Report: Over 1.5 MILLION UK drivers will have hydrogen cars by 2030
Fuel cell cars on roads in 2015. Boom - ahem - to follow, says quango
Hydrogen fuel cell cars won’t hit the market until 2015, but with the right investment in infrastructure, more than a million and a half of us could be driving one by 2030, with annual sales topping 300,000 vehicles, an evaluation conducted by government and industry has forecast.
A timeline drawn up by UKH2Mobility - a consortium of 11 car-makers, fuel cell specialists and hydrogen producers, three government departments and one fuel retailer, Morrisons - assumes there will be little demand for hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) powered vehicles between the five years from the initial availability of such cars and 2020, but demand will dramatically increase in the following 10 years.
The boom is predicated on the 10 per cent of motorists who will become HFC early adopters creating a sufficient market for the fuel to drive the roll-out of a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure. UKH2Mobility came up with its ten per cent figure after talking to 2000-odd consumers.
As the infrastructure expands, revenues will increase between 2020 and 2030 to cover not merely the expense of operating the nation’s hydrogen refuelling facilities and their various gas sources, but also to begin covering the cost of putting the infrastructure in place. UKH2Mobility reckons break even could come as early as 2027.
The early years of the forecast roll-out might see major cities and primary roads gaining 60-70 hydrogen fuelling sites between 2015 and 2020, enough to meet the needs of early adopters - drivers willing to go the extra mile (literally) for hydrogen. That infrastructure will cost around £60 million, with a mix of local hydrogen production - small volumes, but low cost - and larger-scale generation, which yields higher volumes but also higher distribution costs.
If all goes according to plan, the number of fuelling sites could ramp up to around 330 in 2025 - enough for half the population, though with an inevitable focus on London and the South East - reaching 1150 by 2030, at which point all Britons are within reasonable driving range of a hydrogen fuel source. That will require an extra £400 million spent on rolling out and running the infrastructure between 2020 and 2030, UKH2Mobility calculates.
Its sums tally only passenger vehicles. Commercial trucks will, it expects, not only come to hydrogen later but will be fuelled at base.
Chicken and egg: consumer demand for fuel cell cars grows - provided the infrastructure does too... Source: All charts via UKH2Mobility
With HFC cars pumping out far fewer nasties than petrol and diesel powered alternatives, and able not only to be topped up “almost” as quickly as a petrol car today but also to deliver a range that battery powered vehicles can only dream of, UKH2Mobility thinks hydrogen will win over no small number of motorists, even those less interested in the technology’s green credentials.
Pump up the volumes: the development of hydrogen availability in fuelling stations
In addition to what’s saved at the exhaust pipe, UKH2Mobility believes a mix of hydrogen production methods, among them the electrolysis of water and breaking down methane, will yield hydrogen that’s the same price as diesel by 2030 yet with a well-to-wheel supply chain that pumps out 75 per cent less CO2. By 2050, the hydrogen infrastructure from production through to user could yield zero net emissions, the group claims, thanks to a net reduction of CO2 emissions in the order of 10-30 million tonnes a year. The cost of putting right air quality damage could be reduced by £100-200 million by 2050, according to Department of Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) cost guidance.
Of course, what UKH2Mobility can’t say is how much hydrogen cars and fuel will cost in the early days, and whether it will be low enough to begin persuading a good number of punters to make the switch from petrol and diesel. UKH2Mobility says it expects hydrogen to cost less than other fuels, not least because fuel cell systems consume fuel at half the rate that internal combustion engines do, so even if the pump price is higher, the economics are in the consumer’s favour.
But that’s true of today’s electric cars, which have nonetheless failed to attract a large user base. That’s because they’re more expensive up front, even with government subsidies. There’s nothing to suggest that won’t also be the case with the first HFC vehicles. Indeed, UKH2Mobility admits that HFC cars will be no less polluting than range-extended hybrids, which use petrol engines to generate power for long-distance travel, so environmentally aware drivers may shift to these kinds of cars in preference to hydrogen because they know they’ll be able to put petrol in the tank whereas hydrogen might be hard to find.
Green credentials: hydrogen CO2 emissions vs diesel vs range-extended hybrids
That will knock back UKH2Mobility’s growth forecast because it will be a disincentive to roll out hydrogen infrastructure, especially since government is likely to favour equally low-carbon technologies that deliver comparable carbon emission savings.
Making the business case for hydrogen is UKH2Mobility’s next goal. Having spent the past 13 months evaluating the potential for hydrogen - today’s figures will be formally released in a report to be published next month - the organisation will now need to come up with some persuasive arguments to encourage businesses to invest in the UK’s nascent hydrogen economy. If it can succeed, it thinks, we could see the first appearance of hydrogen at the pumps in the summer of 2014. ®
"Wonder what the oil companies will do in response to this...?"
Laugh. Hydrogen doesn't have the characteristics of a good transport fuel, even if cost is no object.
Ignoring the primary energy source which may be the toughest nut to crack, it would be far more practical to plan to synthesise propane which could be used in existing spark ignition vehicles with modest conversion (only LPG, of course). There's a modestly developed infrastructure, the technologies are all known, there's experience, and instead of having to reinvent everything, you just build out from what you know, and use existing assets.
But if you're a (probably tax payer funded) think tank, then why waste time on old-hat stuff like LPG, when DECC will be queuing up to hand you money for a report on a hydrogen revolution, that positions the UK as a world leader in a new technology, with millions of green jobs, and low carbon, and , and, and (yawwwnnn).
Re: What will Oil companies do..
Hydrogen from Electrolysis is turning high-value electrical energy into lower-value chemical energy. It's inefficient as hell, even more so than gas reformation. There is occasional talk of using tailored bacteria to make hydrogen from algae and such, but the result isn't pure enough to avoid clogging fuel cells (which need almost perfectly clean hydrogen, even water is a pollutant). Small amounts of electrolytic hydrogen are useful where you don't want any storage of the gas - I understand that jewelers for example often get the gas for their torches this way, allowing them to work in a space they could never get a permit to store hydrogen gas in.
I think hydrogen fuel is a rathole. Stored energy density by volume is crap, it requires vessels so big and heavy that it eats up all your savings in mass from using hydrogen over a liquid fuel, and hydrogen is ridiculously more combustible than gasoline, making it much more hazardous in accidents or simply in an enclosed space.
Hydrogen is great where mass is the siginicant factor, which is why it's a prime rocket fuel, but it's wrong way around for transportation, where you want lots of energy in a space not any larger than a normal gasoline tank, so you still have trunk space.
Synthetic liquid fuels are a far better answer, which is also why it's already being done. There's more hydrogen in a gallon of gas than in a gallon of liquid hydrogen! And it's no problem ecologically if the sources are carbon-neutral. Hydrogen production is ANYTHING but carbon-neutral these days, it's made from natural gas using steam reformation, because that's the only decently efficient way known that scales.
"But that’s true of today’s electric cars, which have nonetheless failed to attract a large user base. That’s because they’re more expensive up front, even with government subsidies". Nope. It's because there is a very strong suspicion that it will require an extremely expensive new battery in a few years time, for which you will have to go to the car manufacturer as there is no competition at all. Oddly, the manufacturers tend to forget to mention battery lifespan or replacement costs.
Talking of forgetting to mention things, how will all the hydrogen be produced? oops.
Re: H2 loss
Being able to make H2 cheaply to make up the loss won't be any consolation when you retrun to your car in the airport carpark after two week's holiday & find half or more of your heavily taxed fuel has literally evaporated. Cross your fingers that there will be enough left to get you to the filling station?
Been saying for how long?
Weren't fuel cells "5 years away" 10 years ago? Sadly this is another scream for support for something which has yet to live up to overblown promises.
I really like the idea of fuel-cells driving electric motors and I supported the development of the Chevy Volt simply because it separated the electric drive train from the means of 'leccy generation so that petrol/diesel generators could be replaced by fuels cells "when they came along". But have you seen how much they cost? And that includes a whacking great government subsidy as well
The tech I really like is fuel cells driven by methanol (a nice liquid fuel) and for a while this looked possible as well (was it Sony who had a laptop you refuelled with a cigarette lighter-sized methanol cartridge?). Another thing we were all going to be using in 5 years. How long ago was that now?
I am afraid this is one I will believe only when I see it.