• Hydrogen Economy
  • Hydrogen infrastructure
  • Fuel cell vehicles
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Net Zero Energy Consumption

Refueling Infrastructure to Accelerate Uptake of Hydrogen Fleet

Pritil Gunjan
Feb 02, 2021

Guidehouse Insights

Decarbonization and net zero emissions targets across the energy system have brought the contribution of hydrogen to the forefront of many sectors’ transitional roadmaps. The declining levelized cost of electricity of renewable sources and technological advancement in emerging hydrogen production technologies has broadened the economic viability of green hydrogen (produced through electrolysis of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind). Green hydrogen can be used as an industrial feedstock and in industrial applications such as heating, transportation, and power generation. However, sector coupling will require addressing both cost and supply chain challenges related to the transportation and storage of hydrogen and garnering supportive legislations that would make it commercially viable.

In December 2020, Daimler Truck AG, IVECO, OMV, Shell, and Volvo Group committed to work together to create necessary conditions for the mass-market rollout of hydrogen trucks in Europe. The consortium, H2Accelerate, has set investment plans in motion for achieving a large-scale rollout of hydrogen-fueled trucks (or fuel cell vehicles [FCVs]). These plans will create new related industries such as zero carbon hydrogen production facilities, large-scale hydrogen distribution systems, a network of high capacity refueling stations for hydrogen, and the production of FCV trucks over the next decade. 

The European oil & gas major Shell has identified hydrogen as a cost-effective and viable pathway to net zero emissions and leads various initiatives to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen across the transportation sector. In another interesting announcement, Shell is one of the key investors in ZeroAvia’s $37.7 million funding for a 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered aircraft that should come to market by 2023. ZeroAvia aims to commercialize the first practical hydrogen-fueled powertrain technology to replace conventional engines in propeller aircraft, resulting in zero CO2 emissions and total trip cost reduction.

Hydrogen Still Faces Challenges in Transport

On the other hand, Volkswagen-owned Scania is hesitant about the economic viability of adopting hydrogen for long-distance transport. While the company has hydrogen- and battery-powered EVs in commercial stages, the key challenge for hydrogen in mobility is cost as a result of the loss of energy in production, distribution, and conversion. Furthermore, operations and maintenance (O&M) and repairs are considerably higher in hydrogen FCVs compared with battery EVs (BEVs).

Battery technology has come up the technology learning curve considerably over the last decade, and battery chemistries currently offer both the technical feasibility and cost efficiency over hydrogen in transportation. Therefore, for hydrogen to be commercially viable in the longer term, the total cost of ownership of FCVs versus BEVs (including fuel costs, infrastructure, and O&M costs) will likely have a significant impact on the adoption of either technology.

Investments in the necessary infrastructure for making hydrogen financially and operationally viable are needed for the widespread adoption of hydrogen across key application sectors. Supportive policies and regulatory encouragement along with investment in technical viability will help accelerate the development and adoption of hydrogen across various application segments.