The Steady State of the Hydrogen Economy

By Vicky Harris, Vice President Marketing on June 26, 2018
Vicky Harris
Home  / Blog  /  The Steady State of the Hydrogen Economy

Today, we look at the state of the Hydrogen Economy. We examine its progress through the lens of country efforts around the world to decarbonize their economies, and new hydrogen products and technologies that are helping to make this a reality.

If produced with no carbon emissions, hydrogen is, in the words of Alan Whitehead, the UK’s Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, “the cleanest fuel imaginable: burn hydrogen in oxygen, and you’ve got water vapor as a by-product, and that is it.” When viewed from the context of availability, hydrogen is by far, the most available energy source in existence. After all, 75% of the visible universe is composed of hydrogen; every molecule of water has two atoms of the element. When viewed from the energy content contained in these tiniest of atoms, hydrogen has one of the highest energy densities per-unit-of-mass of all the elements.

It’s no wonder that the Hydrogen Economy has been relentlessly pursued for almost a hundred years by scientists and entrepreneurs in an effort to find the perfect trifecta energy source that is abundant, clean, and affordable. When we finally realize hydrogen’s full potential, the entire energy game will change. Fuel economics will no longer be dictated by energy scarcity; sources of energy will be as readily available as water; and human progress and air pollution will no longer be interconnected.

Surrounded by clean fuel.

Countries Everywhere Add Hydrogen to Their Sustainable Growth Plans

Last week, France announced its intention to become the world leader in hydrogen energy as part of its goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Nicolas Hulot, Minister of the Environment, said his government will invest more than $100 million in hydrogen within two years, according to US News and World Report. The article indicated that Hulot believes hydrogen is underutilized and that it “can play an extremely important role in the power transition,” of his country. He emphasized that France “is not afraid to dream big to develop environmentally friendly industries, and strives to have 5,200 hydrogen-powered commercial and heavy-goods vehicles―such as buses and trucks―on the road by 2023, as well as 100 service stations for the vehicles.”

France is in good company when it comes to transitioning to a sustainable economy. The US News and World Report article highlighted several key facts. Among them, electric and hybrid car sales accounted for more than half of all new vehicle registrations in Norway last year; Germany announced plans to reduce the “nitrogen oxide output by up to 30 percent;” while cities like Madrid, Oslo, and Athens are on their way to banning diesel vehicles from their city centers by 2025. Furthermore, the United States will continue to be world’s largest hydrogen market (according to a recent report cited by the same article), and China’s “commitment toward firmer clean fuel regulations “ could propel the hydrogen industry to grow faster there than anywhere in 2018.

Yesterday, South Korea announced plans to invest $2.34 billion (USD) by 2022 to develop hydrogen-fueled cars and related infrastructure. As reported by The Investor, Industry Ministry Paik Un-gyu said the country “aims to supply about 16,000 hydrogen vehicles and 310 charging stations nationwide by 2022 to tackle air pollution problems and promote next-generation cars.”

Hydrogen Technology Lives Up to Green Ambitions Everywhere

A couple of weeks ago, ScienceDaily published an article asserting that almost one-third of the natural gas fueling homes and businesses in the UK could be replaced by hydrogen without the need to make any changes to boilers and ovens. If implemented, this move could cut the country’s carbon emissions by almost a fifth.

An insightful white paper by The New Statesman further examines in detail how the UK can step fully into the hydrogen economy. The paper explores the state of fuel cells and the grid from the perspective of UK energy leaders. For instance, Claire Perry, Minister of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, dubs hydrogen the new “horse power.” Perry explains, “A few weeks ago, I had a peek into this exciting new world of discovery on a visit to Swindon’s Hydrogen Hub to hear about the potential that hydrogen and fuel cell technologies offer the UK in securing cost-effective, clean and secure energy for power, heat, and transportation.”

The paper also included an article, entitled “Fueling the Future of Transport,” written by Matthew Tipper, Vice-President for New Fuels at Shell. The article explores how Shell harnesses hydrogen technologies for transportation, referring to the element as one of the most useful in existence. He goes into detail about how London’s Metropolitan Police “recently rolled out a fleet of hydrogen-powered cars, and they are planning to buy more,” adding, “the quick refueling time and long range make them ideal zero emission response vehicles.”

Tipper indicates that “more needs to be done to establish hydrogen as a practical transport fuel,” especially when it comes to collaboration between industry and government in developing a hydrogen fueling infrastructure. His use of the word “practical” would not have been possible a decade ago. Back then, the hydrogen economy seemed to be stuck on the drawing board. But steady technological progress to make hydrogen more affordable is convincing energy experts that the coming of this economy is only a matter of practicality, not a matter of feasibility. Today, big car manufacturers like Toyota and Honda already have hydrogen cars in the market; and technologies, such as Hydrogen 2.0, will make the production of hydrogen from water available for electricity, heat, and transportation.

Full Speed Towards a Hydrogen Economy

The Hydrogen Economy is steadily materializing all around us. An article from the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility provides a view on hydrogen’s two major areas of transformation: enabling the renewable energy system and decarbonizing end uses of energy. In both, governments and industry around the world are applying new technologies at unprecedented speed. In a world where economic growth and social progress can no longer come at the expense of our environment and the health of our citizens, the emerging Hydrogen Economy, based on clean, affordable, and always-available hydrogen fuel to power our lives, means we can finally have our cake and eat it too.


Photo courtesy of Christopher Michel.
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As the Hydrogen 2.0 ecosystem gains momentum, we’ll be sharing our views and insights on the new Hydrogen 2.0 Economy. We also update our blog every week with insightful and current knowledge in this growing energy field.


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