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Hydrogen Pegged to Be New Quality Fuel

Source: Science and Technology Daily | 2024-05-09 09:00:15 | Author: YU Haoyuan

By YU Haoyuan

The world's first hydrogen-powered intercity train has undergone testing this March in north China's Jilin province, a milestone in hydrogen application. As an increasingly used environmentally friendly option, hydrogen is advancing China's "dual-carbon" goal and helping to develop "new quality productive forces" (NQPFs) at an accelerated pace.

To gain an understanding of how hydrogen energy is speeding up future sustainable development, Science and Technology Daily recently interviewed with an expert in the field, Professor Wang Cheng from Tsinghua University.

Multiple uses

Hydrogen energy has many potential applications in multiple fields, including transportation and industrial manufacturing.

For transportation use, Wang pointed out that the hydrogen fuel cell power system might be more advantageous in commercial vehicles. "In some extreme conditions like cold environments, or application scenarios with high power density requirements like heavy truck, hydrogen fuel cell power systems have significant advantages over pure battery systems," said Wang.

Hydrogen also has broad applications in industrial manufacturing. Wang indicated hydrogen can be widely used as an important raw chemical material for hydrogenation such as the production of ammonia and methane. What's more, it also serves as a vital reductant in metal smelting and processing, including welding, cutting, and heat treatment.

"In summary, hydrogen-related technological innovation will help reduce carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency, and play a pivotal role in future sustainable development in a wide range of areas," said Wang.   

Hydrogen advantages

Compared to other energy resources, hydrogen offers a wide range of resource accessibility and uses without creating carbon dioxide.

Specifically, its high energy density without the challenge of self-discharge, makes it well suited for large-scale, long-period energy storage, helping to solve instability of renewable energy supply problem.

However, there are also other challenges in promoting the development of hydrogen-related industries, such as higher costs, difficulties in R&D and commercialization, infrastructure construction and renewal challenges, and safety concerns of hydrogen embrittlement.

"Despite the challenges ahead, unique advantages of hydrogen energy and fuel cells put them in an important position in the future of renewable green energy systems," said Wang. "With continuous technological innovation and policy support, the prospects for their commercialization and application remain promising," he said.

Development encouraged by government

In pursuit of the "dual-carbon" goal,the Chinese government attaches great importance to the development of the hydrogen energy industry.

In the past five years, hydrogen energy and fuel cells have been mentioned in the Government Work Report several times. In March 2022, the National Development and Reform Commission and the National Energy Administration released a plan on the development of hydrogen energy to significantly increase hydrogen's share in terminal energy consumption by 2035.

According to Wang, the Chinese government is currently spearheading the high-quality development of hydrogen-related new quality productive forces through several key strategies:

    -Speeding up the formulation of policies and standards within the hydrogen energy sector to establish a clearer development trajectory and regulatory framework;

    -Fostering global collaboration by sharing experiences, technologies and resources;

    -Increasing investments in building hydrogen energy infrastructure to support the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies;

    -Designating major hydrogen energy industry demonstration city clusters, to encourage widespread application of hydrogen;

    -Enhancing the expertise of professionals in the field of hydrogen energy, including initiatives to enhance education, training and skill development.

Results need collaboration

The Hydrogen Council predicted that hydrogen power will provide power for 10 to 15 million cars and 500,000 trucks by 2030. And by 2050, the annual demand for hydrogen could increase tenfold to almost 80 EJ, meaning hydrogen could account for almost 20 percent of the total final energy consumed, contributing 2.5 trillion USD in annual sales.

According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the 2023 national production and sales of fuel cell vehicles were 5,631 and 5,791, respectively, an increase of 55.3 percent and 72 percent compared with 2022. It is expected that the number of fuel cell vehicles in China will reach about one million in 2035.

"Based on the above targets, we can look forward to the future development of hydrogen-related new quality productive forces," said Wang. "In the future, as technology continues to advance and application scenarios continue to expand, the importance of hydrogen-related NQPFs will further increase, and is expected to become a key force in promoting energy transformation and combating climate change."

"However, to realize the goals, joint efforts of governments, enterprises and all sectors of society are needed to increase investment and cooperation, and to promote the innovation and application in the entire hydrogen energy industry chain," said Wang.

Editor: 余昊原

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