© Pixabay

The first hydrogen vehicle for the handling of goods in a European port will be tested in Valencia. The four-wheeled port tractor, yard truck in jargon, is designed and developed by the ATENA consortium, with the support of the scientific government agency ENEA, Cantieri del Mediterraneo (shipbuilding facilities in Naples) and two universities (a Naples and the Salerno University).

The test will be carried out in the Valencia port by Grimaldi Group in its Terminal Europe. It’s part of the European project ‘H2Ports’, worth 4 million euro. In addition to ensuring the safety of performance and logistics operations, the yard truck will not produce polluting emissions thanks to a hydrogen fuel system that emits only water and heat.

Short refueling times

“The hydrogen vehicle is equipped with a hybrid fuel cell engine and lithium-ion batteries, which will allow us to carry out the port logistics operations of loading and unloading from cargo ships. The use of hydrogen will ensure good operational autonomy, short refueling times, low maintenance costs and above all zero emissions”, explained Viviana Cigolotti, researcher at the ENEA Laboratory of Energy Storage, Batteries and Technologies for Hydrogen Use and  Production and ENEA coordinator for the project.

© Enea

In terms of emissions avoided, the ENEA researchers calculated that the tractors used to unload the ships (each requires a fleet of 6 tractors), in a medium-sized port terminal, work for about 19,800 hours per year, consuming approximately 188,000 liters per year of diesel. Considering that ‘conventional’ yard trucks emit approximately 2.67 kilograms of carbon dioxide per liter of fuel and 0.028 kilograms of nitrogen oxides per liter of fuel, the use of hydrogen fleets would avoid approximately 501 tons per year of CO2 and 5 tons per year of NOx.

Decarbonisation of ports

“Furthermore – Cigolotti pointed out – these estimates refer only to the use of hydrogen yard trucks and do not include a further pollutants reduction due to a reduced use of very energy-intensive ventilation systems employed in ships to remove the smog produced by diesel-powered vehicles for loading and unloading goods”.

“A green redesign of these vehicles is a promising solution for the decarbonisation of the port sector, which employs over 2 million people in Europe -if we include the related industries- and contributes with over 50 billion euro to the European GDP. Among all clean energy technologies, the most promising are hydrogen and fuel cells, thanks to their scalability, flexibility and high efficiency, which give them a high potential, especially in combination with energy storage devices like lithium-ion batteries ”, concluded Cigolotti.

Battery charge during braking

At operational level, the storage system of the terminal tractor prototype will have an overall capacity of approximately 12 kilograms of hydrogen, capable of guaranteeing continuous operation for at least six hours, which is the average duration of a work shift. Its electric motor is very efficient, particularly suitable for applications that require high power; it can receive traction energy from both the fuel cell and the battery simultaneously and charge the battery during braking or deceleration.

The yard truck will fill up at the mobile hydrogen refueling station developed by one of the project partners, Centro Nacional del Hidrógeno, which provides green fuel not only to the terminal tractor prototype but also to the forklift (reach stacker); the latter, developed by the company Hyster Yale, will also operate in the port of Valencia (Valencia Terminal Europa), at the MSC terminal.

Also interesting: The hydrogen car is not competitive in its current form.

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