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Title:
AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE ENERGY AND SERVICE HUB
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/104375
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention in one aspect is directed to an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system (10) comprising: 1. a source of renewable ammonia (14); 2. an electricity generating module (16) operatively coupled to and fuelled by ammonia (17) from the renewable ammonia source (14); 3. an ammonia cracking reactor (18) arranged to receive ammonia (19) from the renewable ammonia source (14), the ammonia reactor (18) configured to harness waste heat (40) from the electricity generating module (16) in the course of producing hydrogen fuel; 4. a hydrogen dispenser (20) operatively coupled to the ammonia cracking reactor (18) to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing; 5. an autonomous vehicle such as (12a) powered by a hydrogen fuel cell designed to be replenished or refuelled by the hydrogen fuel dispenser from the hydrogen dispenser (20). Methane may be employed as an alternative to ammonia.

Inventors:
COOPER, Bretton (PO Box 389, Seaforth, New South Wales 2092, 2092, AU)
Application Number:
AU2018/051246
Publication Date:
June 06, 2019
Filing Date:
November 21, 2018
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
RENAM PROPERTIES PTY LTD (PO Box 389, Seaforth, New South Wales 2092, 2092, AU)
International Classes:
C01B3/38; C01B3/04; C01C1/04; C07C1/12; C10L3/08; C25B1/04; F02C3/34
Domestic Patent References:
WO2011028322A12011-03-10
WO2014194139A12014-12-04
WO2017084876A12017-05-26
Foreign References:
AU2016101350A42016-09-15
Other References:
"Why Hydrogen Will Benefit Autonomous Cars", HYGEN INDUSTRIES, 21 September 2017 (2017-09-21), XP055616672, Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20190211]
ANTHONY, S.: "Google's New Self-Driving Car: Electric, No Steering Wheel, and Incredibly Cute", EXTREME TECH, 28 May 2014 (2014-05-28), XP055616674, Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20190211]
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CLARK INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PTY LTD (Suite 102, 6-8 Clarke StreetCrows Nest, NSW 2065, 2060, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. An autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system comprising:

a source of renewable methane;

an electricity generating module operatively coupled to and fuelled by renewable methane from the renewable methane source for generating electricity;

a methane reformer arranged to receive renewable methane from the renewable methane source, said methane reformer being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote reforming of renewable methane in said reformer thereby producing hydrogen fuel;

a hydrogen dispenser operatively coupled to the methane reformer to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing, an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell adapted to have its energy source replenished via the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser.

2. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 1 wherein the renewable methane source comprises a synthetic methane reactor for production of the renewable methane in the form of renewable synthetic methane.

3. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 2 wherein the synthetic methane reactor is operatively coupled to a C02 source and a hydrogen source which provide C02 and H2 respectively to the synthetic methane reactor to combine in a catalytic reaction for the production of the renewable methane.

4. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 3 wherein the C02 source includes either i) a biogas reactor from which the C02 is produced as a by-product, or ii) an atmospheric gas separator within which the C02 is directly captured via a C02 collector.

5. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 4 wherein, in the event the C02 source includes the biogas reactor from which the C02 is obtained, biomethane also produced by the biogas reactor is combined with the renewable synthetic methane produced in the catalytic reaction within the synthetic methane reactor, the biomethane and the renewable synthetic methane together being delivered to the methane reformer.

6. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 3 to 5 wherein the hydrogen source includes either i) an electrolysis module powered by a renewable energy source for production of the hydrogen from water, or ii) an anaerobic digester within which the hydrogen is produced from biomass.

7. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 1 also comprising a biogas reactor for production of the renewable methane in the form of biomethane.

8. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims further comprising a renewable methane recovery module operatively coupled to the methane reformer to recover unreformed methane from said reformer and direct it to the electricity generating module to provide a supplementary fuel source in generating electricity at said generating module.

9. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims also comprising an electricity dispenser operatively coupled to the electricity generating module and suitable for dispensing electricity, and an autonomous vehicle powered by one or more batteries charged by the electricity dispensed from the electricity dispenser.

10. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the electricity generating module is operatively coupled to an electricity grid to which electricity generated by said generating module is delivered.

1 1 . An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the electricity generated by the generating module is used locally at the energy replenishment system itself.

12. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims further comprising an autonomous vehicle control module configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen dispenser or the electricity dispenser, respectively.

13. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 12 wherein said control module is configured to operatively communicate with at least the hydrogen dispenser to sequentially stage the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment.

14. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the electricity generating module includes but is not limited to one or more of the following devices:

i) a fuel cell; ii) a turbine engine;

iii) an internal combustion engine.

15. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims also comprising a hydrogen processing module located between the methane reformer and the hydrogen dispenser for processing the hydrogen fuel produced in the methane reformer into a purified form suitable for dispensing to the autonomous vehicle having the hydrogen fuel cell.

16. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 15 wherein the hydrogen processing module includes a hydrogen compressor operatively coupled to the methane reformer for compressing the hydrogen fuel prior to dispensing it to the hydrogen fuel cell of the associated autonomous vehicle.

17. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims further comprising one or more maintenance modules at least in part powered by the electricity generating module.

18. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 17 wherein the maintenance modules include but are not limited to one or more of the following:

i) autonomous vehicle servicing modules;

ii) autonomous vehicle cleaning modules;

iii) autonomous vehicle restocking modules.

19. A method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, said method comprising the steps of:

producing renewable methane;

generating electricity utilising at least some of the produced renewable methane as a fuel source;

producing hydrogen fuel from at least some of the produced renewable methane by reforming it in a methane reformer harnessing waste heat produced in the generation of electricity to promote reforming of the methane;

dispensing hydrogen fuel to an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell thereby replenishing the energy source of the hydrogen fuel cell.

20. A method as claimed in claim 19 further comprising the step of dispensing electricity generated from the renewable methane for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle.

21 . A method as claimed in claim 20 also comprising the step of communicating with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen or electricity dispenser, respectively.

22. A method as claimed in claim 21 wherein said communication is effected via the hydrogen or electricity dispenser to sequentially control the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment or refuelling.

23. A method as claimed in any one of claims 19 to 22 further comprising the step of producing the renewable methane in the form of renewable synthetic methane in a synthetic methane reactor.

24. A method as claimed in claim 23 wherein this step involves a catalytic reaction between C02 and hydrogen within the synthetic methane reactor for the production of the renewable methane.

25. A method as claimed in claim 24 wherein the C02 is provided to the synthetic methane reactor from either i) anaerobic digestion of biomass within a biogas reactor, or ii) direct capture of the C02 within an atmospheric gas separator.

26. A method as claimed in claim 25 wherein, in the event the C02 is obtained from anaerobic digestion of biomass within the biogas reactor, biomethane also produced by the biogas reactor is combined with the renewable synthetic methane produced in the catalytic reaction within the synthetic methane reactor, the biomethane and the renewable synthetic methane together being delivered to the methane reformer.

27. A method as claimed in any one of claims 23 to 25 wherein the hydrogen is provided to the synthetic methane reactor from either i) electrolysis of water to produce the hydrogen wherein said electrolysis is powered by a renewable energy source, or ii) anaerobic digestion of biomass within an anaerobic digester to produce the hydrogen.

28. A method as claimed in any one of claims 19 to 22 further comprising the step of producing the renewable methane in the form of biomethane in a biogas reactor.

29. A method as claimed in any one of claims 23 to 28 further comprising the step of recovering unreformed methane from the methane reformer and using it to supplement the renewable methane used as the fuel source in generating electricity.

30. An autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system comprising:

a source of renewable ammonia;

an electricity generating module operatively coupled to and fuelled by ammonia from the renewable ammonia source for generating electricity;

an ammonia cracking reactor arranged to receive ammonia from the renewable ammonia source , said ammonia reactor being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote cracking of ammonia in the reactor thereby producing hydrogen fuel;

a hydrogen dispenser operatively coupled to the ammonia cracking reactor to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing, an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell adapted to have its energy source replenished via the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser.

31 . An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 30 wherein the ammonia cracking reactor includes a reaction chamber containing a catalyst to promote the

decomposition of ammonia for the production of hydrogen.

32. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 31 wherein the reaction chamber is operatively coupled to the electricity generating module to harness its waste heat in heating of the catalyst and the ammonia to enhance cracking of the ammonia in the production of the hydrogen fuel.

33. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 30 to 32 comprising an ammonia fuel recovery module operatively coupled to the ammonia cracking reactor to recover uncracked ammonia from said reactor and direct it to the electricity generating module to provide a supplementary fuel source in generating electricity at said generating module.

34. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 30 to 33 wherein the liquid ammonia storage vessel is configured for locating either above or below ground.

35. An energy replenishment system as claimed in in claim 34 wherein said storage vessel stores the ammonia either at a temperature of around - 30°C or at a pressure of aroundI O Bar to maintain the stored ammonia in a liquid state.

36. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 30 to 35 also comprising an electricity dispenser operatively coupled to the electricity generating module and suitable for dispensing electricity, and an autonomous vehicle powered by one or more batteries charged by the electricity dispensed from the electricity dispenser.

37. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 30 to 36 wherein the electricity generating module is operatively coupled to an electricity grid to which electricity generated by said generating module is delivered.

38. An energy replenishment system as claimed in in any one of claims 30 to 37 wherein the electricity generated by the generating module is used locally at the energy replenishment system itself.

39. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 30 to 38 further comprising an autonomous vehicle control module configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen dispenser or the electricity dispenser, respectively.

40. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 39 wherein said control module is configured to operatively communicate with at least the hydrogen dispenser to sequentially stage the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment.

41. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 30 to 40 wherein the electricity generating module includes but is not limited to one or more of the following devices:

i) a fuel cell;

ii) a turbine engine;

iv) an internal combustion engine.

42. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 30 to 41 also comprising a hydrogen processing module located between the methane reformer, or the ammonia reactor, and the hydrogen dispenser for processing the hydrogen fuel produced in the methane reformer, or the ammonia reactor, into a purified form suitable for dispensing to the autonomous vehicle having the hydrogen fuel cell.

43. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 42 wherein the hydrogen processing module includes a hydrogen compressor operatively coupled to the ammonia reactor, for compressing the hydrogen fuel prior to dispensing it to the hydrogen fuel cell of the associated autonomous vehicle.

44. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 30 to 43 further comprising one or more maintenance modules at least in part powered by the electricity generating module.

45. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 44 wherein the maintenance modules include but are not limited to one or more of the following:

i) autonomous vehicle servicing modules;

ii) autonomous vehicle cleaning modules;

iii) autonomous vehicle restocking modules.

46. A method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, said method comprising the steps of:

producing renewable ammonia;

generating electricity utilising at least some of the renewable ammonia as a fuel source;

producing hydrogen fuel from at least some of the renewable ammonia by cracking it in an ammonia cracking reaction harnessing waste heat produced in the generation of electricity;

dispensing the hydrogen fuel to an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell thereby replenishing the energy source of the hydrogen fuel cell.

47. A method as claimed in claim 46 further comprising the step of recovering uncracked ammonia from the ammonia cracking reaction and using it to supplement the stored liquid ammonia used as the fuel source in generating electricity.

48. A method as claimed in either of claims 47 or 48 further comprising the step of purifying the hydrogen produced from the ammonia cracking reaction by filtering it to provide a relatively high purity hydrogen permeate.

49. A method as claimed in claim 48 also comprising the step of compressing the relatively high purity hydrogen permeate.

50. A method as claimed in any one of claims 46 to 49 further comprising the step of dispensing electricity generated from the liquid ammonia fuel source for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle.

51 . A method as claimed in claim 50 also comprising the step of communicating with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen or electricity dispenser, respectively.

52. A method as claimed in claim 51 wherein said communication is effected via the hydrogen or electricity dispenser to sequentially control the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment or refuelling.

53. An autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system comprising:

a storage vessel for a renewable hydrogen-carrier fuel source;

an electricity generating module operatively coupled to and fuelled by said fuel source from the storage vessel for generating electricity;

a hydrogen processing unit arranged to receive said fuel source from the storage vessel, said processing unit being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote processing of said fuel source in the hydrogen processing unit thereby producing hydrogen fuel;

a hydrogen dispenser operatively coupled to the hydrogen processing unit to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing, an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell adapted to have its energy source replenished via the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser.

54. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 53 wherein the hydrogen processing unit includes an ammonia cracking reactor arranged to receive the hydrogen- carrier fuel source in the form of ammonia from the storage vessel, the cracking reactor being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote cracking of the ammonia in the reactor thereby producing hydrogen fuel.

55. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 54 wherein the ammonia cracking reactor includes a reaction chamber containing a catalyst to promote the

decomposition of ammonia for the production of hydrogen.

56. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 55 wherein the reaction chamber is operatively coupled to the electricity generating module to harness its waste heat in heating of the catalyst and the ammonia to enhance cracking of the ammonia in the production of the hydrogen fuel.

57. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 53 to 56 also comprising an electricity dispenser operatively coupled to the electricity generating module and suitable for dispensing electricity, and an autonomous vehicle powered by one or more batteries charged by the electricity dispensed from the electricity dispenser.

58. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 53 to 57 wherein the electricity generating module is operatively coupled to an electricity grid to which electricity generated by said generating module is delivered.

59. An energy replenishment system as claimed in in any one of claims 53 to 58 wherein the electricity generated by the generating module is used locally at the energy replenishment system itself.

60. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 53 to 59 further comprising an autonomous vehicle control module configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen dispenser or the electricity dispenser, respectively.

61. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 60 wherein said control module is configured to operatively communicate with at least the hydrogen dispenser to sequentially stage the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment.

62. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 53 to 61 wherein the electricity generating module includes but is not limited to one or more of the following devices:

i) a fuel cell;

ii) a turbine engine;

iii) an internal combustion engine.

63. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 53 to 62 also comprising a hydrogen processing module located between the hydrogen processing unit and the hydrogen dispenser for processing the hydrogen fuel produced in the hydrogen processing unit into a purified form suitable for dispensing to the autonomous vehicle having the hydrogen fuel cell.

64. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 63 wherein the hydrogen processing module includes a hydrogen compressor operatively coupled to the hydrogen processing unit for compressing the hydrogen fuel prior to dispensing it to the hydrogen fuel cell of the associated autonomous vehicle.

65. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 53 to 64 further comprising one or more maintenance modules at least in part powered by the electricity generating module.

66. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 65 wherein the maintenance modules include but are not limited to one or more of the following:

i) autonomous vehicle servicing modules;

ii) autonomous vehicle cleaning modules;

iii) autonomous vehicle restocking modules.

67. A method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, said method comprising the steps of:

storing a renewable hydrogen-carrier fuel source;

generating electricity utilising at least some of the stored fuel source;

producing hydrogen fuel from at least some of the stored fuel source by processing it in a hydrogen processing unit harnessing waste heat produced in the generation of electricity; dispensing the hydrogen fuel to an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell thereby replenishing the energy source of the hydrogen fuel cell.

68. A method as claimed in claim 67 further comprising the step of dispensing electricity generated from the stored hydrogen-carrier fuel source for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle.

69. A method as claimed in claim 68 also comprising the step of communicating with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen or electricity dispenser, respectively.

70. A method as claimed in claim 69 wherein said communication is effected via the hydrogen or electricity dispenser to sequentially control the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment or refuelling.

71 . An autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system comprising:

a storage vessel for either a renewable organic hydride or liquid hydrogen fuel source; a hydrogen processing unit arranged to receive said fuel source from the storage vessel, said processing unit being configured to process said fuel source in the hydrogen processing unit thereby producing hydrogen fuel;

an electricity generating module fuelled by some of the hydrogen fuel produced from the hydrogen processing unit thereby generating electricity; a hydrogen dispenser operatively coupled to the hydrogen processing unit to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing, an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell adapted to have its energy source replenished via the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser; and

an electricity dispenser operatively coupled to the electricity generating module and suitable for dispensing electricity, and an autonomous vehicle powered by one or more batteries charged by the electricity dispensed from the electricity dispenser.

72. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 71 wherein the hydrogen processing unit includes a dehydrogenation unit arranged to receive an organic hydride from the storage vessel, the dehydrogenation unit being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote dehydrogenation of the organic hydride in the dehydrogenation unit thereby producing hydrogen fuel.

73. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 71 wherein the hydrogen processing unit includes a gasification unit arranged to receive liquid hydrogen from the storage vessel, the gasification unit being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote gasification of the liquid hydrogen in the gasification unit thereby producing hydrogen fuel.

74. An energy replenishment system as claimed in in any one of claims 71 to 73 further comprising an autonomous vehicle control module configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen dispenser or the electricity dispenser, respectively.

75. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 74 wherein said control module is configured to operatively communicate with at least the hydrogen dispenser to sequentially stage the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment.

76. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 72 also comprising an organic fuel derivative recovery module operatively coupled to the dehydrogenation unit to recover dehydrogenated organic hydrides from said unit, said recovery module being designed to facilitate transportation of the dehydrogenated organic hydrides to a hydrogenation unit.

77. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 76 wherein the hydrogenation unit is located remote from the dehydrogenation unit, said hydrogenation unit designed to produce organic hydrides from the recovered dehydrogenated organic hydrides, said organic hydrides being returned to the storage vessel.

78. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 71 to 77 wherein the storage vessel is configured for locating either above or below ground.

79. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 71 wherein said storage vessel stores the organic hydride fuel source in the form of methylcyclohexane at ambient conditions.

80. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 71 wherein the storage vessel stores the liquid hydrogen fuel source at approximately -253°C.

81 . An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 71 to 80 wherein the electricity generating module is operatively coupled to an electricity grid to which electricity generated by said generating module is delivered.

82. An energy replenishment system as claimed in in any one of claims 71 to 81 wherein the electricity generated by the generating module is used locally at the energy replenishment system itself.

83. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 71 to 82 further comprising an autonomous vehicle control module configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen dispenser or the electricity dispenser, respectively.

84. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 83 wherein said control module is configured to operatively communicate with at least the hydrogen dispenser to sequentially stage the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment.

85. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 71 to 84 wherein the electricity generating module includes but is not limited to one or more of the following devices:

i) a fuel cell;

ii) a turbine engine;

iii) an internal combustion engine.

86. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 71 to 85 also comprising a hydrogen processing module located between the hydrogen processing unit and the hydrogen dispenser for processing the hydrogen fuel produced in the hydrogen processing unit into a purified form suitable for dispensing to the autonomous vehicle having the hydrogen fuel cell.

87. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 86 wherein the hydrogen processing module includes a hydrogen compressor operatively coupled to the hydrogen processing unit for compressing the hydrogen fuel prior to dispensing it to the hydrogen fuel cell of the associated autonomous vehicle.

88. An energy replenishment system as claimed in any one of claims 71 to 87 further comprising one or more maintenance modules at least in part powered by the electricity generating module.

89. An energy replenishment system as claimed in claim 88 wherein the maintenance modules include but are not limited to one or more of the following: i) autonomous vehicle servicing modules;

ii) autonomous vehicle cleaning modules;

iii) autonomous vehicle restocking modules.

90. A method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, said method comprising the steps of:

storing either a renewable organic hydride or liquid hydrogen fuel source;

producing hydrogen fuel from at least some of the stored fuel source by processing it in a hydrogen processing unit;

generating electricity utilising some of the hydrogen fuel produced from the hydrogen processing unit;

dispensing the hydrogen fuel to an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell thereby replenishing the energy source of the hydrogen fuel cell;

dispensing electricity generated from the stored fuel source for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle.

91 . A method as claimed in claim 90 also comprising the step of communicating with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen or electricity dispenser, respectively.

92. A method as claimed in claim 91 wherein said communication is effected via the hydrogen or electricity dispenser to sequentially control the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment or refuelling.

93. An energy replenishment system or a method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the autonomous vehicle is one of a fleet of autonomous vehicles powered by either a hydrogen fuel cell or one or more batteries.

Description:
AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE ENERGY AND SERVICE HUB

Technical Field

[0001 ] The present invention relates broadly to an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system. The invention also relates broadly to a method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle.

Background of Invention

[0002] There is increasing global R&D being devoted to autonomous vehicles and not only for passenger vehicles but also for buses and even heavy duty, hydrogen and electric powered driverless trucks. Whilst a number of global autonomous vehicle trials are underway, there is uncertainty as to timing for mainstream acceptance. Where some will argue that significant impact is decades away, other leading autonomous vehicle advocates argue that this will happen far faster than the market expects. The challenge for automotive distributors and retailers is to assess the timing and impact of the move to driverless vehicles and most importantly, the impacts this will have on the current ownership model for automobiles. It is expected that the emergence of autonomous vehicles will see a move away from the retail based owner/driver model to a more centralised model of a large fleet owning Mobility as a Service (MaaS) provider who offers ultra low cost transport. It is expected that this move to centralised MaaS models utilising autonomous vehicles will require a paradigm shift in current practices adopted in maintaining, servicing and refuelling driven vehicles.

Summary of Invention

[0003] According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system comprising:

a source of renewable methane;

an electricity generating module operatively coupled to and fuelled by renewable methane from the renewable methane source for generating electricity;

a methane reformer arranged to receive renewable methane from the renewable methane source, said methane reformer being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote reforming of renewable methane in said reformer thereby producing hydrogen fuel; a hydrogen dispenser operatively coupled to the methane reformer to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing, an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell adapted to have its energy source replenished via the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser.

[0004] Preferably the renewable methane source comprises a synthetic methane reactor for production of the renewable methane in the form of renewable synthetic methane. More preferably the renewable methane source is located some distance from the remainder of the energy replenishment system with the renewable methane delivered to the energy

replenishment system via pipeline, truck, train or ship as compressed gas or liquefied gas. Even more preferably the synthetic methane reactor is operatively coupled to a C0 2 source and a hydrogen source which provide C0 2 and H 2 respectively to the synthetic methane reactor to combine in a catalytic reaction for the production of the renewable methane. Still more preferably the C0 2 source includes either i) a biogas reactor from which the C0 2 is produced as a by-product, or ii) an atmospheric gas separator within which the C0 2 is directly captured via a C0 2 collector. In the event the C0 2 source includes the biogas reactor from which the C0 2 is obtained, biomethane also produced by the biogas reactor is combined with the renewable synthetic methane produced in the catalytic reaction within the synthetic methane reactor, the biomethane and the renewable synthetic methane together being delivered to the methane reformer. Even still more preferably the hydrogen source includes either i) an electrolysis module powered by a renewable energy source for production of the hydrogen from water, or ii) an anaerobic digester within which the hydrogen is produced from biomass.

[0005] Alternatively the energy replenishment system also comprises a biogas reactor for production of the renewable methane in the form of biomethane.

[0006] Preferably the energy replenishment system further comprises a renewable methane recovery module operatively coupled to the methane reformer to recover

unreformed methane from said reformer and direct it to the electricity generating module to provide a supplementary fuel source in generating electricity at said generating module.

[0007] According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system comprising:

a source of renewable ammonia;

an electricity generating module operatively coupled to and fuelled by ammonia from the renewable ammonia source for generating electricity; an ammonia cracking reactor arranged to receive ammonia from the renewable ammonia source, said ammonia reactor being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote cracking of ammonia in the reactor thereby producing hydrogen fuel;

a hydrogen dispenser operatively coupled to the ammonia cracking reactor to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing, an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell adapted to have its energy source replenished via the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser.

[0008] Preferably the ammonia cracking reactor includes a reaction chamber containing a catalyst to promote the decomposition of ammonia for the production of hydrogen. More preferably the reaction chamber is operatively coupled to the electricity generating module to harness its waste heat in heating of the catalyst and the ammonia to enhance cracking of the ammonia in the production of the hydrogen fuel.

[0009] Preferably the energy replenishment system further comprises an ammonia fuel recovery module operatively coupled to the ammonia cracking reactor to recover uncracked ammonia from said reactor and direct it to the electricity generating module to provide a supplementary fuel source in generating electricity at said generating module.

[0010] Preferably the liquid ammonia storage vessel is configured for locating either above or below ground. More preferably said storage vessel stores the ammonia either at a temperature of around - 30°C or at a pressure of around 10 Bar to maintain the stored ammonia in a liquid state.

[001 1 ] According to a third aspect of the invention there is provided an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system comprising:

a storage vessel for a renewable hydrogen-carrier fuel source;

an electricity generating module operatively coupled to and fuelled by said fuel source from the storage vessel for generating electricity;

a hydrogen processing unit arranged to receive said fuel source from the storage vessel, said processing unit being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote processing of said fuel source in the hydrogen processing unit thereby producing hydrogen fuel;

a hydrogen dispenser operatively coupled to the hydrogen processing unit to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing, an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell adapted to have its energy source replenished via the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser.

[0012] Preferably the hydrogen processing unit includes an ammonia cracking reactor arranged to receive ammonia from the storage vessel, the cracking reactor being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote cracking of the ammonia in the reactor thereby producing hydrogen fuel. More preferably the ammonia cracking reactor includes a reaction chamber containing a catalyst to promote the

decomposition of ammonia for the production of hydrogen. Even more preferably the reaction chamber is operatively coupled to the electricity generating module to harness its waste heat in heating of the catalyst and the ammonia to enhance cracking of the ammonia in the production of the hydrogen fuel.

[0013] Preferably the energy replenishment system also comprises an electricity dispenser operatively coupled to the electricity generating module and suitable for dispensing electricity, and an autonomous vehicle powered by one or more batteries charged by the electricity dispensed from the electricity dispenser. Alternatively or additionally, the electricity generating module is operatively coupled to an electricity grid to which electricity generated by said generating module is delivered. Still alternatively or additionally, the electricity generated by the generating module is used locally at the energy replenishment system itself.

[0014] Preferably the energy replenishment system further comprises an autonomous vehicle control module configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen dispenser or the electricity dispenser, respectively. More preferably said control module is configured to operatively communicate with either or both the hydrogen dispenser and the electricity dispenser to sequentially stage the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment.

[0015] Preferably the electricity generating module includes but is not limited to one or more of the following devices:

i) a fuel cell;

ii) a turbine engine;

iii) an internal combustion engine.

[0016] Preferably the energy replenishment system also comprises a hydrogen processing module located between the methane reformer, or the ammonia reactor, and the hydrogen dispenser for processing the hydrogen fuel produced in the methane reformer, or the ammonia reactor, into a purified form suitable for dispensing to the autonomous vehicle having the hydrogen fuel cell. More preferably the hydrogen processing module includes a hydrogen compressor operatively coupled to the methane reformer, or the ammonia reactor, for compressing the hydrogen fuel prior to dispensing it to the hydrogen fuel cell of the associated autonomous vehicle.

[0017] Preferably the energy replenishment system further comprises one or more maintenance modules at least in part powered by the electricity generating module. More preferably the maintenance modules include but are not limited to one or more of the following:

i) autonomous vehicle servicing modules;

ii) autonomous vehicle cleaning modules;

iii) autonomous vehicle restocking modules.

[0018] According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system comprising:

a storage vessel for either a renewable organic hydride or liquid hydrogen fuel source;

a hydrogen processing unit arranged to receive said fuel source from the storage vessel, said processing unit being configured to process said fuel source in the hydrogen processing unit thereby producing hydrogen fuel;

an electricity generating module fuelled by some of the hydrogen fuel produced from the hydrogen processing unit thereby generating electricity;

a hydrogen dispenser operatively coupled to the hydrogen processing unit to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing, an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell adapted to have its energy source replenished via the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser; and

an electricity dispenser operatively coupled to the electricity generating module and suitable for dispensing electricity, and an autonomous vehicle powered by one or more batteries charged by the electricity dispensed from the electricity dispenser.

[0019] Preferably the hydrogen processing unit includes a dehydrogenation unit arranged to receive an organic hydride from the storage vessel, the dehydrogenation unit being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote dehydrogenation of the organic hydride in the dehydrogenation unit thereby producing hydrogen fuel. Alternatively the hydrogen processing unit includes a gasification unit arranged to receive liquid hydrogen from the storage vessel, the gasification unit being configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote gasification of the liquid hydrogen in the gasification unit thereby producing hydrogen fuel.

[0020] Preferably the energy replenishment system further comprises an autonomous vehicle control module configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen dispenser or the electricity dispenser, respectively. More preferably said control module is configured to operatively communicate with either or both the hydrogen dispenser and the electricity dispenser to sequentially stage the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment.

[0021 ] Preferably the energy replenishment system also comprises an organic fuel derivative recovery module operatively coupled to the dehydrogenation unit to recover dehydrogenated organic hydrides from said unit, said recovery module being designed to facilitate transportation of the dehydrogenated organic hydrides to a hydrogenation unit.

More preferably the hydrogenation unit is located remote from the dehydrogenation unit, said hydrogenation unit designed to produce organic hydrides from the recovered dehydrogenated organic hydrides, said organic hydrides being returned to the storage vessel.

[0022] Preferably the storage vessel is configured for locating either above or below ground. More preferably said storage vessel stores the organic hydride fuel source in the form of methylcyclohexane at ambient conditions. Alternatively the storage vessel stores the liquid hydrogen fuel source at approximately -253°C.

[0023] According to a fifth aspect of the invention there is provided a method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, said method comprising the steps of:

producing renewable methane;

generating electricity utilising at least some of the produced renewable methane as a fuel source;

producing hydrogen fuel from at least some of the produced renewable methane by reforming it in a methane reformer harnessing waste heat produced in the generation of electricity to promote reforming of the methane;

dispensing hydrogen fuel to an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell thereby replenishing the energy source of the hydrogen fuel cell. [0024] Preferably the energy replenishment method further comprises the step of dispensing electricity generated from the renewable methane for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle.

[0025] Preferably the energy replenishment method also comprises the step of communicating with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen or electricity dispenser, respectively. More preferably said communication is effected via the hydrogen or electricity dispenser to sequentially control the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment or refuelling.

[0026] Preferable the energy replenishment method further comprises the step of producing the renewable methane in the form of renewable synthetic methane in a synthetic methane reactor. More preferably this step involves a catalytic reaction between C0 2 and hydrogen within the synthetic methane reactor for the production of the renewable methane. Still more preferably the C0 2 is provided to the synthetic methane reactor from either i) anaerobic digestion of biomass within a biogas reactor, or ii) direct capture of the C0 2 within an atmospheric gas separator. In the event the C0 2 is obtained from anaerobic digestion of biomass within the biogas reactor, biomethane also produced by the biogas reactor is combined with the renewable synthetic methane produced in the catalytic reaction within the synthetic methane reactor, the biomethane and the renewable synthetic methane together being delivered to the methane reformer. Even still more preferably the hydrogen is provided to the synthetic methane reactor from either i) electrolysis of water to produce the hydrogen wherein said electrolysis is powered by a renewable energy source, or ii) anaerobic digestion of biomass within an anaerobic digester to produce the hydrogen.

[0027] Alternatively the energy replenishment method further comprises the step of producing the renewable methane in the form of biomethane in a biogas reactor.

[0028] Preferably the energy replenishment method further comprises the step of recovering unreformed methane from the methane reformer and using it to supplement the renewable methane used as the fuel source in generating electricity.

[0029] According to a sixth aspect of the invention there is provided a method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, said method comprising the steps of:

producing renewable ammonia; generating electricity utilising at least some of the renewable ammonia as a fuel source;

producing hydrogen fuel from at least some of the renewable ammonia by cracking it in an ammonia cracking reaction harnessing waste heat produced in the generation of electricity;

dispensing the hydrogen fuel to an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell thereby replenishing the energy source of the hydrogen fuel cell.

[0030] Preferably the energy replenishment method further comprises the step of recovering uncracked ammonia from the ammonia cracking reaction and using it to supplement the stored liquid ammonia used as the fuel source in generating electricity.

[0031 ] Preferably the energy replenishment method further comprises the step of purifying the hydrogen produced from the ammonia cracking reaction by filtering it to provide a relatively high purity hydrogen permeate.

[0032] Preferably the energy replenishment method also comprises the step of compressing the relatively high purity hydrogen permeate.

[0033] According to a seventh aspect of the invention there is provided a method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, said method comprising the steps of:

storing a renewable hydrogen-carrier fuel source;

generating electricity utilising at least some of the stored fuel source; producing hydrogen fuel from at least some of the stored fuel source by processing it in a hydrogen processing unit harnessing waste heat produced in the generation of electricity;

dispensing the hydrogen fuel to an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell thereby replenishing the energy source of the hydrogen fuel cell.

[0034] Preferably the energy replenishment method further comprises the step of dispensing electricity generated from the stored hydrogen-carrier fuel source for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle.

[0035] According to an eighth aspect of the invention there is provided a method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, said method comprising the steps of:

storing either a renewable organic hydride or liquid hydrogen fuel source; producing hydrogen fuel from at least some of the stored fuel source by processing it in a hydrogen processing unit;

generating electricity utilising some of the hydrogen fuel produced from the hydrogen processing unit;

dispensing the hydrogen fuel to an autonomous vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell thereby replenishing the energy source of the hydrogen fuel cell;

dispensing electricity generated from the stored fuel source for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle.

[0036] Preferably the energy replenishment method also comprises the step of communicating with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle to control its movement relative to either the hydrogen or electricity dispenser, respectively. More preferably said communication is effected via the hydrogen or electricity dispenser to sequentially control the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles in connection with their energy replenishment or refuelling.

[0037] Preferably the autonomous vehicle is one of a fleet of autonomous vehicles powered by either a hydrogen fuel cell or one or more batteries.

Brief Description of Drawings

[0038] In order to achieve a better understanding of the nature of the present invention a preferred embodiment of an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic illustration of one embodiment of an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system according to one aspect of the invention;

Figure 2 schematically shows an autonomous vehicle control module of the energy replenishment system of figure 1 , said control module communicating with autonomous vehicles being replenished;

Figure 3 is a schematic illustration of an embodiment of an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system according to a further aspect of the invention;

Figure 4 is a schematic illustration of an embodiment of an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system according to yet another aspect of the invention.

Detailed Description [0039] As schematically seen in figure 1 , there is according to an embodiment of one aspect of the invention an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system 10 comprising:

1. a renewable methane storage vessel 14;

2. an electricity generating module 16 operatively coupled to and fuelled by renewable methane 17 from the storage vessel 14;

3. a methane reformer 18 arranged to receive renewable methane 19 from the storage vessel 14, the methane reformer 18 configured to harness waste heat 40 from the electricity generating module 16 in the course of producing hydrogen fuel;

4. a hydrogen dispenser 20 operatively coupled to the methane reformer 18 to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing;

5. an autonomous vehicle such as 12a powered by a hydrogen fuel cell designed to be replenished or refuelled by the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser 20.

[0040] In this embodiment the replenishment system 10 also comprises an electricity dispenser 22 operatively coupled to the electricity generating module 16. The electricity dispenser 22 is suitable for dispensing electricity 23 for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a. The electricity generating module 16 in this example is also configured to deliver electricity 25 to an electricity grid 26. The electricity generated at the generating module 16 may be used locally or“behind the meter” at the energy replenishment system 10 itself.

[0041 ] As seen in figure 2, the autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system 10 of this embodiment also comprises an autonomous vehicle control module 28 configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell autonomous vehicle 12a or the battery powered autonomous vehicle 24a. This vehicle communication is performed across a wireless pathway such as 30a and controls movement or positioning of the autonomous vehicle such as 12a relative to the respective dispenser such as the hydrogen dispenser 20. The battery powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a communicates with the autonomous vehicle control module 28 via another wireless pathway 32a. It is to be understood that the autonomous vehicles such as 12a and 24a are one of a fleet of autonomous vehicles such as 12b and 24b with which the autonomous vehicle control module 28 communicates to control their movement.

[0042] The hydrogen or electricity dispenser 20 or 22 is operatively coupled to a renewable methane plant 37 including unit operations configured to generate hydrogen fuel and electricity. For example, the renewable methane plant 37 includes the unit operations of figure 1 including the renewable methane storage vessel 14, the electricity generating module 16, and the methane reformer 18. The autonomous vehicle control module 28 is thus configured to:

1. allocate and communicate with a dispenser such as 20 or 22 depending on the power source of the vehicle being either hydrogen fuel cell such as 12a or battery such as 24a, respectively;

2. control the movement of the fleet of autonomous vehicles such as the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles 12a and 12b to sequentially stage their arrival and departure in connection with their refuelling at the allocated hydrogen dispenser 20.

[0043] It is expected that the autonomous vehicle control module 28 may form part of existing computer and network infrastructure for controlling regular operational features of autonomous vehicles. The control module 28 is expected to include software configured specifically to control and manage functions associated with replenishing the autonomous vehicle to ensure it is continually“fuelled”. This means the control module 28 will be required to communicate with both the autonomous vehicle and the energy dispenser including obtaining energy or other fuel related data from the autonomous vehicle to determine when energy replenishment is required and directing the autonomous vehicle to the appropriate (geographical location and fuel type) energy dispenser.

[0044] It is to be understood that the energy replenishment system 10 may include more than one hydrogen and/or electricity dispenser such as 20 and 22 respectively. In this event, the vehicle control module 28 utilises each of the dispenser such as 20 and 22 in controlling the flow of respective autonomous vehicles such as 12a and 12b at the relevant refuelling dispenser such as 20 and another hydrogen dispenser (not illustrated). The control module 28 communicates with the dispenser 20 or 22 via wireless pathway 33 or 35. The control module 28 may include a local server (not shown) at the renewable methane plant 37 in which case the pathway 33/35 may be wired to the dispenser 20/22.

[0045] Returning to figure 1 , the renewable methane storage vessel 14 of this embodiment may be located either below or above ground. The storage vessel 14 is of a volumetric capacity depending on the energy replenishment or refuelling requirements of the system 10 dictated largely by the number of autonomous vehicles such as 12a and 24a in the fleet. [0046] In this embodiment the electricity generating module 16 is one of the following renewable methane-fuelled devices:

1. a fuel cell;

2. a turbine engine;

3. an internal combustion engine.

[0047] In each of these configurations, the electricity generating module 16 has the capability to generate electricity for i) charging of batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a, and ii) delivering electricity to the electricity grid 26. The electricity generating module 16 in the course of generating electricity produces waste heat shown schematically at 40.

[0048] The methane reformer 18 is configured to harness the waste heat 40 from the electricity generating module 16. The methane reformer 18 operates to reform the supply of renewable methane 19 from the renewable methane storage vessel 14 in the production of hydrogen fuel such as 21 . This reforming reaction is a steam reforming reaction producing the hydrogen fuel 21 from the renewable methane 19 using a catalyst. The waste heat 40 harnessed from the electricity generating module 16 assists in the reforming reaction by preheating of the water or steam feed to the reformer 18.

[0049] Although not illustrated, the system 10 may also include a filtration system arranged to filter the impure hydrogen produced by the methane reformer 18 to provide hydrogen permeate at a relatively high purity. The high purity hydrogen permeate is at levels of around 99.999 per cent hydrogen which is required for effective operation of hydrogen fuel cells of the associated autonomous vehicle such as 12a.

[0050] The energy replenishment system 10 also comprises a hydrogen processing module in the form of a hydrogen compressor 48. The hydrogen compressor 48 is located between the methane reformer 18 and the hydrogen dispenser 20 for compressing the hydrogen fuel or permeate into a purified form suitable for dispensing to the autonomous vehicle such as 12a.

[0051 ] The energy replenishment system 10 of this embodiment may also comprise a renewable methane recovery module (not shown). The recovery module is operatively coupled to the methane reformer 18 to recover unreformed methane 27 and direct it to the electricity generating module 16. The recovered unreformed methane 27 provides a supplementary fuel source in generating electricity at the electricity generating module 16. [0052] Although not illustrated, the energy replenishment system 10 may further comprise one or more maintenance modules at least in part powered by the electricity generating module 16. The maintenance modules include one or more of the following:

1. autonomous vehicle servicing modules;

2. autonomous vehicle cleaning modules;

3. autonomous vehicle restocking modules.

[0053] It is to be understood that the servicing modules function to provide the requisite mechanical and electronic servicing required to ensure continuous operation of the autonomous vehicles. It is expected that the autonomous vehicles may be required to operate in effect 24/7 under the control of their fleet manager. It is to be understood that the autonomous vehicle cleaning modules function to provide the required levels of hygiene associated with an autonomous vehicle operating in a centralised fleet environment. It is also to be understood that the restocking modules function to provide refreshments suitable for consumption by passengers of the autonomous vehicle. The autonomous vehicle control module 28 associated with the system 10 may operate to control each of these maintenance modules primarily in terms of staging operation of each of these functions.

[0054] As seen in figure 1 , the energy replenishment system 10 of this embodiment also comprises a renewable methane source in the form of a synthetic methane reactor 50 for production of the renewable methane in the form of renewable synthetic methane 51 for delivery to the methane storage vessel 14. The synthetic methane reactor 50 is operatively coupled to a C0 2 source 52 and a hydrogen source 54 which provide C0 2 and H 2 , respectively, to the synthetic methane reactor 50. The synthetic methane reactor 50 is provided with a catalyst (not shown) which promotes a catalytic reaction of the C0 2 and H 2 in production of the renewable synthetic methane 51. In this example, the C0 2 source 52 includes either:

1 . a biogas reactor (not shown) from which the C0 2 is produced as a by-product; or

2. an atmospheric gas separator (not shown) within which the C0 2 is directly captured via a C0 2 collector (not shown).

[0055] In example 1 involving the biogas reactor, biomethane also produced by the biogas reactor is combined with the renewable synthetic methane 51 produced in the catalytic reaction within the synthetic methane reactor 50. The biomethane and the renewable synthetic methane are together delivered to the methane reformer 18 via the storage vessel 14. In example 2 involving the direct air capture of C0 2 , waste heat from the synthetic methane reactor 50 can be harnessed by the atmospheric gas separator to assist in the capture of C0 2 .

[0056] In this embodiment, the hydrogen source 54 includes either:

1. an electrolysis module (not shown) powered by a renewable energy source for

production of the hydrogen from water; or

2. an anaerobic digester (not shown) within which the hydrogen is produced from

biomass.

[0057] As an alternative or addition to the embodiment of figure 1 , the energy replenishment system 10 may comprise a renewable methane source in the form of a biogas reactor (not shown) for production of the renewable methane in the form of biomethane. The biomethane is produced in a conventional manner by an anaerobic digestion of biomass such as vegetable matter and animal waste for delivery to the methane storage vessel 14.

[0058] In this embodiment the source of renewable methane such as the synthetic methane reactor 50 and the storage vessel 14 are remote from one another. The renewable methane source is thus located some distance from the remainder of the energy

replenishment system 10 with the renewable synthetic methane 51 delivered to the energy replenishment system 10 as compressed gas or liquefied gas. Whether the renewable methane being delivered to the storage vessel 14 is comprised of either or both of renewable synthetic methane or biomethane, the renewable methane 51 can be delivered to the storage vessel 14 by pipeline or via truck, train, or ship as compressed gas or liquefied gas.

[0059] In another aspect, the invention extends to a method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, typically being one of a fleet of hydrogen fuelled or battery powered autonomous vehicles. In the context of the system of figure 1 , the general steps involved in one embodiment of this energy replenishment method are as follows:

1 . renewable methane is stored at the storage vessel 14;

2. electricity 23 is generated at the generating module 16 utilising at least some of the stored renewable methane as a fuel source at 17;

3. hydrogen fuel is produced from at least some of the stored renewable methane 19 by reforming it in a methane reformer 18 harnessing waste heat at 40 produced in the generation of electricity at the generating module 16; 4. the hydrogen fuel 21 is dispensed to an autonomous vehicle such as 12a at the hydrogen dispenser 20.

[0060] It is to be understood that the energy replenishment method may comprise any one or more of the additional steps:

1 . electricity generated at the generating module 16 from the stored renewable methane 17 is dispensed at the dispenser 22 for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a;

2. the impure hydrogen produced at the reformer 18 from the reforming reaction is

filtered to provide a relatively high purity hydrogen permeate or fuel at 21 ;

3. the high purity hydrogen fuel or permeate is compressed at the compressor 48;

4. unreformed methane from the reformer 18 is recovered and redirected to the

electricity generating module 16 to supplement the stored renewable methane 17 used at the fuel source in generating electricity at the generating module 16.

[0061 ] As illustrated in figure 2, the energy replenishment method also comprises the step of communicating with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle 12a or 24a to control its movement relative to the respective dispenser 20 or 22. This vehicle communication is effected in order to sequentially control the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles such as 12a or 24a in connection with their energy replenishment.

[0062] As schematically seen in figure 3, there is according to an embodiment of a further aspect of the invention an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system 10 comprising:

1. a storage vessel 14 for a hydrogen-carrier fuel source;

2. a hydrogen processing unit 18 arranged to receive the fuel source 19 from the storage vessel 14, the processing unit 18 configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module 16 in the course of producing hydrogen fuel;

3. an electricity generating module 16 fuelled by some of the hydrogen fuel produced from the storage vessel 14;

4. a hydrogen dispenser 20 operatively coupled to the hydrogen processing unit 18 to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing;

5. an autonomous vehicle such as 12a powered by a hydrogen fuel cell designed to be replenished or refuelled by the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser 20. [0063] For ease of reference and to avoid repetition, the same reference numerals have been used for components of this aspect of the invention which generally correspond with the preceding aspect of the invention. For example, reference numeral 14 designates the storage vessel for the hydrogen-carrier fuel source of this aspect as well as the storage vessel for renewable methane of the preceding aspect.

[0064] In this embodiment the replenishment system 10 also comprises an electricity dispenser 22 operatively coupled to the electricity generating module 16. The electricity dispenser 22 is suitable for dispensing electricity 23 for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a. The electricity generating module 16 in this example is also configured to deliver electricity 25 to an electricity grid 26.

[0065] In this embodiment, the autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system 10 also comprises an autonomous vehicle control module configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell autonomous vehicle 12a or the battery powered autonomous vehicle 24a. The control module is expected to be substantially the same as the control module 28 of the preceding aspect of the invention. Figure 2 thus illustrates the control module 28 of this aspect and for convenience the same reference numerals have been used. The vehicle communication is performed across a wireless pathway such as 30a and controls movement or positioning of the autonomous vehicle such as 12a relative to the respective dispenser such as the hydrogen dispenser 20. The battery powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a communicates with the autonomous vehicle control module 28 via another wireless pathway 32a. It is to be understood that the autonomous vehicles such as 12a and 24a are one of a fleet of autonomous vehicles such as 12b and 24b with which the autonomous vehicle control module 28 communicates to control their movement.

[0066] The hydrogen or electricity dispenser 20 or 22 is operatively coupled to a processing plant 37 associated with the hydrogen-carrier fuel source, said plant 37 including unit operations configured to generate hydrogen fuel and electricity. For example, the processing plant 37 includes the unit operations of figure 3 including the storage vessel 14, the electricity generating module 16, and the hydrogen processing unit 18. The autonomous vehicle control module 28 is thus configured to:

1. allocate and communicate with a dispenser such as 20 or 22 depending on the power source of the vehicle being either hydrogen fuel cell such as 12a or battery such as 24a, respectively; 2. control the movement of the fleet of autonomous vehicles such as the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles 12a and 12b to sequentially stage their arrival and departure in connection with their refuelling at the allocated hydrogen dispenser 20.

[0067] It is expected that the autonomous vehicle control module 28 may form part of existing computer and network infrastructure for controlling regular operational features of autonomous vehicles. The control module 28 is expected to include software configured specifically to control and manage functions associated with replenishing the autonomous vehicle to ensure it is continually“fuelled”. This means the control module 28 will be required to communicate with both the autonomous vehicle and the energy dispenser including obtaining energy or other fuel related data from the autonomous vehicle to determine when energy replenishment is required and directing the autonomous vehicle to the appropriate (geographical location and fuel type) energy dispenser.

[0068] It is to be understood that the energy replenishment system 10 may include more than one hydrogen and/or electricity dispenser such as 20 and 22 respectively. In this event, the vehicle control module 28 utilises each of the dispenser such as 20 and 22 in controlling the flow of respective autonomous vehicles such as 12a and 12b at the relevant refuelling dispenser such as 20 and another hydrogen dispenser (not illustrated). The control module 28 communicates with the dispenser 20 or 22 via wireless pathway 33 or 35. The control module 28 may include a local server (not shown) at the ammonia plant 37 in which case the pathway 33/35 may be wired to the dispenser 20/22.

[0069] Returning to figure 3, the hydrogen processing unit 18 may be in the form of a dehydrogenation unit arranged to receive an organic hydride 19 from the storage vessel 14. The dehydrogenation unit 18 is configured to harness waste heat 40 from the electricity generating module 16 to promote dehydrogenation of the organic hydride 19 in the dehydrogenation unit 18 thereby producing hydrogen fuel. In this example the organic hydride is methylcyclohexane (MCH) which in a reversible reaction within the

dehydrogenation unit 18 produces toluene and hydrogen fuel. Although not illustrated, the toluene or other dehydrogenated organic hydride is recovered from the dehydrogenation unit 18. The recovered dehydrogenated organic hydrides are directed either locally or remotely to a hydrogenation unit for the production of organic hydrides which may be“recycled” for storage in the storage vessel 14.

[0070] Alternatively the hydrogen processing unit 18 may include a gasification unit (not illustrated) arranged to receive liquid hydrogen 19 from the storage vessel 14. The gasification unit is configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module to promote gasification of the liquid hydrogen in the gasification unit thereby producing hydrogen fuel.

[0071 ] In either of the embodiments utilising an organic hydride or a liquid hydrogen fuel source in the production of hydrogen fuel, the electricity generating module 16 is fuelled by hydrogen recovered from the hydrogen processing unit 18 (seen as flowline 27 in figure 3). In this embodiment the electricity generating module 16 is one of the following devices:

1. a fuel cell;

2. a turbine engine;

3. an internal combustion engine.

[0072] In each of these configurations the electricity generating module 16 has the capability to generate electricity for i) charging of batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a, ii) delivering electricity to the electricity grid 26, and iii) delivering behind the meter electricity for the operations of the energy replenishment system itself. The electricity generating module 16 in the course of generating electricity produces waste heat shown schematically at 40.

[0073] The hydrogen processing unit 18 is configured to harness the waste heat 40 from the electricity generating module 16. The hydrogen processing unit 18 operates to process the supply of the hydrogen-carrier fuel source 19 from the storage vessel 14 in the production of hydrogen fuel such as 21. This processing is preferably promoted by the waste heat 40 harnessed from the electricity generating module 16.

[0074] As schematically seen in figure 4, in another embodiment the hydrogen-carrier fuel source is in the form a liquid ammonia which provides a fuel source for the electricity generating module 16. The liquid ammonia is stored in the storage vessel 14 and fed to the hydrogen processing unit in the form of an ammonia cracking reactor 18. The ammonia reactor 18 is configured to harness the waste heat 40 from the electricity generating module 16 in the course cracking ammonia to produce hydrogen fuel. The liquid ammonia storage vessel 14 of this embodiment may be located either below or above ground. The storage vessel 14 is of a volumetric capacity depending on the energy replenishment or refuelling requirements of the system 10 dictated largely by the number of autonomous vehicles such as 12a and 24a in the fleet. In this example the underground storage vessel 14 has a volumetric capacity of around 100,000 litres and thus has the capability to contain

approximately 70 tonnes of liquid ammonia. The liquid ammonia is stored at a temperature of around minus 30°C or a pressure of around 10 Bar. It is understood that this volume of liquid ammonia under these storage conditions is approximately equivalent to 12,500kg of hydrogen.

[0075] Although not illustrated in any detail, the ammonia cracking reactor 18 includes a reaction chamber containing a catalyst (not shown) to promote decomposition of ammonia in the cracking reaction for the production of impure hydrogen. The ammonia cracking reactor may also be associated with a filtration membrane, or a pressure swing adsorption facility, arranged to filter the impure hydrogen to provide hydrogen permeate at a relatively high purity. The high purity hydrogen permeate is at levels of around 99.999 percent hydrogen which is required for effective operation of hydrogen fuel cells of the associated autonomous vehicle such as 12a.

[0076] Returning to figure 4, the energy replenishment system 10 also comprises a hydrogen compressor 48 located between the ammonia reactor 18 and the hydrogen dispenser 20 for compressing the hydrogen fuel or permeate into a form suitable for dispensing to the autonomous vehicle such as 12a.

[0077] Although not illustrated, the energy replenishment system 10 of this embodiment may also comprise an ammonia fuel recovery module. The recovery module is operatively coupled to the ammonia cracking reactor 18 to recover uncracked ammonia and direct it to the electricity generating module 16. The recovered uncracked ammonia provides a supplementary fuel source in generating electricity at the electricity generating module 16.

[0078] Although not illustrated, the energy replenishment system 10 may further comprise one or more maintenance modules at least in part powered by the electricity generating module 16. The maintenance modules include one or more of the following:

1. autonomous vehicle servicing modules;

2. autonomous vehicle cleaning modules;

3. autonomous vehicle restocking modules.

[0079] It is to be understood that the servicing modules function to provide the requisite mechanical and electronic servicing required to ensure continuous operation of the autonomous vehicles. It is expected that the autonomous vehicles may be required to operate in effect 24/7 under the control of their fleet manager. It is to be understood that the autonomous vehicle cleaning modules function to provide the required levels of hygiene associated with an autonomous vehicle operating in a centralised fleet environment. It is also to be understood that the restocking modules function to provide refreshments suitable for consumption by passengers of the autonomous vehicle. The autonomous vehicle control module 28 associated with the system 10 may operate to control each of these maintenance modules primarily in terms of staging operation of each of these functions.

[0080] In yet another aspect, the invention extends to a method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, typically being one of a fleet of hydrogen fuelled or battery powered autonomous vehicles. In the context of the system of figure 3, the general steps involved in one embodiment of this energy replenishment method are , as follows:

1. a hydrogen-carrier fuel source is stored at the storage vessel 14;

2. hydrogen fuel is produced from at least some of the stored fuel source 19 by

processing it in a hydrogen processing unit 18 harnessing waste heat at 40 produced in the generation of electricity at the generating module 16;

3. electricity 23 is generated at the generating module 16 utilising some of the hydrogen fuel produced from the hydrogen processing unit 18;

4. the hydrogen fuel 21 is dispensed to an autonomous vehicle such as 12a at the

hydrogen dispenser 20.

[0081 ] It is to be understood that the energy replenishment method may comprise any one or more of the additional steps:

1. electricity generated at the generating module 16 from the stored fuel source 17 is dispensed at the dispenser 22 for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a;

2. the hydrogen fuel is compressed at the compressor 48.

[0082] As illustrated in figure 2 the energy replenishment method also comprises the step of communicating with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle 12a or 24a to control its movement relative to the respective dispenser 20 or 22. This vehicle communication is effected in order to sequentially control the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles such as 12a or 24a in connection with their energy replenishment.

[0083] As schematically seen in figure 4, there is according to an embodiment of yet a further aspect of the invention an autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system 10 comprising:

1 . a liquid ammonia storage vessel 14; 2. an electricity generating module 16 operatively coupled to and fuelled by ammonia 17 from the liquid ammonia storage vessel 14;

3. an ammonia cracking reactor 18 arranged to receive ammonia 19 from the liquid

ammonia storage vessel 14, the ammonia reactor 18 configured to harness waste heat from the electricity generating module 16 in the course of producing hydrogen fuel;

4. a hydrogen dispenser 20 operatively coupled to the ammonia cracking reactor 18 to receive the hydrogen fuel for dispensing;

5. an autonomous vehicle such as 12a powered by a hydrogen fuel cell designed to be replenished or refuelled by the hydrogen fuel dispensed from the hydrogen dispenser 20.

[0084] For ease of reference and to avoid repetition, the same reference numerals have been used for components of this aspect of the invention which generally correspond with the preceding aspect of the invention. For example, reference numeral 14 designates the storage vessel for the hydrogen-carrier fuel source of this aspect as well as the storage vessel for renewable methane of the preceding aspect.

[0085] In this embodiment the replenishment system 10 also comprises an electricity dispenser 22 operatively coupled to the electricity generating module 16. The electricity dispenser 22 is suitable for dispensing electricity 23 for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a. The electricity generating module 16 in this example is also configured to deliver electricity 25 to an electricity grid 26.

[0086] The autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system 10 of this embodiment also comprises an autonomous vehicle control module configured to communicate with either the hydrogen fuel cell autonomous vehicle 12a or the battery powered autonomous vehicle 24a. The control module is expected to be substantially the same as the control module 28 of the preceding aspect of the invention. Figure 2 thus illustrates the control module 28 of this aspect and for convenience the same reference numerals have been used. The vehicle communication is performed across a wireless pathway such as 30a and controls movement or positioning of the autonomous vehicle such as 12a relative to the respective dispenser such as the hydrogen dispenser 20. The battery powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a communicates with the autonomous vehicle control module 28 via another wireless pathway 32a. It is to be understood that the autonomous vehicles such as 12a and 24a are one of a fleet of autonomous vehicles such as 12b and 24b with which the autonomous vehicle control module 28 communicates to control their movement. [0087] The hydrogen or electricity dispenser 20 or 22 is operatively coupled to an ammonia plant 37 including unit operations configured to generate hydrogen fuel and electricity. For example, the ammonia plant 37 includes the unit operations of figure 4 including the ammonia storage vessel 14, the electricity generating module 16, and the ammonia cracking reactor 18. The autonomous vehicle control module 28 is thus configured to:

1. allocate and communicate with a dispenser such as 20 or 22 depending on the power source of the vehicle being either hydrogen fuel cell such as 12a or battery such as 24a, respectively;

2. control the movement of the fleet of autonomous vehicles such as the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles 12a and 12b to sequentially stage their arrival and departure in connection with their refuelling at the allocated hydrogen dispenser 20.

[0088] It is expected that the autonomous vehicle control module 28 may form part of existing computer and network infrastructure for controlling regular operational features of autonomous vehicles. The control module 28 is expected to include software configured specifically to control and manage functions associated with replenishing the autonomous vehicle to ensure it is continually“fuelled”. This means the control module 28 will be required to communicate with both the autonomous vehicle and the energy dispenser including obtaining energy or other fuel related data from the autonomous vehicle to determine when energy replenishment is required and directing the autonomous vehicle to the appropriate (geographical location and fuel type) energy dispenser.

[0089] It is to be understood that the energy replenishment system 10 may include more than one hydrogen and/or electricity dispenser such as 20 and 22 respectively. In this event, the vehicle control module 28 utilises each of the dispenser such as 20 and 22 in controlling the flow of respective autonomous vehicles such as 12a and 12b at the relevant refuelling dispenser such as 20 and another hydrogen dispenser (not illustrated). The control module 28 communicates with the dispenser 20 or 22 via wireless pathway 33 or 35. The control module 28 may include a local server (not shown) at the ammonia plant 37 in which case the pathway 33/35 may be wired to the dispenser 20/22.

[0090] Returning to figure 4, the liquid ammonia storage vessel 14 of this embodiment may be located either below or above ground. The storage vessel 14 is of a volumetric capacity depending on the energy replenishment or refuelling requirements of the system 10 dictated largely by the number of autonomous vehicles such as 12a and 24a in the fleet. In this example the underground storage vessel 14 has a volumetric capacity of around 100,000 litres and thus has the capability to contain approximately 70 tonnes of liquid ammonia. The liquid ammonia is stored at a temperature of around minus 30°C or a pressure of around 10 Bar. It is understood that this volume of liquid ammonia under these storage conditions is approximately equivalent to 12,500kg of hydrogen.

[0091 ] In this embodiment the electricity generating module 16 is one of the following ammonia-fuelled devices:

1. a fuel cell;

2. a turbine engine;

3. an internal combustion engine.

[0092] In each of these configurations the electricity generating module 16 has the capability to generate electricity for i) charging of batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a, ii) delivering electricity to the electricity grid 26, and iii) delivering behind the meter electricity for the operations of the energy replenishment system itself. The electricity generating module 16 in the course of generating electricity produces waste heat shown schematically at 40.

[0093] The ammonia cracking reactor 18 is configured to harness the waste heat 40 from the electricity generating module 16. The ammonia cracking reactor 18 operates to crack the supply of ammonia 19 from the liquid ammonia storage vessel 14 in the production of hydrogen fuel such as 21 . This cracking reaction is promoted by the waste heat 40 harnessed from the electricity generating module 16.

[0094] Although not illustrated in any detail, the ammonia cracking reactor 18 includes a reaction chamber containing a catalyst (not shown) to promote decomposition of ammonia in the cracking reaction for the production of impure hydrogen. The ammonia cracking reactor may also be associated with a filtration membrane arranged to filter the impure hydrogen to provide hydrogen permeate at a relatively high purity. The high purity hydrogen permeate is at levels of around 99.999 percent hydrogen which is required for effective operation of hydrogen fuel cells of the associated autonomous vehicle such as 12a.

[0095] Returning to figure 4, the energy replenishment system 10 also comprises a hydrogen processing module in the form of a hydrogen compressor 48. The hydrogen compressor 48 is located between the ammonia reactor 18 and the hydrogen dispenser 20 for compressing the hydrogen fuel or permeate into a form suitable for dispensing to the autonomous vehicle such as 12a.

[0096] Although not illustrated, the energy replenishment system 10 of this embodiment may also comprise an ammonia fuel recovery module. The recovery module is operatively coupled to the ammonia cracking reactor 18 to recover uncracked ammonia 27 and direct it to the electricity generating module 16. The recovered uncracked ammonia 27 provides a supplementary fuel source in generating electricity at the electricity generating module 16.

[0097] In this embodiment, all unit operations of the energy replenishment system 10 are co-located onshore. In a variation from this configuration, at least the storage and hydrogen/electricity operations are located offshore, typically on an offshore platform. The hydrogen produced offshore is piped onshore to the hydrogen dispenser via an appropriate pipeline whereas the electricity generated offshore is supplied onshore to the electricity dispenser via an electrical cable. The applicant’s co-pending Australian provisional patent application no. 2018901381 discloses an offshore energy generation system of this variation. The contents of the specification accompanying the applicant’s provisional patent application are to be considered included herein by way of this reference.

[0098] Although not illustrated, the energy replenishment system 10 may further comprise one or more maintenance modules at least in part powered by the electricity generating module 16. The maintenance modules include one or more of the following:

1. autonomous vehicle servicing modules;

2. autonomous vehicle cleaning modules;

3. autonomous vehicle restocking modules.

[0099] It is to be understood that the servicing modules function to provide the requisite mechanical and electronic servicing required to ensure continuous operation of the autonomous vehicles. It is expected that the autonomous vehicles may be required to operate in effect 24/7 under the control of their fleet manager. It is to be understood that the autonomous vehicle cleaning modules function to provide the required levels of hygiene associated with an autonomous vehicle operating in a centralised fleet environment. It is also to be understood that the restocking modules function to provide refreshments suitable for consumption by passengers of the autonomous vehicle. The autonomous vehicle control module 28 associated with the system 10 may operate to control each of these maintenance modules primarily in terms of staging operation of each of these functions. [0100] In still another aspect, the invention extends to a method of replenishing an energy source of an autonomous vehicle, typically being one of a fleet of hydrogen fuelled or battery powered autonomous vehicles In the context of the system of figure 4, the general steps involved in one embodiment of this energy replenishment method are , as follows:

1. liquid ammonia is stored at the storage vessel 14;

2. electricity 23 is generated at the generating module 16 utilising at least some of the stored liquid ammonia as a fuel source at 17;

3. hydrogen fuel is produced from at least some of the stored liquid ammonia 19 by

cracking it in an ammonia cracking reaction at the reactor 18 harnessing waste heat at 40 produced in the generation of electricity at the generating module 16;

4. the hydrogen fuel 21 is dispensed to an autonomous vehicle such as 12a at the

hydrogen dispenser 20.

[0101 ] It is to be understood that the energy replenishment method may comprise any one or more of the additional steps:

1. electricity generated at the generating module 16 from the stored liquid ammonia 17 is dispensed at the dispenser 22 for charging one or more batteries of an electrically powered autonomous vehicle such as 24a;

2. the impure hydrogen produced at the reactor 18 from the ammonia cracking reaction is filtered to provide a relatively high purity hydrogen permeate or fuel at 21 ;

3. the high purity hydrogen fuel or permeate is compressed at the compressor 48;

4. uncracked ammonia from the ammonia cracking reaction at the reactor 18 is

recovered and redirected to the electricity generating module 16 to supplement the stored liquid ammonia 17 used at the fuel source in generating electricity at the generating module 16.

[0102] As illustrated in figure 2 the energy replenishment method also comprises the step of communicating with either the hydrogen fuel cell or battery powered autonomous vehicle 12a or 24a to control its movement relative to the respective dispenser 20 or 22. This vehicle communication is effected in order to sequentially control the arrival and departure of the autonomous vehicles such as 12a or 24a in connection with their energy replenishment.

[0103] The present invention in at least its preferred embodiments sets out to address the need for environmental acceptability by refuelling or otherwise replenishing battery electric and hydrogen electric autonomous vehicles. This is achieved in said one aspect of the invention by the production of electricity and hydrogen from renewable methane in the form of either renewable synthetic methane or biomethane. The renewable methane is in both cases considered renewable as it is produced as either:

1. synthetic methane in a synthetic methane reaction in the form of the Sabatier reaction utilising C0 2 from either a biogas reactor or atmospheric separator, and H 2 from either water hydrolysis powered by a renewable energy source or an anaerobic digestion of a biomass; or

2. biomethane in an anaerobic digestion of biomass within a biogas reactor.

[0104] In said further aspect of the invention this environmental acceptability is achieved by the production of electricity and hydrogen from a store of a hydrogen carrier fuel source such as an organic hydride. The organic hydride fuel source store is considered renewable as the hydrogen from which the organic hydride is synthesised is originally produced or derived by electrolysis of water using renewable energy such as wind or solar as the power source for this electrolysis reaction.

[0105] In said yet a further aspect of the invention this environmental acceptability is achieved by the production of electricity and hydrogen from a store of carbon-free and renewable ammonia. The ammonia store is considered renewable as it is produced or derived by electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen using renewable energy such as wind or solar as the power source for this electrolysis reaction. This or another renewable power source is also used to power an air separation unit for the production of nitrogen. The hydrogen and nitrogen are then synthesized to produce renewable ammonia with this reaction being powered by renewable energy. Alternatively the ammonia may be directly synthesized from water and air using renewable energy as the power source.

[0106] Now that several preferred embodiments of the various aspects of an

autonomous vehicle energy replenishment system have been described, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that the system has the following advantages:

1. the system provides an environmentally acceptable solution to replenishing or

refuelling autonomous vehicles insofar as renewable methane, ammonia and its derivatives, or other hydrogen-carrier fuel sources provide a carbon-neutral fuel source;

2. the system lends itself to replenishing or refuelling both hydrogen fuel cell and battery powered autonomous vehicles;

3. the system is configured to provide communication with the autonomous vehicles in order to control staging of their replenishment; 4. the system in recovering waste heat associated with the generation of electricity efficiently operates to promote reforming of renewable methane, cracking of ammonia, or processing of other hydrogen carrier fuel sources thereby reducing the external energy/heating requirement for this processing;

5. the system provides the capability to generate hydrogen at the required level of purity for fuelling hydrogen fuel cells of autonomous vehicles.

[0107] Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention as described herein is susceptible to variations and modifications other than those specifically described.

[0108] For example, in said one aspect the replenishment system may not require a renewable methane storage vessel in which case the renewable methane is provided from the renewable methane source directly to the methane reformer and/or the electricity generating module. The reactants/reagents used in production of the renewable methane need not be limited to the described embodiments but extend to other reactants/reagents considered to be renewable.

[0109] For example, in said further aspect the replenishment system may include multiple above or below ground storage vessels.

[01 10] For example, in said yet a further aspect the replenishment system may include multiple above or below ground ammonia storage vessels. The ammonia cracking reactor need not be limited to the described embodiment but extends to other reactors producing hydrogen from the decomposition of ammonia.

[01 1 1 ] All such variations and modifications are to be considered within the scope of the present invention the nature of which is to be determined from the foregoing description.