With the transportation industry being the second largest source of CO2 emissions (IEA, “Data and statistics”), change needs to happen quickly in order to make sure that their part of the emissions goes down and leads to a liveable planet. Because of the distributed nature of the industry and the advantages of fossil fuels it is also one of the most difficult industries to decarbonize.
Renewable hydrogen might be one of the best options to decarbonize and take a step towards sustainable mobility applications. Hydrogen powered vehicles offer key advantages, including shorter refueling times, longer ranges and a lower material footprint, compared to lithium battery-powered alternatives. The high costs of ownership and non-available infrastructure are two key challenges that need to be addressed in order to make sure hydrogen is implementable in the near future.
Hydrogen can complement existing efforts to electrify road and rail transportation and provide a scalable option for decarbonizing shipping and aviation.
Renewable hydrogen and amonia can overcome the limitations of battery ships. However, this means higher costs compared to fossil fuels and still takes up more space than the original tanks. Another challenge will be the global refueling networks. Currently, the maritime industry takes up 3% of global emissions and the industry goal is to reduce it by 50% by 2050. The challenges we are facing towards implementing hydrogen do not weigh the same as the challenges climate change is and will give us.
The two most promising alternatives to petrol and diesel are electricity and hydrogen. One of them, electricity, is very popular with the media. This does not mean hydrogen is less relevant to this industry. A few worldwide cities (Paris, Mexico and Amsterdam) are planning to replace their current buses with hydrogen or battery powered models as early as 2025.
Once again, the advantage of hydrogen lies in the refuelling and the range, which both stay the same as for petrol-powered vehicles. By implementing hydrogen in this industry we are looking at an easy to make change – not taking into account the infrastructure problems – and making sure we reduce our carbon emissions.
The aviation industry accounted for around 3% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. Compared to road emissions, where it is about 20%, it seems like a small number. However, the contribution to global warming is higher, due to other emissions than CO2, like nitrogen oxides. The current pandemic shows a clear opportunity to restructure this industry towards a low-carbon future. Due to very long aircraft development and certification lead times, implementing hydrogen might be a difficult, but needed, task. One of the industry leaders, Airbus, announced in september 2020 that they will be making a step towards hydrogen fueled airplanes.
Platform zero’s take: Hydrogen looks like a great alternative to the current fuels. However there is one issue with hydrogen and that is that it is still produced using fossil fuels. This makes the hydrogen non-sustainable, and a not so good alternative in the near future. This means that we need to make sure that we start changing policy and infrastructure around the production of hydrogen. Once this step is taken, we can make sure that hydrogen is implemented in the high polluting industries mentioned above.
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