Hydrogen: Fueling the Future of Transport and Startups
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Hydrogen is being considered as a potential solution for long-haul trucking by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy has also developed a National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap to accelerate the development of clean hydrogen technologies. Several startups are emerging in the hydrogen production sector, with companies like H2Pro, Enapter, and Ways2H leading the way. These companies are working on innovative technologies to produce green hydrogen more efficiently and cost-effectively. As the hydrogen industry continues to grow, it's expected to play a significant role in the transition to a cleaner energy future.
MarketsandMarkets welcomes these developments and our editors share their views.
Is hydrogen the future of trucking?
While hydrogen is seen as a promising option for the future of trucking, it's not the only solution. Other fuels and technologies, including battery-electric vehicles, will also play crucial roles in the transition towards zero-emission transportation.
Future of trucking and the potential role of hydrogen in it: Here is what you should know
- The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) suggests that as the trucking industry moves towards zero-emission vehicles, hydrogen-powered trucks could be the best option to reach long-term goals.
- The NACFE acknowledges that other current fuels, including diesel and emerging alternatives, will continue to play a significant role in the industry's future.
- Hydrogen internal combustion engines could grow in popularity because they are similar to the engines fleets use today. However, they still face infrastructure challenges, particularly in distributing hydrogen.
- Battery-electric trucks are already here and are expected to precede fuel cells. They are best suited for shorter distance and regional trips, while hydrogen has the potential for longer, over-the-road duty cycles.
- The transition to hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles is expected to take two decades. During this time, alternative fuels like renewable natural gas and renewable diesel will be necessary to support the transition.
- The report concludes that both battery-electric and hydrogen are needed to reach the zero-emission goals set by governments worldwide.
- Eventually, a choice will need to be made between gaseous or liquid hydrogen, and the infrastructure will need to be built to support that choice.
- The report mentions that trucking fleets are on board with the move towards hydrogen and see it as the future. For instance, Schneider's chief administrative officer, Rob Reich, stated, "Hydrogen technology is coming faster than we expected. We will be testing a truck this year."
What is the National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap?
The U.S. National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap is a comprehensive plan that explores opportunities for clean hydrogen to contribute to national decarbonization goals across multiple sectors of the economy.
- The Strategy and Roadmap provides a snapshot of hydrogen production, transport, storage, and use in the United States today. It presents a strategic framework for achieving large-scale production and use of clean hydrogen, examining scenarios for 2030, 2040, and 2050. The roadmap establishes concrete targets, market-driven metrics, and tangible actions to measure success across sectors.
- It identifies the need for collaboration among federal government agencies, industry, academia, national laboratories, state, local, and Tribal communities, environmental and justice communities, labor unions, and numerous stakeholder groups to accelerate progress and market liftoff.
- The Strategy and Roadmap responds to legislative language set forth in section 40314 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Public Law 117-58), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).
- The document was posted in draft form for public comment in September 2022, and the final version of the report was informed by stakeholder feedback, further analysis on market liftoff, as well as engagement across several federal agencies and the White House Climate Policy Office.
- The report will be updated at least every three years as required by the BIL, providing future opportunities for stakeholder feedback.
Which are leading companies in hydrogen?
- Founder: Carl Berninghausen, Christian von Olshausen
- Working on: High-temperature solid oxide fuel cells, high-temperature electrolyzers, and stacks
- Service/Product: Power-to-gas and Power-to-liquid products
- Year Founded: 2010
- Headquartered: Dresden, Germany
- Funding Raised: $70 million
- Key Investors: Total Energy Ventures, Idinvest Partners, Electranova Capital
- Founder: Matthieu Guesné
- Working on: Green hydrogen production using renewable energy
- Service/Product: Green hydrogen for industries, transport and logistics, fuel distributions
- Year Founded: 2017
- Headquartered: Nantes, France
- Funding Raised: $56 million
- Founder: Mo Vargas
- Working on: On-site hydrogen production
- Service/Product: Hydrogen production, transport, storage and fueling solutions
- Year Founded: 2015
- Headquartered: Albuquerque, United States
- Funding Raised: $157 million
- Key Investors: Cottonwood Technology Fund, Newlight Partners
- Founder: Jim Heathcote
- Working on: Hydrogen energy systems
- Service/Product: Electrolyzer and hydrogen systems for renewable energy conversion to clean fuel
- Year Founded: 2001
- Headquartered: Sheffield, United Kingdom
- Funding Raised: $214 million
- Key Investors: JCB, Linde
- Founder: Talmon Marco
- Working on: Technology for producing hydrogen from water
- Service/Product: Electrochemical, Thermally Activated Chemical technology for water splitting
- Year Founded: 2019
- Headquartered: Caesarea, Israel
- Funding Raised: $22 million
- Key Investors: Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Horizons Ventures
- Founder: Sebastian-Justus Schmidt
- Working on: Proton exchange membrane battery solution
- Service/Product: Advanced proton exchange membrane electrolyzers for green Hydrogen production
- Year Founded: 2017
- Headquartered: Pisa, Italy
- Founder: Bill Gross
- Working on: Hydrogen and syngas production using sunlight
- Service/Product: AI-controlled concentrating solar thermal technology for thermal energy storage
- Year Founded: 2013
- Headquartered: Pasadena, United States
- Funding Raised: $39 million
- Key Investors: Bill Gates, Patrick Soon-Shiong
- Working on: Hydrogen generation and storage
- Service/Product: Hydrogen production through a plasma process and methane transformation
- Headquartered: Hessle, United Kingdom
- Working on: Electrolyzer-based grid energy storage system
- Service/Product: Solar energy used to produce hydrogen from electrolyzers
- Founder: Val Miftakhov
- Working on: Solutions for hydrogen generation
- Service/Product: System and operations solution to generate hydrogen using electrolysis
- Year Founded: 2017
- Headquartered: Hollister, United States
- Funding Raised: $74 million
- Key Investors: Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, Horizons Ventures, Shell Ventures
FuelCell Energy Inc.
- Founder: Bernard Baker
- What they are working on: Design, manufacturing, and operation of Direct Fuel Cell power plants
- Year founded: 1969
- Headquartered: Danbury, Connecticut, USA
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: Operates the world's most expansive fuel cell park, consisting of 21 power plants, located in South Korea.
Bloom Energy Corp.
- Founder: KR Sridhar
- What they are working on: Design and marketing of solid oxide fuel cells capable of on-site electricity generation
- Year founded: 2001
- Headquartered: San Jose, California, USA
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: Installed over 900 megawatts of fuel cells.
Plug Power Inc.
- Founder: George C. McNamee, Larry G. Garberding
- What they are working on: Developing and producing hydrogen fuel cell systems for equipment and electric vehicles
- Year founded: 1997
- Headquartered: Latham, New York, USA
- Revenue: $188.6 million (Q3 2022)
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: Plans to produce 11,000 tonnes of green hydrogen by 2025.
Adani Green Energy Ltd.
- Founder: Gautam Adani
- What they are working on: Renewable energy including green hydrogen production
- Year founded: 2015
- Headquartered: Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: Plans to produce 1 million tonnes of green hydrogen annually by 2030.
Air Products and Chemicals Inc.
- Founder: Leonard P. Pool
- What they are working on: Sale of gases and chemicals for industrial purposes including green hydrogen
- Year founded: 1940
- Headquartered: Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA
- Revenue: $3.57 billion (Q3 2022)
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: Plans to build a green hydrogen production facility in New York by 2027.
- Founder: Government of the People's Republic of China
- What they are working on: Oil and gas exploration, refining, and marketing, as well as the production and sales of petrochemicals and other chemical products including green hydrogen
- Year founded: 1983
- Headquartered: Beijing, China
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: -
Air Liquide S.A.
- Founder: Georges Claude, Paul Delorme
- What they are working on: Producing and distributing atmospheric and process gases including green hydrogen
- Year founded: 1902
- Headquartered: Paris, France
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: Plans to build two new green hydrogen production units in Shanghai Chemical Industry Park.
- Founder: Carl von Linde
- What they are working on: Producing and distributing atmospheric and process gases including green hydrogen
- Year founded: 1879
- Headquartered: Guildford, UK
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: Plans to increase green hydrogen production in the United States through a 35-megawatt Proton Exchange Membrane electrolyzer plant, which is set to operate at full capacity by 2025.
- Founder: Marcus Samuel, Samuel Samuel
- What they are working on: Oil and gas exploration, production, refining, transport, distribution, marketing, power generation, and green hydrogen production
- Year founded: 1907
- Headquartered: London, UK
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: Plans to construct Europe's largest green hydrogen plant in the Netherlands.
Reliance Industries Ltd.
- Founder: Dhirubhai Ambani
- What they are working on: Diversified operations in energy, petrochemicals, natural gas, retail, telecommunications, mass media, and textiles including green hydrogen production
- Year founded: 1966
- Headquartered: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
- Hydrogen plant size, manufacturing capacity: Plans to transition to green hydrogen by 2025.
Is hydrogen better or electric?
Both hydrogen and electric vehicles have their advantages and limitations. The choice between them depends on various factors, including the availability of infrastructure, the source of energy, and environmental considerations. As technology and infrastructure continue to develop, both types of vehicles will likely play significant roles in the ongoing global transition to cleaner transportation.
The comparison between hydrogen and electric vehicles can be broken down into several key areas:
- Lifetime Carbon Footprint: Both hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) have the potential to reduce carbon emissions significantly, but the overall impact depends on how the energy sources (hydrogen and electricity) are produced. For hydrogen vehicles, the carbon footprint depends on how the hydrogen is produced. If it's produced through steam reforming (grey hydrogen), which uses fossil fuels, the carbon emissions can be significant. However, if it's produced through electrolysis using renewable energy (green hydrogen), the carbon emissions are much lower. For electric vehicles, the carbon footprint depends on how the electricity is generated and how the battery materials are sourced.
- Efficiency: EVs are generally more energy-efficient than FCEVs. While FCEVs are less than 40% energy-efficient, most battery-powered electric cars boast around 80% efficiency.
- Refuelling/Recharging and Accessibility: Currently, the infrastructure for EV charging is more developed than for hydrogen refuelling, making EVs more convenient for many users. However, when hydrogen refuelling stations are available, the speed of refuelling and the driving range per tank make FCEVs a clear winner: an FCEV can generally be fueled in under four minutes and can travel around 300 miles on a single tank.
- Production and Disposal: The production of lithium-ion batteriesfor EVs can result in significant environmental damage and carbon emissions. Moreover, less than 5% of EV batteries are currently being recycled, leading to potential environmental contamination. On the other hand, when created through "green" processes such as electrolysis, hydrogen and fuel cell production for FCEVs result in comparatively low levels of carbon emission. Moreover, fuel cells are generally durable and can typically be expected to last through the lifetime of the vehicle, significantly reducing hazards related to disposal.
What are the downsides of hydrogen?
Hydrogen, as a potential energy source, has several downsides:
- Expensive to Manufacture: Hydrogen is expensive to produce due to the high cost of catalysts such as platinum. The most common method of hydrogen production, steam reforming, is a complex process that requires high temperatures and pressures, making it energy-intensive and costly.
- Lack of Infrastructure: There is currently a lack of infrastructure to support the distribution of hydrogen. This includes a lack of hydrogen refuelling stations, which are necessary for hydrogen-powered vehicles.
- Prototype Stage: A lot of the currently available fuel cell technology is in the prototype stage and not yet validated. This means that there is still a lot of research and development needed before hydrogen can be widely used as an energy source.
- Storage Challenges: Hydrogen's energy content by volume is low, which makes storing hydrogen a challenge. It requires high pressures, low temperatures, or chemical processes to be stored compactly. Overcoming this challenge is important for light-duty vehicles because they often have limited size and weight capacity for fuel storage.
- Production Costs: To be competitive in the marketplace, the cost of fuel cells will have to decrease substantially without compromising performance. The cost to build and maintain hydrogen stations also needs to decrease for the market to support a hydrogen economy.
- Safety Concerns: Hydrogen is highly flammable and explosive in nature. This raises safety concerns for its storage and transport.
- Energy Intensive Production: Hydrogen can be generated by the electrolysis of water, but it is a very energy-intensive process, which can make it expensive and potentially environmentally unfriendly if the electricity used in the process is not generated from renewable sources.
Can hydrogen replace electric or gas?
Hydrogen has the potential to replace electric or gas in certain applications, but there are several factors to consider:
- Efficiency: Hydrogen doesn't occur naturally, it has to be extracted, then compressed in fuel tanks. It then has to mix with oxygen in a fuel cell stack to create electricity to power the car’s motors. This process is less efficient compared to an electric car in which the electricity comes straight from a battery pack charged from the mains.
- Clean Fuel: Hydrogen is the cleanest fuel possible. Lithium-ion battery production for electric cars is very energy-intensive, with Lithium mining alone emitting tonnes of CO2. If you take this into account along with charging the battery from anything other than a zero-emission source throughout its lifetime, an electric car still contributes towards a certain amount of CO2 emissions. In comparison, today’s hydrogen cars have life-cycle emissions that are at least as low as that of EVs.
- Infrastructure: The industry is exploring ways to use existing natural gas distribution grids for easy transport of renewable hydrogen across countries and under the ocean floor. Research at Birmingham University in the UK, and elsewhere, heralds a distribution network where hydrogen can be mixed into natural gas flowing through the domestic supply grid, then separated out again where hydrogen fuel is needed.
- Safety: Even though hydrogen is considered explosive and needs careful handling (just like petrol), the small quantities released from a ruptured vehicle fuel tank would dissipate in air almost instantaneously.
- Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (ICE): There’s plenty of interest in using the gas to power internal combustion engines. JCB is a leading UK company pioneering H2 ICE in its earth-moving plant, and has recently installed its hydrogen-fuelled engine in a truck.
- Global Market: The Hydrogen Council (an industry body) has predicted there could be 13 million fuel cell vehicles in operation globally as soon as 2030, including 1 million vans, trucks and buses.
While hydrogen has the potential to replace electric or gas, it is not expected to replace EVs entirely. Instead, hydrogen is intended to complement pure electric power. The development of a full hydrogen refuelling infrastructure will take billions of pounds and a number of years to develop.
Why is hydrogen adoption low?
While there is significant potential for hydrogen to play a key role in a low-carbon future, there are still substantial barriers to its widespread adoption. These include the need for cleaner production methods, increased demand in new applications, development of infrastructure, and supportive policy and regulation.
The adoption of hydrogen as a fuel source has been slow due to several reasons:
- Production: Hydrogen is mostly used for oil refining and chemical production. This hydrogen is currently produced from fossil fuels, with significant associated CO2 emissions. Low-emission hydrogen production represented less than 1% of total hydrogen production in 2022, despite growing 5% compared to 2021. This increase in low-emission hydrogen production is the result of 130 MW of electrolysis capacity and one project starting operation in China for the production of hydrogen from coal with CCUS entering into operation during 2022. Getting on track with the NZE Scenario requires a rapid scale-up of low-emission hydrogen, with around 50 Mt of hydrogen production based on electrolysis and more than 30 Mt produced from fossil fuels with CCUS by 2030, for a total of more than 50% of hydrogen production. This will require an installed capacity of more than 550 GW of electrolysers, which in turn requires both a rapid scale-up of electrolyser manufacturing capacity and significant deployment of dedicated renewable capacity for hydrogen production and enhancement of the power grid.
- Demand: Global hydrogen demand reached 95 Mt in 2022, almost 3% more than in 2021. Hydrogen demand remains concentrated in traditional applications in the refining and industrial sectors (including chemicals and natural gas-based Direct Iron Reduction [DRI]), with very limited penetration in new applications. Demand in new applications, such as transport, high-temperature heat in industry, hydrogen-based DRI, power and buildings, represents less than 0.1% of global demand. Most of this demand is concentrated in road transport, although other applications are starting to get some traction.
- Infrastructure: Hydrogen is today mostly produced and consumed in the same location, without the need for transport infrastructure. With demand for hydrogen increasing and the advent of new distributed uses, there is a need to develop hydrogen infrastructure that connects production and demand centres. Pipelines are the most efficient and least costly way to transport hydrogen up to a distance of 2 500 to 3 000 km, for capacities around 200 kt per year. About 2 600 km of hydrogen pipelines are in operation in the United States and 2 000 km in Europe, mainly owned by private companies and used to connect industrial users. Several countries are developing plans for new hydrogen infrastructure, with Europe leading the way.
- Policy and Regulation: At the end of 2022, a total of 32 governments had a hydrogen strategy in place. Targets for the deployment of hydrogen production technologies are growing, particularly on electrolysis capacity, with national targets reaching an aggregate of 160-210 GW, which accounts for 30-40% of the installed electrolysis capacity by 2030 in the NZE Scenario. However, there has been very limited progress in establishing targets to increase demand for low-emission hydrogen, with the exception of the European Union, which in March 2023 agreed ambitious targets to stimulate demand in industry and transport. There was also limited progress in the adoption of policies to stimulate demand creation over the past year.
- Market Growth: Plug Power, a leading hydrogen fuel cell company, has seen customer demand for hydrogen grow 10 times in five years — nearly a 200% annual growth rate. However, the market for hydrogen is still developing, and McKinsey expects hydrogen will provide 18% of global energy by 2050.
Which hydrogen cars are in market?
Several vehicle manufacturers have begun making light-duty hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles available in select markets like southern and northern California, where there is access to hydrogen fueling stations. Here are some of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that are currently available in the market:
- Toyota Mirai: The first dedicated mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) is the Mirai from Toyota. That vehicle first rolled out at the end of 2014 and was sold primarily in the Los Angeles area of California, adding certain select European markets, including the UK, Germany and Denmark the following year. A second generation Mirai has since been released. By the end of 2019, more than 10,000 Mirais had been sold.
- Hyundai Nexo: The Hyundai Nexo, which first rolled out in 2018, was selected by Euro NCAP as the “safest SUV” that year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also rated that vehicle as “Good” in side crash tests.
- Honda Clarity: Between 2016 and 2021, the Honda Clarity was being produced, though that is no longer the case.
- Hyundai Tucson FCEV: The Hyundai Tucson FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) first launched in 2013 as a conversion of the Tucson, it was available exclusively for left-hand drive.
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