Could hydrogen be the fuel for an eco-sustainable future?
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9 July 2020 - by: Eleonora Castagna

Could hydrogen be the fuel for an eco-sustainable future?

The production of hydrogen from renewable sources could lead us towards a sustainable energy future. FERCAM, which has always been a promoter of growth and development, is close to the project for the Brenner Green Corridor. We therefore invest in new innovative technologies and alternative fuels, with the aim of continuing to reduce the environmental impact of transport as much as possible.

hydrogen trucks
The many daily activities required in our daily lives and activities, both professional and private, involve a constant and ever increasing use of energy; it is indispensable for our collective development and to sustain progress, and yet its production is among the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, according to data collected and presented by the International Energy Agency. Future development requires moving towards sustainability and progress in the search for environmentally friendly sources, in order to continue to meet the world's vast energy needs. And one of the best responses to this need could be the use of hydrogen.

FERCAM at the heart of experimentation with hydrogen-powered trucks

Founded in the cradle of the Dolomites, in the South Tyrolean capital, FERCAM is part of a working group that will work to implement the strategic plan launched by the Province of Bolzano, aimed at a new sustainable mobility system based on the use of clean energy and the reduction of emissions. The joint objective, pursued through projects including BrennerLEC and LIFEAlps, is to develop a model system of emission-free road transport in South Tyrol, particularly along the Brenner motorway and the surrounding regions, namely the famous "Green Corridor" already envisioned by Karel van Miert. 
 

In the context of the planned strategy, hydrogen plays a crucial role, precisely because it would make it possible to escape from the use of fossil fuels and achieve the target of a 45% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. The city of Bolzano already boasts a small fleet of hydrogen-powered city buses, which are expected to increase in number by the end of 2020. 


FERCAM is at the forefront of testing prototypes of hydrogen-powered electric trucks. As our motto "Clean, smarter logistics" shows, research into innovative transport technologies to reduce the environmental impact of emissions is at the heart of our strategy. New generations of environmentally friendly technologies are already present in our fleet, thanks to the acquisition in recent years of LNG vehicles, a fuel that allows a significant reduction of pollutants, representing a big step forward compared to diesel, but which is not yet the final goal we are aiming for. In pursuit of our goal of zero emissions, we are waiting for our first electric vehicle, a Tesla Semi Truck scheduled for delivery in 2022. And we already have an agreement for Nikola Tre, an electric truck resulting from the partnership between Iveco and Nikola Motors, with particular interest in the hydrogen version, scheduled for release in about 3 years. 

Hydrogen power will save load capacity compared to vehicles with large electric batteries. It therefore represents a solution that within about ten years could prove to be excellent for meeting the needs of the transport sector, without compromising on the conservation of environmental heritage. To date, it is necessary to make some non-refundable investments, to test the real payoff and any critical issues, but FERCAM proudly welcomes the expense of contributing to a truly eco-sustainable future for the sector.

Green hydrogen, an eco-sustainable source of energy

Hydrogen is a colourless, non-toxic gas and the most abundant chemical element on our planet, accounting for about three-quarters of the total mass in the universe. There are no natural deposits on Earth, but it is possible to extract this element from other compounds through chemical processes. There is a green way to extract it, even if today it is not the most widespread: it involves using electricity produced by renewable sources to produce hydrogen through electrolysis (i.e. using electric current to separate water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen). 
For an environmentally sustainable management of global energy demand, hydrogen represents a potentially revolutionary resource: it can be used as a reserve for variable energy production from sources such as solar and wind power and offers opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions in a wide range of sectors, thus supporting international targets to reduce air pollution. But what is most relevant for the transport sector is its use as a fuel for electric engines.

The fuel of the future?

According to the IEA's 2019 report on the future of hydrogen, one of the 4 key sectors whose innovations will help lay the foundations for the growth of the global clean hydrogen industry is transport, where hydrogen is a possible alternative power source for cars, trucks and public transportation. One recent development in this regard is the partnership between Alstom's manufacturer and the energy company Snam to develop hydrogen trains in Italy, following the example of the German Coradia iLint. 
Research is still ongoing, as the use of hydrogen as a fuel on a large scale still presents some challenges, such as the fragility of the cells (with high production costs) and the large size of the tanks. The lack, at least for the time being, of sufficient road refuelling points is also an issue that needs to be addressed, but there are plans to expand the network in Europe in the short term, with the opening of several dozen stations.
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