“HySA Systems has completed the conversion of a fleet of scooters with HFC range extenders for the South African Post Office (SAPO),” notes HySA Systems Director Professor Sivakumar Pasupathi. “SAPO drivers will be trained to use the scooters and then the scooters will be handed over to SAPO. And that’s just the tip of the hydrogen power iceberg.”
HySA Systems, housed at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) is an initiative of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) that aims to create local capacity and knowledge that will lead to the development of value-add products in the hydrogen fuel cell technology (HFCT) sector for domestic and international markets.
HySA Systems is the only South African centre of competence working on fuel cell vehicle applications, and has developed in-house tools for integration and demonstration of these vehicles, along with hydrogen refuelling stations (pictured below).
“Rising interest in heavy-duty transport applications and a huge market potential in Asia-Pacific for fuel cells in heavy-duty transportation is expected to create significant opportunities for the fuel cell market in the coming years,” Prof. Pasupathi says. “Entering the vehicle market allows us to achieve market penetration, and to add considerable value to South Africa’s mineral endowment. Particularly the heavy-duty HFC vehicles are gaining momentum worldwide, which will help SA to take its own share.”
Prof Pasupathi will be discussing HySA’s progress in Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Development in South Africa at the 9th World Hydrogen Technologies Convention, held (virtually) from Montréal, Canada from 20-24 June 2021, an international showcase of hydrogen energy related technologies where world leaders in HFCT will join innovative technologies and scientific research with international markets and business cases.
“WHTC offers an exciting platform to discuss progress on frontier research topics and future possibilities,” Prof. Pasupathi says. “This is where world leaders in hydrogen and fuel cell technology, industry and academia come together to discuss the latest developments and innovation in this space - fostering the development of an international community needed to develop a true hydrogen economy.”
HySA Systems’ presence at the WHTC 2021 conference will provide an opportunity to disseminate the latest research outputs and innovation/s to the wider community.
As with the scooters, HFCT being developed at UWC is demonstrating the ability of HFCT in real-life applications – such as South Africa’s first HFC golf cart (main picture), tricycle and scooter, and fuel cell component manufacturing line. Some of the other HFC prototypes developed at HySA
Systems include: a 3 tonne HFC Forklift with metal hydride extension tank; a Hydrogen refuelling station; fuel cell stacks for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and stationary, heavy duty and material handling applications; a power module for material handling and heavy duty vehicles.
“The HySA programme is a government initiative towards a hydrogen economy in South Africa,” Prof. Pasupathi says. “Through the HySA programme, public–private partnerships have been put in place to take the technologies to market, in support of service delivery through powering social infrastructure.”
HFCT encourages South Africa to make use of its incredible mineral deposits, many of which are essential to powering the hydrogen economy.
“The HySA Programme can significantly contribute to South Africa’s sustainable economic efforts by providing sustainable and clean energy through the use of fuel cells for stationary, portable and transport applications,” said Prof. Sivakumar Pasupathi. “HySA shows how South Africa can extract value from our mineral endowment through research, development and innovation - and use it to power a brighter future.”
The benefits of the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology have long been recognised worldwide. Increased demand for fossil fuels is contributing to climate change on a global scale, and hydrogen is one of the best alternative fuels available: when hydrogen fuel cells are used, the only waste product is water!
“Hydrogen itself isn’t actually an energy source - it’s an energy carrier, which can store and move energy in a usable form from one place to another,” Prof. Pasupathi explains. “That stored energy can be produced by converting fossil fuels, or by using energy from renewable resources such as wind, solar and biomass.”
And their benefits to a country like South Africa are clear. HFCT allows the country an affordable and efficient way to store power, which can be generated by copious wind or solar power, and then deliver it where and when needed, avoiding the complications of managing peak use of the Eskom energy grid (there’s a reason loadshedding happens at particular times, after all).
“To combat global warming and reduce pollution we need renewable energy sources such as solar and wind - but these are intermittent and are mostly not available when needed,” Prof. Pasupathi (left) says. “HFCs are the only devices which, through electrolysis of water, can store renewable hydrogen energy to be used when required by conversion through a fuel cell. More than that, it provides energy security.”
With loadshedding set to continue for years to come, South Africa is on the lookout for alternative energy sources. And when it comes to clean, green hydrogen technology, HySA Systems is leading the way.
“For over 10 years, HySA Systems has focused on building a research, development and innovation ecosystem for hydrogen power,” Prof Pasupathi notes. “Now we’re preparing for the next phase: taking those technologies to the people - and helping to power a hydrogen revolution that could change the world.”.
Want to know more about hydrogen fuel cell technology, and how HySA is using it to power energy transformation in South Africa and beyond? Visit HySA Systems and see for yourself.