By Caroine Spencer
An environmental campaigner wants to see hydrogen fuel-cell technology introduced to Jersey and Guernsey.
Andrew Le Quesne, who chairs Earth Project Jersey, says that he has been on a personal crusade for many years to get the technology accepted locally.
‘There aren’t enough of the right minerals known in the world, lithium, cobalt, selenium etc, to convert every vehicle in the UK to battery electric,’ he said. ‘Battery electric is only an interim stage with the current technology. The best solution, long-term, is hydrogen fuel cells (HFC).
‘They were actually invented by an Englishman in the 1870s and if it hadn’t been for them Apollo would never have got to the moon. So it’s a significant technology. And hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe.
‘The question of hydrogen splits into two parts,’ he explained. ‘The first is the production facility in the Island. We are looking at assembling a collective to fund and establish a commercial production unit at La Collette.
‘We are looking to keep this in the private sector and then possibly gift a stake to the public in exchange for the site and in time to help to offset the reduced income from fuel tariffs.
‘This facility will be open to everyone but initially the priority has to be the bus fleet and heavy commercial vehicles.
‘The second part is the users, the target market here is to develop a process by which the bus fleet is migrated from road diesel to green/bio diesel and then to hydrogen fuel. This will take a number of years and is to an extent dependent upon the States.
‘As soon as we have a viable model for Jersey, the plan is to replicate it in Guernsey and then other small island jurisdictions. A second phase is to carry out a similar migration with skip and refuse vehicles and then the entire heavy goods fleet.’
Hyundai was one of the first manufacturers to make hydrogen fuel-cell cars commercially available. Toyota have recently brought out another, the Mirai. ‘Private cars and light commercial vehicles will go hydrogen fuel-cell but it’s possibly going to take 10-15 years,’ Andrew said. ‘Buses are already there. Aberdeen have done more than a million kilometres of trials with their fleet of hydrogen fuel-cell buses.’
Andrew has been in talks with Liberty Bus, JE, Jersey Gas and a fuel supplier. ‘My idea would be to bring together the key players to form an energy consortium to supply the hydrogen fuel.
‘Once we get the buses converted to HFC, then we can introduce a rolling programme of converting all of the heavy goods vehicles.
‘In Jersey there is a tendency to go for easy-wins. Painting cycle lanes on the roads doesn’t actually make a significant difference. 75% of emissions come from heavy transport so if we can convert them, then frankly we don’t need to make such an issue about private cars.
‘Buses are on the road all day every day. They probably contribute 15-18% of the carbon footprint of our transport. So if you take that out of the equation, you make substantial gains.
‘This is step change. Cars and light vehicles can continue to migrate to cleaner fuels, battery electric and hybrid; heavy goods vehicles can start the journey by going onto bio-diesels, something that could be subsidised or encouraged by the Treasury, as they then prepare to migrate to the full HFC solution.
‘Long term, the future is hydrogen or some hitherto undiscovered technology.’