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Vattenfall unveils electric, hydrogen vehicle concept in the UK

05 May 2021 Cristina Brooks

A northern European power generator is eyeing a roll out of hydrogen and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to meet UK zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) demand.

Swedish utility Vattenfall, which already operates EV stations in continental Europe, agreed to explore supplying an EV charging and hydrogen filling station package for fleet owners alongside British electric truck manufacturer Tevva, according to a 23 April statement.

Tevva is present in the UK electric truck market, three years ago providing package delivery and logistics giant UPS with hybrid electric and diesel vehicles to operate on electric power only while in urban areas, such as a planned clean air zone in Birmingham. It has rapidly moved on from a 2015 prototype phase under the wing of UK government research agency Innovate UK.

Tevva's latest move anticipates a partial diesel vehicle ban in the next decade. The UK government in November announced it would ban certain gasoline and diesel van and car sales in 2030, bringing forward an earlier 2035 target. Hybrid cars that use these fuels can be sold until 2035.

The country plans to fully transition to ZEVs (such as EVs, hydrogen vehicles, and fuel cell EVs) by the middle of the century. The government has set a 2040 date for all new vehicles sold to be "effectively zero-emissions."

Looking at the UK's broader goals, it must cut emissions from road transport if it hopes to reach its 78% emissions cuts target. Emissions from this sector contributed 22% to total UK GHG emissions in 2019, the majority of which came from cars and vans, according to the government's advisory group, the Climate Change Committee.

The UK should also consider a ban for trucks, the National Infrastructure Commission has said. Even so, zero-emissions solutions for heavy goods vehicles are even less developed than they are for cars and vans, the government said in a 2018 strategy paper on road transportation. It also found that, compared with plug-in EVs, hydrogen fuel cell EVs were at a much earlier stage of development.

The government has poured funds into EV and battery R&D, for example investing £246 million ($342 million) in battery technology research in 2017 through its Faraday Battery Challenge. It is aiming to be at the forefront of EV manufacturing, just as it seeks to lead in hydrogen and carbon capture, use, and storage services in its Industrial Decarbonization Strategy.

An existing grant scheme already subsidizes UK consumer and commercial purchases of "low emission" vehicles, for example hybrids that use not only batteries but also gasoline or diesel.

The scheme offers grants of £2,500 ($3,475) for EVs and up to £20,000 ($27,803) for electric vans, as well as hybrid cars and vans that can travel a certain distance with zero emissions before switching to hydrocarbon-based fuels. The government has also pledged £1.3 billion ($1.8 billion) to install EV charging points in homes, streets, and highways.

PPA prospect for stations

Under its recent offer, Vattenfall's electric grid division would supply electric car charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure for businesses, for example those that operate hydrogen electrolyzers.

The company will also provide the electricity needed to run them. It had onshore and offshore wind farms with total capacity of 3.6 GW and 7.2 GW, respectively, in various stages of construction or development in 2020.

Vattenfall proposes to operate the vehicle charging and filling stations so that businesses can avoid investments in the costly kit. "Our 'Power-as-a-Service' model makes those solutions far more accessible, removing the risk and significant capital investment," Vattenfall Network Solutions Director of Heavy Transport Maria Lindberg said in the statement.

While Vattenfall operates more than 22,000 EV charging points in Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and Norway, the UK would be the first country to host its hydrogen filling station concept, a spokesperson told IHS Markit.

The timing is prescient as EV sales are currently revving up in Europe, capturing a 10% share of the new-vehicle market in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency.

Vattenfall's proposed business model could supply electricity both for producing hydrogen for vehicles and EV charging through renewable energy through power purchase agreements (PPAs).

The generator is a provider of renewable PPA contracts, notably supplying Microsoft data centers with power from Dutch wind farms. In all, it has 41 wind power facilities either under development or in operation in the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark.

That growing fleet of wind farms includes its Kriegers Flak facility, which could reach up to 640 MW of capacity and recently obtained a permit for construction in Baltic Sea waters off the coast of Sweden.

Vattenfall is also involved in a project that will produce green hydrogen directly from wind power by 2035, involving 10 GW of Dutch wind power and offshore electrolysis plants. The AquaVentus project was launched last year by some of the major players in Europe's offshore wind sector such as RWE, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Vestas, Parkwind, Siemens Gamesa, and Northland Power as well as Shell.

Vattenfall's other hydrogen moves

As an operator of 10 gas-fired power plants in Germany and the Netherlands, Vattenfall is also exploring hydrogen to meet power plant feedstock demand.

Its Dutch subsidiary Nuon plans to use hydrogen to replace natural gas in one of the three units at its gas-fired power plant in Groningen by 2023.

The utility also has a foot in the door in the industrial use of hydrogen. It started building a rock cavern storage facility for green hydrogen to be used by Swedish steel producer SSAB in April, it said in a statement. SSAB is currently trialing the use of hydrogen in its processes in order to decarbonize its steel production.

In another industrial venture, Hamburg Green Hydrogen Hub, Vattenfall and partners including Shell, MHI, and district heating utility Wärme Hamburg will produce green hydrogen from wind and solar, according to the utility. That project, based at Vattenfall's Moorburg power plant site in Hamburg, may also supply steel giant ArcelorMittal's Hamburg complex.

Posted 05 May 2021 by Cristina Brooks, Senior Journalist, Climate & Sustainability, IHS Markit

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