"Don't be shy and take a sip of the exhaust water. It's drinkable. Trust me."
The bizarre offer came from a driver as he pulled over and waved at a group of people in their fineries outside an upscale hotel in downtown Beijing. Squatting near the back of his white van, the driver pointed at the exhaust pipe, emitting warm steam on a cold autumn day.
"This fuel cell vehicle only emits water and heat," he said.
Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) are regarded as zero-emission vehicles, which can reduce air pollution and the effects of climate change. The special vehicles were first introduced in developing countries led by China in 2003 through its Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Fast-forward 15 years and China is now the world's only developing country that has continually promoted hydrogen energy and fuel cell technology projects.
With China's industrial upgrading under way, hydrogen, regarded as an "ultimate" form of energy for future industries, is a clean option increasingly favoured by countries seeking to replace fossil fuels.
Today's FCVs are similar to the ones that hit the road in China's capital city for the first time in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, when three FCV demonstration buses served the public.
As another major event, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, draws near co-host city Zhangjiakou in Hebei province is spearheading the effort to create a hydrogen energy operation system to demonstrate China's resolve to find cleaner and greener technology.
"Zhangjiakou has the world's largest number of fuel cell city buses, which are expected to expand to a total of 74 during the 2022 Winter Olympics. Not only do they serve the public, but the buses also act like mobile air purifiers for the city," Huo Junqing, head of the vehicle technology department of a local public transportation company, said recently.
"And the latest water quality testing shows that the exhaust water from FCVs meets drinking water quality standards," Huo noted.
Foshan is one of five FCV demonstration cities in China with Beijing, Shanghai, Zhengzhou, and Yancheng – and hundreds of FCVs including passenger vehicles, sedans, logistics vehicles, and postal service vehicles, are expected to be rolled out in the demonstration cities.
A total of 22 hydrogen stations are expected to be put into operation in Nanhai District by 2022, making Foshan the city with the most hydrogen stations, according to its current hydrogen development plan. In addition, over 1000 FCVs are expected to be seen on the city's roads by 2020.
Thanks to a national policy and financial support to promote hydrogen industrialisation, the clean energy industry is burgeoning, though subsidies will begin to ebb away.
The average cost of a hydrogen station in China is around 10 million yuan ($1.44 million). Under current policy, a hydrogen station with a filling capacity of greater than 200kg a day can obtain four million yuan worth of government incentives, accounting for 40 per cent of the total amount.
The development track of electronic vehicles (EVs) is a lesson for FCVs – not to bet the future on policy and financial support, but instead seek technological and commercial solutions for deepening industrialisation, Wang Binggang, a senior expert with the National New Energy Automobile Innovation Project Group and an advisor for China Society of Automobile Engineers, told People's Daily Overseas Social Media.
"FCVs breathe new life into China's goal of building a cleaner environment and a greener economy," said Wang. "Though the high cost is a major limitation for the industry, large-scale industrialisation can change that.
"Only in this way can China speed up the standardisation and realisation of low-carbon and low-cost hydrogen energy infrastructure construction."
Content sourced from the People's Daily Online here