Improving the efficiency of this value chain enables hydrogen to be used as an energy carrier to support other parts of the energy system. Significant reductions in electrolysis cost or direct production using solar hydrogen panels could significantly increase supply. If the cost of hydrogen is reduced, increased demand for hydrogen could come from industry heat use, heavy transport or even as feedstock to produce ammonia used as fuel in shipping.
Renewably produced ‘green’ hydrogen is playing an increasingly bigger role in the conversation around future energy supplies. Despite current challenges such as high production costs and high efficiency losses during the production process, there are many potential applications for green hydrogen once production starts to scale. Which of these application areas do you expect to be scaled-up the most over the coming decade?
By the end of 2030, I expect some large-scale commercial applications in the transport and heating sector. Early adopters that we will see will be in the transport sector in forms of fuel cell busses or other fleet vehicles for example and heating applications are under development in Europe. We will probably not see many commercial energy storage applications, simply because it is currently still quite expensive.
What about the transport sector?
Hydrogen fuel cells will have an impact on transportation, although the business case for passenger cars is not as strong as for long distance heavy vehicles. Even though the refuelling times and ranges of passenger fuel cell electric vehicles will be on a par with those of internal combustion engine vehicles for the next decades – superior to those of battery electric vehicles – our Energy Transition Outlook concludes this not to be enough to offset the fuel cell electric vehicles cost disadvantage, where high costs associated with hydrogen-refuelling infrastructure play a prominent role. However, for commercial use, fuel cells are another matter and heavy long-haul vehicles require driving ranges for which battery-based propulsion will remain inadequate.
The penetration of fuel cell electric vehicles will correlate with regions that will use hydrogen more broadly, where the distribution network will also enable fuel cell electric vehicle uptake.
So, for the heavy industry sector, fuel cells could become a viable option?
Yes, in the heavy vehicles sector I expect hydrogen to make the biggest impact. In the long-range commercial vehicles market we see a clearer opportunity for the application of fuel cell technology. The range requirements of some trucks cannot be achieved by battery technology alone since these vehicles are typically in use for a much longer period of time since the utilization rate of these vehicles is much higher, with fewer opportunities for charging. We anticipate that 5-13%of heavy goods vehicles will be powered by fuel cells by 2050, according to our Energy Transition Outlook report. Also in the fleet business, where a single owner operates both the assets and the charging system the ‘chicken and egg’ situation is circumvented.
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