According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in order to avert some of the worst effects of climate change we need to stop global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. One solution that could help is green hydrogen. Hydrogen can be extracted from fossil fuels and biomass, from water, or from a mix of both. Natural gas is currently the primary source of hydrogen production, accounting for around three quarters of the annual global dedicated hydrogen production of around 70 million tonnes.
The production cost of hydrogen from natural gas is influenced by a range of technical and economic factors, with gas prices and capital expenditures being the two most important. Low gas prices in the Middle East, Russia and North America give rise to some of the lowest hydrogen production costs. Gas importer countries like Japan, Korea and China have to struggle with higher gas import prices which means higher hydrogen production costs.
In fact, analysts at BofA Securities think that by 2050, clean hydrogen could account for an estimated 22% of our energy needs, up from just 4% of the energy that hydrogen supplies today. But this would require massive amounts of additional renewable electricity generation.BloombergNEF estimates that generating enough green hydrogen to meet a quarter of our energy needs would take more electricity than the world generates today from all sources combined, and an investment of $11 trillion in production, storage and transportation infrastructure.
New interest in hydrogen has come from the mobility, freight, shipping, power, and industrial processing sectors as they strive to move toward a decarbonized future.The development of the hydrogen market reflects the potential for distributed production and the need for flexibility in our transport mix. For example, hydrogen fuel cell buses typically have a range of approximately 500 km, versus 200 km for electric buses. With this range, hydrogen has both the potential to decarbonize rural transport and to offer a solution for uninterrupted services.
In transportation, hydrogen fuel can act as a direct replacement for gas and diesel. Unlike electric vehicles, which can take around 30 minutes to charge with the fastest charging stations, hydrogen fuel cell cars can be ready to go in 3-5 minutes. Experts think hydrogen can be especially effective when it comes to long-haul trucking, and other sectors such as freight shipping and long-haul air travel, where using heavy batteries would be inefficient.
However, hydrogen fuel cell cars have to overcome many problems before they rival electric vehicles. First of all, fuel cells, which convert hydrogen fuel to useable energy for cars, are still expensive. Gasoline and diesel are liquid in natural conditions, but you need a very large hydrogen storage system to keep hydrogen safely compressed in liquid safely. Moreover, the hydrogen station infrastructure needed to refuel hydrogen fuel cell cars is still widely underdeveloped.There is not yet a mature industry line for the production and supply of hydrogen,compared to fuel oil and power grid.
Direct electricity for EV on the other hand stands in a better position.The reasons are below:
Firstly, it’s relatively easy to build charging stations or piles for electric vehicles. Although electric vehicles charge slowly, but home ev chargers like wallboxes and portable ev chargers charging electric vehicles overnight are acceptable as a supplement to fast charging stations.
Secondly, by today, lithium ion batteries have witnessed improved performance and faster-than-expected falling costs. However, the cost of storage, exploitation and utilization of hydrogen fuel cells is much higher than that of solid-state cells.
Taken together, hydrogen fuel cells are difficult to prepare and store with current technologies. Considering their low storage density, need for larger stations and necessity of more advanced safety facilities, the overall cost of hydrogen fuel cells are too high.
Although China, the United States and Germany have chosen to embrace pure electrification, it does not mean that the hydrogen fuel cell will be completely eliminated. At least they work well in commercial vehicles.
It’s safer to say,the time of hydrogen fuel cells is yet to come.Let’s wait and see.