Comparing the amount of electricity that is lost for hydrogen cars versus electric cars. Volkswagen AG
Most global carmakers have recognized the lack of advantage for hydrogen cars and instead invested about US$300 billion in the development and manufacturing of electric cars. Toyota and Hyundai — the last main proponents of hydrogen cars — are also ramping up efforts on electric cars.
As for trucks, the US Department of Energy does not expect hydrogen semi-trailers to be competitive with diesel until around 2050, mainly due to the high cost and low durability of hydrogen fuel cells.
While hydrogen trucks may have a role to play in 20 to 30 years, this will be too late to help reach a 2050 net-zero target. As such, we must explore energy-efficient options already widely deployed overseas, including electric trucks, electrified roads and electrified trailers.
A truly strategic plan
If Australia is serious about climate action, we must focus efforts on where renewable hydrogen can deliver the greatest environmental and economic benefits: regional ports.
Hydrogen derived from fossil fuels is currently used to make products such as fertilizer and methanol. Supporting the transition to renewable hydrogen for these uses will be an important first step to scale up the industry.
If produced at regional shipping ports close to aluminum, steel, or cement plants, this will provide further opportunities to expand renewable hydrogen use to minerals processing, while creating new jobs.
As hydrogen production scales up and costs fall, excess hydrogen would be available at ports for fuelling ships — either directly or through a hydrogen derivative like ammonia. Hydrogen gas could also be used to make carbon-neutral synthetic fuel for planes.
If an international export market emerged in the future, this strategy would also mean renewable hydrogen would be available at ports to directly ship overseas.
Finally, if the development of hydrogen truck technology accelerates before 2050, renewable hydrogen would be available to power the significant number of semi-trailers that travel to and from shipping ports.
Let’s get real
Renewable hydrogen is a scarce and valuable resource and should be directed towards sectors most difficult to decarbonize.
Delaying the electrification of road transport and energy on the promise of hydrogen will ultimately only benefit the fossil fuel industry.
This article was originally published on The Conversation by Jake Whitehead at The University of Queensland, Peter Newman at Curtin University, and Thomas Bräunl, the University of Western Australia. Read the original article here.