Use of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells for Refrigerated Transport

Use of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells for Refrigerated Transport

Raquel Garde (National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), Spain), Sindia Casado (National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), Spain), Fernando Jimenez (National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), Spain), Gabriel Garcia-Naveda (National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), Spain) and Monica Aguado (National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1671-2.ch037


Benchmark refrigeration systems in the road transportation sector are powered by diesel, having operation costs of up to 6,000 €/y with the consequent increase of the goods cost. This chapter presents an alternative refrigeration system based on fuel cells (FC) and hydrogen as fuel, with higher efficiency, reduced costs and independent of diesel price fluctuations. Examples of the energy load profiles impact on the FC sizing, H2 consumption and system autonomy are presented as well as a description of the FC model and performance simulation results. The economical feasibility of this new refrigeration system linked to renewable energies is also analyzed and an economical assessment for different scenarios is presented.
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The road freight market in the EU is currently recovering from the deep economic crisis of 2008/09 which greatly reduced transport activity. In 2010, road freight transport activity in the EU, measured in tonne-km, was roughly 3% higher than in 2009. However, this followed a fall of 2% in 2008 and another 10% drop in 2009 which leaves road freight transport activity in the EU still about 9% below pre-crisis levels of 2007. This development has not been uniform throughout the EU though. The distribution of the inland freight transport in Europe in 2010 is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Distribution of the Inland freight transport in Europe in 2010. Source: European Commission.

According to some analysis developed by the European Commission, the road transport sector contributes hugely to the European economy: it provides about 4.5 million jobs and generates a turnover worth about 1.6% of EU gross domestic product. Moreover, most of the freight deliveries begin and end with a trip on the road. Road transport therefore also plays a vital role in the development of Europe’s integrated transport networks and intermodal transport solutions.

The distribution of road freight transport activity by distance class reveals that more than half (55%) of all goods in terms of their weight are not transported more than 50km. Three quarter of all goods are not transported more than 150 km. It is in these distance brackets where road transport has no economically viable competing mode of transport. Only around a quarter of all goods are transported over distances greater than 150km.

Refrigerated road transport contributes largely to the whole goods road transport; depending on the Member State shares can range from 35%-60% of the heavy-duty vehicles.

Heavy duty trucks typically use diesel engines, whose fuel cost has been estimated to be around 38% of the total yearly direct costs (Ministerio de Fomento, 2013). Refrigeration units are currently based on auxiliary diesel engines and use additional diesel to feed the refrigeration system, increasing the fuel consumption in about 12% (MdF, 2013).

The interest about hydrogen as a low emissions fuel for energy applications has sharply increased the last years leading to the so named the “Economy of Hydrogen”. This chemical reactant has become a versatile fuel with the additional capability of being obtained from many sources including renewable energies.

The 96% of the current hydrogen is obtained from fossil fuels, by natural reforming or oil cracking, and used on site in petrochemical plants, pharmacy or other chemistry related industries. But a 4% of the gas is obtained by water electrolysis which consists in breaking water in an electrolyser by using electricity as energy source.

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