Hydrogen vehicles are the only alternative to battery-electric vehicles, as local zero-emission vehicles. Battery-powered vehicles are interesting for short distances, while hydrogen vehicles serve both short and long distances, due to their great autonomy, and their recharge time comparable to a traditional vehicle. The first brands to market hydrogen cars have been Hyundai and Toyota. Many others already have good technology, such as General Motors, Honda or Daimler. Forklift trucks are already an application where hydrogen systems achieve thousands of sales per year, because they have more autonomy and less recharge time than batteries, achieving, for example, attracting investments from Amazon and WallMart. In heavy transport there are already enough experiences with buses, it is starting in trucks, and first applications in ships and trains in real use.
There are two key factors. The reduction in the cost of producing renewable energy, in particular photovoltaic, as well as its intermittent generation, favor the production of increasingly cheap green hydrogen. On the other hand, the need to decarbonise has more and more social and political momentum, and it will accelerate the introduction of hydrogen.
Hydrogen and fuel cells are technologies applicable from small scale (domestic use) to large industrial plants. The more fuel cells used, the less energy is wasted. And the more hydrogen, the less it becomes polluted. Currently, it is even considering using renewable hydrogen to replace hydrogen produced with natural gas in refineries and ammonia plants, in order to reduce emissions from the chemical and oil sectors, which are today the first consumers of hydrogen (about 60 million tons year).
For example toys (yes, Imaginarium has sold toy hydrogen cars with the solar production system, without the need for batteries) and consumer electronics. Work is being done on the development of mobile phones with fuel cells, to achieve more autonomy and faster recharging than with battery systems. Samsung has good technology in this field, where it makes about 70 patents a year.
The report “The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2019”, by E4tech, details the evolution of fuel cell sales in recent years, highlighting the preponderance of Asia (Japan, China and South Korea) and the US, with Europe at the moment overdue (RoW is “rest of the world”).