Will hydrogen fuel cells take off?

By 2030, we expect hydrogen to be used in a variety of modes of transportation, including heavy vehicles, buses and railways, along with its initial use in commercial transportation and aviation. Our analysis shows that there could be a demand for up to 6 TWh for low-carbon hydrogen from transport by 2030. For truly sustainable mobility, hydrogen is a fuel that cannot be ignored. It is also considered a possible alternative for powering heavy vehicles, since electric trucks are hampered by battery capacity and by having to be recharged using the power grid.

However, the biggest drawback is that developing a complete hydrogen refueling infrastructure, in which gas is produced and then transported to stations, will take billions of pounds and several years to develop. On a brutally hot summer day, a second-generation, zero-emission, blue-metallic blue Toyota Mirai car was parked in front of headquarters. A study conducted by Clean Sky 2 and Fuel Cells %26 Hydrogen 2 states that hydrogen-powered aircraft could be ready to fly as early as 2035, although in 2050 it could be more feasible for longer flights. Automakers have been experimenting with hydrogen fuel cell technology for several years, trying to decipher the formula for using the most abundant resource in the universe to power cars.

There are 550 megawatts of fuel cells installed across the country, says Connor Dolan, vice president of external affairs for the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Energy Association %26.However, all the rumors, prototypes, presidential statements, pilot projects and the promise of hydrogen have failed to generate a stampede of FCEV buyers, let alone a proliferation of hydrogen fuel warehouses on the corners of North America. Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to generate energy, a chemical process that separates hydrogen from oxygen. Ask a senior executive, a salesman or just anyone else to call you back, since today I wanted to buy “like 40 electric vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells”. Like fully electric vehicles, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) use electricity to power an electric motor.

However, this, along with several other obstacles to production, are apparently being overcome, and there is still a real possibility that hydrogen will be found as a much more prominent fuel in the near future. While automakers could design an FCEV with plug-in capabilities to charge the battery, most current FCEVs use the battery to recover braking energy, provide additional power during short accelerations, and soften the energy supplied by the fuel cell, with the option of leaving the fuel cell idling or turning off the fuel cell when energy needs are low. During the vehicle design process, the vehicle manufacturer defines the power of the vehicle according to the size of the electric motors that receive electrical energy from the combination of fuel cell and battery of the appropriate size. The key to encouraging hydrogen vehicles is to make them part of a larger “hydrogen economy”: building refueling stations only for hydrogen cars would be inefficient.

The hydrogen revolution may finally be under way, but its progress will not depend on any company's desire to mass-produce fuel cell cars, but on the industry's ability to solve the missing piece of infrastructure. It's an unconspicuous looking four-door sedan, but with remarkable hydrogen fuel cell technology under the hood. The objective is to produce hydrogen from low-carbon energy sources (green hydrogen) and expand its use in the transport and power generation sectors. It then has to mix with oxygen in a fuel cell stack to generate electricity to power the car's engines.


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