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Can Hydrogen Fuel Keep Up With Demand?

By January 18, 2022 4   min read  (621 words)

January 18, 2022 |

Fuel Cells Works, Can Hydrogen Fuel Keep Up With Demand?

Demand for zero-emission fuel sources has never been higher. The move toward sustainability has picked up steam as the impacts of climate change grow in prevalence and severity.

While that shift is encouraging, hydrogen power’s shortcomings have grown increasingly clear. As demand keeps rising and these obstacles remain, some wonder if it can keep up.

Hydrogen’s Growing Demand

While fossil fuels still dominate the transportation and energy markets, they may be on their way out. More companies are transitioning to renewables, and zero-emissions energy sources are quickly supplanting fossil fuels. According to some experts, hydrogen alone will take 25% of oil demand by 2050.

Multiple leading automakers have adopted goals to phase out gas and diesel cars within the next few decades. Battery electric vehicles seem to be the most popular alternative, but hydrogen remains an enticing option as well. It’s cheaper than gasoline, so fuel cell vehicles could make a strong economic argument for drivers to move away from fossil fuels.

In 2020, the world added close to 70 megawatts of hydrogen electrolysis infrastructure, double 2019’s record. If this trend continues at that rate, hydrogen fuel could be on the verge of a boom.

Obstacles in Hydrogen’s Path

This growing demand is good news for hydrogen, but it also highlights where it must improve. For example, while hydrogen itself is cheap, its infrastructure costs can be overwhelming for some, limiting its accessibility. If fuel cells don’t become more affordable, hydrogen power may not be able to keep up with demand.

Perhaps the largest obstacle in the way is its production. Almost all hydrogen today comes from natural gas, so it produces greenhouse gas emissions in the process. Since most electricity still comes from fossil fuels, the energy required to separate hydrogen also produces these emissions.

If hydrogen production continues to rely on these sources, its growth will make decarbonization difficult. The emissions from the harvesting and processing stages will limit any meaningful improvements from switching to hydrogen fuel.

Positive Signs on the Horizon

While these obstacles do temper expectations about hydrogen’s growth, positive trends are also developing. More companies have started to pursue green hydrogen, moving away from fossil fuel-reliant processes. With more investment from these companies, the related costs will also fall.

Some companies have announced goals to decrease green hydrogen costs to around $1.50 per kilogram by 2050. According to their research, the most significant factor in achieving that goal is access to affordable electricity. Renewable energy sources could provide that while reducing the secondary emissions that normally surround hydrogen production.

Solar, wind and water power let producers generate their own electricity. That would enable electrolyzers to produce hydrogen from water without buying energy from the grid. Hydrogen fuel would become more affordable and sustainable in the process.

Challenges Remain but so Does Hydrogen’s Potential

There’s plenty of hydrogen to meet demand, as it’s the most abundant element in the universe. This element could easily meet growing clean energy needs if companies can address related costs and sustainability obstacles.

The path to widespread green hydrogen is still a long, complicated one. However, solutions to these challenges are emerging, painting a bright picture of hydrogen fuel’s future.

 

About the Author
Jane Marsh

Jane Marsh, Contributor

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. Jane covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, green technology, renewable energy and more.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fuel Cells Works, its directors, partners, staff, contributors, or suppliers. Any content provided by our contributors or authors are of their own opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

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