Hydrogen and its potential as a fuel for sustainable mobility
In the midst of a moment of change and great advances to fight against the already known carbon footprint, hydrogen takes positions in the race to establish itself as a primary fuel or value against the traditional ones. We cannot forget the enormous impact created by the emissions of traditional vehicles today, and such a change in mobility would be a great step forward on our way to net zero, thanks to a much more sustainable mobility.
Hydrogen cars produce zero emissions with their mobility, as they emit only water vapor. Another of their great advantages is that hydrogen fuel cell cars are also incredibly efficient. Their operation is based on converting hydrogen into electricity through a process called electrolysis, which we have already mentioned in this blog on several occasions. This process is much more efficient than the combustion process used in traditional gasoline cars and makes these vehicles a much more environmentally friendly option and a crucial step in reducing our carbon footprint.
This alternative could enable us to achieve the current target set by the EU of reducing CO2 emissions from new cars by 55% and from vans and large vehicles by 50% by 2030. However, the EU intends to increase this target to 100% by 2035 and adjust it if necessary to achieve its climate objectives.
The use of hydrogen as a vehicle fuel offers refueling times similar to traditional vehicles, between 3 and 5 minutes, while electric vehicles take from 30 minutes onwards to complete their charge, thus facilitating hydrogens cars adoption for long-distance travel.
It is important to keep in mind that the hydrogen refueling infrastructure is still under development and is not as widespread as traditional gas stations. In Spain there are currently only six hydrogen refueling stations located in Madrid, Seville, Zaragoza, Albacete, Puertollano and Huesca, although they are expected to grow in the coming years. Companies such as Naturgy are betting heavily on this technology and have announced plans to build up to 120 hydrogen plants, of which 38 could be operational by 2025.
How do hydrogen cars work?
Hydrogen fuel cells convert hydrogen gas into electricity by the aforementioned 'electrolysis'. The cell has an anode and a cathode separated by a membrane, where the hydrogen is broken down into protons and electrons. The protons pass through the membrane to the cathode, while the electrons generate electric current. At the cathode, the protons, electrons and oxygen form water vapor.
Fuel cell vehicles have an electric motor powered by electricity generated by the fuel cell.
Why don't we have hydrogen cars?
As mentioned above, today there is a major infrastructure problem, but it is not the only one.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology presents several challenges, such as high production and construction costs, storage and transportation, lower efficiency than other technologies, production of hydrogen from fossil fuels, and safety concerns. However, the technology is believed to have great potential in the future of transportation and work is underway to improve it to make it more viable.
2030 Agenda and hydrogen cars
Hydrogen fuel cell technology can greatly contribute to several Sustainable Development Goals, such as providing a clean and renewable source of energy for transportation (SDG 7), stimulating economic growth and creating jobs (SDG 9), improving urban air quality (SDG 11), reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable production (SDG 12), and mitigating the effects of climate change (SDG 13)
At present the reality of hydrogen mobility is something distant, yet at the same time real. As we have seen, currently the logistics around a hydrogen car is impossible on a large scale, however great advances are causing that today in the medium term there are more than three cars of this fuel type sold in Spain (Toyota Mirai, Hyiundai Nexo and Honda Clarity).
These breakthroughs will make and break many people's minds, but above all they will add another variable to mobility and ultimately provide an answer to the great dependence on hydrocarbons that currently exists.
Vector Renewables is actively exploring the potential of green hydrogen as a clean energy source. Our team of experts is focused on fostering decarbonization through the development of a hydrogen-based economy, supporting companies and institutions in the creation of a new, greener value chain with hydrogen concept and feasibility studies.
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