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Innovating Energy Solutions

Innovating Energy Solutions

Alternative energy can fuel fleets

Washington Gas fleet

Did You Know: About 27% of U.S. greenhouse gases (GHG) that contribute to global warming are emitted by vehicles and although medium and heavy-duty vehicles only account for about 10% of vehicles on the road, they account for about 60% of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. [i] This is an especially challenging problem in the DC metro region, where growth continues to exacerbate vehicular emissions at the same time that the region seeks to reduce GHG emissions from on-road transportation by 50% by 2032. [ii]

In response, Washington Gas is pursuing multiple innovative pathways to reduce on-road transportation emissions to support the DC metro region's achievement of regional emission reduction goals. Our environmental commitment to reduce transportation emissions includes exploring both alternative clean fuels and innovative vehicle technologies that focus on challenges related to medium-duty and transit fleet operations. While Washington Gas has already significantly reduced its fleet emissions through compressed natural gas, it seeks further reductions by planning the deployment of a small fuel cell vehicle pilot to explore transitioning its fleet to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCEV).

HFCEVs are quieter, cleaner and more efficient than conventionally fueled fleets, while helping to meet emission reduction goals. While fuel cell vehicles exist in every class of automobile, medium-duty fleets offer an ideal opportunity for new clean energy mobility technologies since they are centrally fueled and maintained, operate on fixed routes, and can more easily accommodate the size and weight of new technologies.

Sustainable fuels are important to every customer, not just fleet owners. While emissions occur along the routes driven today, many low-income communities experience a disproportionate impact from vehicular emissions. Washington Gas wants to change that by piloting clean energy fuel cell technology in our vehicles and trucks that emits only small amounts of water as they travel to serve our customers' needs. Washington Gas' pilot was recognized by the Southern Gas Association as a 2022 Innovative Tech Forum winner, a distinction that showcases the technology, service and product innovators who lead the way to ensure the natural gas industry plays an integral role in a worldwide sustainable energy future. Washington Gas presented the hydrogen fuel cell medium-duty crew truck pilot to transition its fleet to HFCEV. The crew truck pilot represents a critical next step in commercializing fleet hydrogen stations and vocational medium-duty fuel cell truck technology.

 

Here are a few quick facts about zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells:

What is a hydrogen fuel cell?

A hydrogen fuel cell is a device that uses a catalyst to separate electrons from hydrogen molecules to produce electricity. In a sense, a fuel cell is like a battery, using chemical reactions – not combustion – to create electricity. Unlike a battery, a fuel cell can produce electricity continuously, without needing to be recharged, if it is supplied with hydrogen. And it emits no pollutants or greenhouse gases.

What are a few of the operational benefits of fuel cells over pure battery electric propulsion systems?

  1. Lower weight and longer life of the hydrogen system means greater payload for the vehicle
  2. Shorter refueling times are consistent with today's conventional refueling options
  3. Longer travel range for hydrogen fueled vehicles compared to pure battery electric vehicles due to lower weight
  4. Less worry about the vehicles state of charge given onboard hydrogen
  5. Better cold weather performance of the systems compared to pure battery electric vehicles with loss of range from cabin heating, etc.

 

If you are a fleet owner, please reach out to Natalia Norko, Director, Commercial Partnerships at natalia.norko@washgas.com to find out more about how you can benefit or participate in the Washington Gas Fuel Cell Vehicle Pilot.

 

[i] Environmental Defense Fund. 2021. New Report Documents the Availability and Potential of Zero-Emission Freight Trucks and Buses. https://www.edf.org/media/new-report-documents-availability-and-potential-zero-emission-freight-trucks-and-buses.

US Environmental Protection Agency. 2020. Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions.

 

[ii] DC Department of Energy and Environment. n.d. Climate Action Planning. Accessed 2022. https://doee.dc.gov/service/climate-action-planning.

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