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Hydrogen cars set to take off
source: chinadaily.com.cn     2018-08-03

Patented technologies help to advance mass production in new form of clean propulsion

Hydrogen cars are expected to ride high in China this year with more core patented technologies related to fuel cells developed by Chinese companies and institutes, according to auto experts.

Industry insiders have forecast that 2018 will see a boom in mass production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the country, China Intellectual Property News reported.

Hydrogen cars set to take off 

Residents line up to ride a hydrogen fuel cell bus in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province. The city has recently brought in 149 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for regular bus services and an additional 170 will be added by the end of this year. Yang Shiyao / Xinhua 

Hydrogen cars set to take off 

A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is on display at an international auto show in Beijing. Provided to China Daily 

Wuhan Industrial Technology Research Institute of Geo-resources and Environment recently signed an agreement with a local financial company to secure 2 billion yuan ($293.49 million) to commercialize its research and development results on hydrogen vehicles.

The funding will help to roll out 50,000 hydrogen vehicles a year in 2020, according to the agreement.

Xie Jinshui, chief scientist at Himalaya - a fuel cell manufacturer in Wuhan, Hubei province - told the Beijing-based newspaper that compared with conventional vehicles running on gasoline or diesel, hydrogen fuel cell cars report a higher energy transformation rate, up to 60-80 percent, which is two or three times that of an internal combustion engine.

"It is a trend to replace current fossil fuel with clean energy," Xie said. "Among the core technologies relating hydrogen fuel cells is the membrane electrode assembly, which includes electrolyte membranes and catalysts."

High costs have previously hindered the growth of the sector, he added.

The industry has relied on imports of key production materials, including catalysts. To address the issue, the Chinese government has encouraged researchers to develop core technologies and advance their industrialization.

Himalaya has joined forces with Tinghua University in fuel cell research and for its commercialization, establishing facilities for the purposes in Xianning in Hubei in 2015.

Those efforts have paid off, with the first batch of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles featuring proprietary Chinese intellectual property currently undergoing trials in the city.

"We have overcome the technological obstacles to mass production of fuel cell catalysts, as well as membrane electrode assembly R&D and machines, which have won us 17 patents," China Intellectual Property News quoted a company executive, who did not want to be identified, as saying.

The group installed a fuel cell production line in May 2017, capable of producing 1,000 units a year. The new facility will enable Himalaya to increase its annual output to 12,000 fuel cells this year, according to the executive.

Research on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles dates back to the 1990s and now the industry has entered the initial stage of commercialization, according to Yi Baolian, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a researcher at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Intellectual Property News reported.

A report titled Global Market for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles 2018 - released by market research firm Information Trends - showed that 6,475 units were sold worldwide from 2013 to 2017.

The development of new energy technologies relating hydrogen energy and fuel cells was incorporated in a national innovation-driven development strategy outline issued by the State Council in May 2016.

The government called for increased R&D investment in core components, fuel cell systems and infrastructure during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20).

As of 2030, 1 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are projected to run on roads, according to a national clean energy auto technology plan.

"Over the past two decades, China has achieved marked progress in fuel cell vehicles," Yi said. He added that the nation had developed core technologies relating hydrogen fuel cells and launched demonstration operations.

"The technologies are getting increasingly mature," he noted.

"In terms of life span, reliability and usability, hydrogen fuel cells can basically meet the requirements of a vehicle, which has laid the foundation for use on a large scale."

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