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Swiss-based Hydrospider goes operational for mobility sector


Plans to expand to 10 MW by 2021

Swiss tax exemptions make hydrogen project viable

London — Swiss-based Hydrospider has moved into the operational stage for delivering zero-carbon hydrogen from its hydro-powered plant, as the project aims to decarbonize the heavy-duty trucking industry, a project spokesman said June 26.

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The initial 2-MW capacity for hydrogen production at Alpiq's hydropower station in Goesgen will fuel 50 heavy-duty trucks and up to 1,700 vehicles, but plans are to increase up to 10-MW capacity by the end of next year, said Stefan Linder, head of technology and innovation at Alpiq, the Swiss utility. Alpiq has a 45% stake in Hydrospider with Swiss startup H2 Energy (45%), and Linde Gas (10%) forming the rest of the joint venture.

"We are currently developing larger projects of at least 10 MW, which have better economies of scale," said Linder, who said a 2-MW project is roughly 1.7 times more expensive on a per megawatt basis than a 10-MW project.

The project is financially viable thanks to the favorable tax structure in Switzerland, which includes exemption from both a mineral oil tax to maintain roads in the country, and an additional exemption from a special tax for heavy duty vehicles.

"Switzerland has a unique situation -- there are not many countries that have such a pollution tax," Linder said. "It's a hefty tax, but [not having it] allow us to cover the higher costs of hydrogen."

Hydrogen is produced through the process of electrolysis, which splits an electric current across a membrane to produce hydrogen and oxygen.

The resulting hydrogen will then be compressed at 350 bar pressure, pumped into special containers at the plant, and trucked to refilling stations, according to Hydrospider.

The 2-MW plant produces around 300 mt of hydrogen/year, or enough to supply 40-50 heavy-duty trucks or 1,700 passenger vehicles. Each truck requires 6-8 mt hydrogen a year, he said.

Prices linked to gasoline

Plans are to bring 1,000 heavy duty trucks by 2023, and build the fleet up to 1,600 by 2025, he said.

Customers lease their trucks through Hyundai Motor and pays a per kilometer fee. Hyundai maintains the vehicles and pays the fuel costs.

Hydrogen fuels costs are index linked to the gasoline price, which could change over time, he said.

"The rules will change over the next few years," he said. "But you have to have a reference price you can rely on."

Ultimately, plans are to bring expand the model into other countries, although costs would need to come down, Linder said.

Oslo-based Nel Hydrogen is producing the electrolyzer for the project.

"We are big fans of what's going on in Switzerland – there's no doubt about that." said Jon Andre Lokke, Nel's CEO. "Getting hydrogen trucks on the road is going to be an eye opener, and show the rest of Europe what's possible."