Demand for platinum in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) is currently being led by the heavy-duty vehicle segment, principally trucks, buses and fleet vehicles; however, developments in the FCEV passenger vehicle segment highlight that this market is also evolving, says industry organisation the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC).
Global FCEV car sales jumped 89.2% year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, hitting a record 4 000 units, with Toyota Motor’s second-generation Mirai model leading the way.
The news follows a recent announcement by US President Joe Biden that has further shone the spotlight on the role FCEVs can play in transitioning transport away from fossil fuels.
It is Biden’s intention to decarbonise the US federal fleet – comprised of about 650 000 vehicles, including passenger cars – and he has made it clear that hydrogen FCEVs will be part of this initiative, the WPIC says.
In Canada, proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology company Ballard Power Systems, and manufacturing company Linamar, have announced plans to form a strategic alliance for the co-development and sale of fuel cell powertrains and components for Class 1 and 2 vehicles weighing up to 5 t, initially in North America and Europe.
This includes light trucks, commercial vans, sports utility vehicles and passenger cars.
European automaker BMW is committed to the development of passenger FCEVs and has this month tested a BMW X5 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle on public roads, notes the WPIC.
The FCEV model boasts a drive train system – high-voltage battery and fuel cell combination – that delivers a total output of 275 kW.
The fuel cell alone generates up to 125 kW of electric output from the chemical reaction between the hydrogen in the vehicle’s storage tanks and oxygen in the ambient air.
Its hydrogen storage tanks are both weight- and space-optimised, with the capacity to carry enough fuel to ensure a long vehicle range regardless of weather conditions, acclaims the WPIC.
BMW aims to offer a wide line-up of hydrogen-powered FCEVs by 2030.
RANGE & REFUELLING BENEFITS
In an FCEV, the PEM fuel cell system is comprised of a fuel cell stack that converts chemical energy to electrical energy to produce electrical power using a platinum catalyst, with water and heat as the only by-products.
FCEVs produce zero tailpipe emissions and, when fuelled by hydrogen produced from renewable sources, they offer a form of transport that is entirely fossil-fuel free, enthuses the WPIC.
“FCEVs refuel quickly, in a way that is similar to gasoline or diesel vehicles, and make for excellent passenger vehicles because they can travel 300 to 400 miles on a single tank. What is more, power output does not reduce when the weather is cold, a major consideration in regions that experience harsh winters,” the organisation notes.