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Home » Industry News » Renewable Energy & Alternative Energy Solutions » Hydrogen ecosystem Proof-of-Concept demonstrated

Hydrogen ecosystem Proof-of-Concept demonstrated

SASOL, Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM), and Air Products South Africa (APSA) made history at the Smarter Mobility Africa Summit, at the Gallagher Convention Centre, in Johannesburg recently with the presentation of South Africa’s first on-road demonstration of a hydrogen mobility ecosystem. 

The proof-of-concept used a second-generation Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) fuelled with hydrogen produced by Sasol and dispensing technology provided by Air Products, to take several VIPs as passengers around a test track. The partnership between the three technology leaders was formed in 2021 to promote the use of hydrogen as a fuel of the future. 

Sasol target hydrogen production of 3 500t/d

Priscillah Mabelane, Sasol’s Executive Vice-President, Energy Business said: “This opportunity to showcase the potential of a hydrogen transportation system, has been bolstered by our first green hydrogen production at our Sasolburg Operations where we have installed an initial 3 MW solar farm. This will be supplemented by a supply of 69 MW of renewable energy from a wind farm in the Eastern Cape in 2024 to ramp up production to 3 500 tons a day. With both renewable resources on stream, we will have sufficient power to commercialise green hydrogen in South Africa, marking a significant step in our energy transition journey as a country and as Sasol.”

More than 25 000 fuel cell electric vehicles sold since 1992

Andrew Kirby, President, and CEO of Toyota SA Motors, explained that Toyota has been actively involved in the research and development of vehicles using hydrogen as a source of motive power for more than 30 years. 

“Toyota has sold more than 25 000 fuel cell electric vehicles since 1992. We have two of our second-generation Toyota Mirai sedans here for the ecosystem demonstration. They are the flagships of our hydrogen FCEV programme and were only launched last year. The first generation Mirai went on sale in 2015 and 12 000 of them were sold in seven years.”

Hydrogen fuelling expertise

“Globally we have been conducting safe hydrogen fuelling for more than 25 years and during that time have conducted an average of 1.5 million hydrogen fuelling operations a year. Air Products has more than 250 hydrogen fuelling sites in 20 countries and holds 50 patents for hydrogen fuelling.

“We operate the largest hydrogen pipeline network in South Africa, so we are ideally positioned to play a leading role in establishing a sustainable hydrogen ecosystem in South Africa,” added Rob Richardson, Air Products South Africa’s Managing Director. 

“Air Products is involved not only in fuelling cars, trucks, and buses, but also submarines, ships, train locomotives, power generating systems, forklifts, and materials handling equipment,” he said.

H powered taxis transport 100 000 passengers

“Our FCEVs have not only undergone stringent testing by Toyota itself and its many partners working with the company on its hydrogen development projects but the first generation Mirai has also proved itself in everyday use in a hard-working taxi fleet in Munich, Germany. The 120 Mirai’s in the fleet have already transported more than 100 000 passengers and travelled over one million kilometres. The second generation Mirai is now taking over from its predecessor in this fleet and 200 have been ordered,” commented Toyota’s Kirby. 

“The hydrogen market is best suited to longer distance travel and larger vehicles such as trucks and buses, so Toyota is involved in several projects where the FCEVs are commercial vehicles made by Toyota or conversions of existing models from other manufacturers. There was an important development in this regard recently when Toyota UK unveiled and demonstrated a Hilux bakkie fitted with a specially adapted Mirai fuel cell powertrain. The prototype was assembled by Toyota UK in England, but there was significant input from TSAM too, as the basic vehicles were built in Prospecton and then sent to England for fitment of the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain,” explained Kirby.

“The challenge is how to commercialise a hydrogen mobility ecosystem in South Africa because it is a costly undertaking. It now needs more partners, investors, and support from the government. The current partnership is looking at so-called eco-clusters as a start, i.e. high commercial traffic areas in the country. Initially the Pretoria-Johannesburg region could be well-suited as these are high volume routes which could justify investment in hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. Longer term the focus will be on expanding the hydrogen ecosystems along major long-haul routes such as the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban and later into other African countries,” explained Kirby.

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