The number of hydrogen vehicles in service globally could increase dramatically over the next five years. Currently, there are around 60,000 hydrogen vehicles on the read. According to a new study, this will increase to one million by the end of 2027.
The report by Juniper Research identified hydrogen vehicles as an increasingly viable alternative to battery electric vehicles (EVs). It found that the potential for enhanced range and rapid refuelling compared favourably with EVs, reducing customer anxieties around EV ownership.
Advantages of Hydrogen Vehicles over Electric Vehicles
The report identified several advantages hydrogen vehicles have over electric vehicles, including:
• Hydrogen can be pumped using the existing network of petrol stations.
• Hydrogen vehicles can achieve longer distances because they densely pack their energy storage.
• Filling up a hydrogen vehicle takes a few minutes compared to EVs, which can take several hours to charge.
The report says the limitations of EVs are highlighted by the existence of hybrid vehicles in many commercial sectors. Buses, trains, and trucks are widely available as diesel-electric hybrids; proving that based on current technology, EVs are not up to providing a mass transit solution.
Additionally, hydrogen is being touted as an alternative to EVs because EVs use large, heavy, expensive batteries that require rare earth metals such as cobalt, nickel, and lithium. As much as hydrogen requires platinum in production, it is needed only in production centres and far smaller quantities. Research on finding an alternative to platinum is also at an advanced stage.
Juniper Research defines hydrogen vehicles as vehicles that use hydrogen propulsion systems as their onboard fuel. The chemical energy of hydrogen and oxygen reacts with the fuel cell and converts the energy to electricity.
Hydrogen Vehicle Development
The report claims that several major vehicle manufacturers, including BMW and Audi, believe that a change in the political atmosphere could favour hydrogen vehicles over EVs. Both manufacturers are developing hydrogen fuel cell prototypes in addition to EVs as part of preparations to phase out fossil fuels.
Japanese carmakers Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and South Korea’s Hyundai were the only manufacturers developing and pushing for hydrogen fuel cell cars for years. Now China is expanding its hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, and the EU wants to build more hydrogen fuelling stations for commercial vehicles.
The research forecasts that the consumers will lead the hydrogen vehicles market, with consumer vehicles accounting for over 60% of hydrogen vehicles globally in 2027. The report identified the emerging development stage of many commercial vehicle types and the high average cost of hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles as critical factors limiting the market’s potential growth.
Research co-author Olivia Williams explained, “Manufacturers will need to make hydrogen vehicles more affordable to become viable for fleets, but increased range and suitability for heavy goods transport will ultimately drive growth and economies of scale.”
Additionally, the report identified the low availability of fuelling infrastructure as a critical challenge for broader adoption. Still, it highlighted heavy industry investment as key to reducing this concern over the next five years. The report recommends that infrastructure vendors provide ‘green’ hydrogen, produced using renewable energy sources, to best take advantage of environmental concerns driving the adoption of alternative fuels.