. The reason is hydrogen can be generated from re-forming ethanol extracted from farm crop residue, such as sugar-rich straw.
An estimated 5,000 fuel cell vehicles are expected to be on the road by 2025.
China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and the UNDP have jointly implemented a Global Environment Facility-funded project to increase the use of hydrogen-powered vehicles to help reduce the impact of climate change. Hydrogen transportation has no tailpipe emissions, emitting only water and vapor.
“We have launched a pilot program in five cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Three hydrogen-powered buses served during the 2008 Olympic Games and another six were used at the Shanghai World Exposition in 2010,” UNDP deputy country director, Devanand Ramiah, told Global Times.”
By 2020, Ramiah said that approximately 5,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles are expected to be on the road, a figure which is estimated to reach 1 million by 2030.
That being said, currently, one of the major roadblocks preventing wide spread adoption of these vehicles is that hydrogen is still classified as a hazardous chemical substance in China, due to its flammability. This means that under the present regulatory framework, building hydrogen fuel stations – infrastructure that would be needed to support more fuel cell vehicles on the road – is not as smooth and easy a process as it is for building gasoline stations.