Nov 23, 2023

The Hydrogen Electric Vehicle Revolution Is Coming

The Hydrogen-electric vehicle revolution is being driven by advances in fuel cell technology, governmental policies, and incentives.

As the global conversation around climate change and environmental sustainability continues to evolve, zero-emission vehicles such as hydrogen electric vehicles offer an increasingly viable option for those seeking to minimize their carbon footprints on the road. Indeed, automakers have been developing increasingly efficient forms of zero-emission transportation by shifting towards electric vehicles. Advances in fuel cell technology have drastically increased the efficiency of hydrogen electric vehicle production while also reducing cost giving these vehicles a competitive edge against standard gasoline and diesel-powered cars and battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Furthermore, for trucks and vans, batteries may be too heavy and have a long charging time while simultaneously straining power grids across the globe. The interest in utilizing hydrogen fuel cell technology to power these heavier vehicles is gaining momentum as fleets consider a more practical alternative. As government policies and incentives favor clean transportation solutions and customer demand increases, the predicted growth of the hydrogen electric vehicle market is beginning to give rise to what can be considered nothing less than a revolution in the automotive industry.

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Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology is essentially applied electricity from a different source. Unlike BEVs which require bulky batteries to travel long distances, HFCVs rely on a small onboard battery that can be continually charged with pressurized, stored gaseous hydrogen. This chemical reaction generates power while only emitting water as a byproduct, making it one of the cleanest sources of power available today. Such vehicles refuel in minutes and offer extensive driving ranges compared to other electric models. At the forefront of this revolution are companies like Toyota, Hyundai, Daimler Truck AG, Nikola Corporation, Hyzon Motors, and Honda, which are developing innovative implementations of hydrogen fuel cells into cars, buses, pickup trucks, and semis. These developments continue to spur further research and implementation with upcoming USA legislation incentivizing these investments from both the public and private sectors. Currently, U.S. markets are slowly shifting towards hydrogen-fueled cars, with companies and customers showing interest. A gradually expanding infrastructure in refueling stations is also helping spur adoption rates - around 50 fueling stations had been targeted to be set up in California by 2020. Japan, however, is one of the most rapidly advancing countries for HFCV development. By March 2021, 160 hydrogen filling stations were built across Japan to support a fleet of 40,000 HFVCs, dwarfing California's efforts. It expects to reach 900 stations by 2030 and maintain a steady growth of 800,000 HFVCs on the roads.

The U.S. Department of Energy has recently tabled its National Clean Hydrogen Strategy, committing funds towards constructing four regional ‘clean hubs’ dispersed across different states, financial backing for research and development on new clean hydrogen electrolysis processes, and investment into green hydrogen production facilities. It comes off the heels of November 2021's bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, where the US Government assigned $8 billion to help build dozens of Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs countrywide. Meanwhile, California released its short-term climate plan committing to increasing network infrastructure for hydrogen refueling stations throughout the state. These legislative initiatives, coupled with economic support structures, ensure an empowering environment for commercial entities, research institutions, and small businesses to innovate and compete within the space equipping them with access to training programs, resources, tier 1 suppliers, and OEM partners working together directly to accelerate and facilitate effortless adoption of sustainable transport logistics, services and products.

Related: 10 Hydrogen Cars To Look Out For

One of the key selling points of HFVCs lies in their storage capacity advantages compared to lithium-ion-powered BEVs. Through high-pressure tanks underneath the car, they can store significantly higher amounts of energy with far less bulk than BEVs, resulting in much longer ranges without needing extra weight for each mile added to the total distance covered. For example, 1 kilogram of hydrogen contains 236 times more energy than a similar volume of lithium-ion batteries. Once on board the hydrogen-electric vehicles, fuel cells convert the stored energy to electricity through an efficiency rate of 60-percent. Battery Point EVs fare better from power wall to wheels at 75-percent efficiency, with only minor losses for charging, inverter conversion, and battery leakage over time - far better than what can be achieved with current hydrogen technology. However, given the short recharge time and substantial range offered by hydrogen fuel cells, they remain an attractive option for many fleet operators looking for alternatives to traditional electric vehicles.

British supermarket chain Asda stands out among those who believe in the appeal of the technology; their 1,000 large diesel vehicles must cultivate multiple recharges every day but would require additional budgets and overall extra capacity to turn all vehicles into BEVs. The costs of manufacturing fuel cells, compressors, pumps, and delivery systems remain high due to low-scale production. But as economies of scale kick in upcoming years, we'll likely see decreased costs related to the infrastructure and equipment necessary to transition from gasoline-fueled cars to the HFCV market. Scientists working on PEM electrolysis believe an 82- to 86-percent efficiency rate can be attained by 2030, dramatically revolutionizing the total system energy use and cost efficiency.

Related: How Hydrogen-Electric Vehicles Will Change The Automotive Industry

Currently, BEVs perform much better generally, but advancements in both technologies are racing forward. When paired with sustainable renewable energy sources, the potential for hydrogen electric vehicles presents itself as an enticing option for eliminating harmful emissions given enough time and optimized parts. For now, this clean electric vehicle technology appears to be slowly but surely fleeing toward a promising future in zero-emission transportation. The ultimate goal of this hydrogen powerhouse push, however, remains clear; primarily, to focus energies on dramatically ramping-up hydrogen production technologies so that conventional fossil fuels become a thing of the past. By 2050 the aim is to produce 50 million metric tonnes of hydrogen annually in the United States. The specifics surrounding hydrogen fuel cell electricity vary widely depending on factors such as vehicle type, storage capacity, and availability of refueling points. Still, one thing remains true from Honda's Clarity Fuel Cell car to trucks run by Hyzon — hydrogen improves operating costs, lowers potential risks to lung health, reduces air pollution, and enables sustainable transportation options, amongst many other benefits. It isn't just the trucking sector benefiting from the hydrogen electric vehicle wave either - Ford fleet customers use large diesel vans up to 600 miles a day, often carrying refrigerated goods.

Hydrogen also offers distinct advantages - providing extra energy without overwhelming a BEV. And they’re not the only ones. Ambulance services and delivery firms are investigating revamping operations to incorporate hydrogen-run pickups. As demand for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional petrol and diesel continues to gain momentum, it quickly becomes apparent that there exists a unique opportunity here in developing a reliable, eco-friendly mode of transportation suitable for both customer and corporate needs now and in the future. Continued investment in both the technological side and necessary governmental structures stand as quintessential elements for successfully transitioning and deploying the hydrogen electric vehicle revolution. There's no denying it, the hydrogen electric vehicle revolution is here, and the superb cooperation between innovation pioneers will shape the future of what enthusiasts drive.

Kelly Kisengo is an experienced content writer, SEO guru, and New Media professional passionate about creating keyword-rich copy that helps brands tell their story. Having spent more than ten years developing various forms of content—blogs, press releases, web material, newsletters articles, and marketing copy—he has perfected his versatile writing style to capture audiences' attention from all walks of life. With qualifications in English Literature, a Bachelor's degree obtained in New Media and Internet Marketing, and certifications in SEO, Kelly brings unmatched competency when crafting creative content. He is also well-versed in understanding audience needs and research; he reliably excelled at finding relevant keywords that help websites maintain high rankings on search engines. Clients trust his skills because they can rely on him to create fresh, plagiarism-free, easy-to-read content that meets deadlines.