Hydrogen-fueled cars could become a common sight on the roads of the future
As technology develops, the number of sources we can use to fuel our vehicles is expanding.
Today, electric and hybrid cars are competing with petrol-powered ones for space on the road.
Hydrogen is another interesting source of power, and has been described by the European Commission as an energy carrier with “great potential for clean, efficient power in stationary, portable and transport applications.”
In the English town of Swindon, efforts are being made to turn it into a base and test bed for hydrogen as a transport fuel.
“Swindon has a huge concentration of organizations — as well as two local authorities — that really see the value in hydrogen for bringing clean energy to the community and also want to be first movers for a technology which is a rapidly growing market,” Clare Jackson, manager of the Hydrogen Hub, told CNBC’s “Sustainable Energy.”
The Hydrogen Hub is an organization that works to set up communities of stakeholders who collaborate to encourage investment in hydrogen and fuel cell technology. Swindon’s Hydrogen Hub is made up of more than 30 organizations who are working with one another to deploy hydrogen technology in the town.
“What we’re doing at the Hydrogen Hub is trying to build infrastructure hubs around back to base fleets, like delivery vehicles or forklift trucks, where you can be guaranteed that the hydrogen is actually going to be used,” the Hydrogen Hub’s Clare Jackson said.
“That way we can start to build up a network of hydrogen hubs with infrastructure that will then allow those users that need the flexibility to be able to travel nationwide to know that they’ve got an infrastructure system of hydrogen around the U.K.”
Arval, which specializes in vehicle leasing and fleet management, is one business involved with the Hydrogen Hub. “Zero emissions are really important to Arval because we lease a lot of vehicles,” Paul Marchment, Arval’s SME (small to medium sized enterprises) Manager, said.
“There is a mind shift towards ultra-low emission vehicles so we became involved in this because this is cutting edge technology,” he added. “We’re still a few years away from mass deployment but we need to understand how it works now so that we’re ready for the future when it does take off in a big way.”
Is, then, hydrogen a realistic option as a clean, efficient, reliable replacement for conventional petrol or diesel?
“Producing hydrogen with solar power is very attractive because it really gives you clean hydrogen,” Erwin Reisner, a professor at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, told CNBC.
“But at the moment 96 percent of hydrogen we are using is produced from fossil fuels — it’s not clean,” he added. “So it’s very important to develop technologies that allow us as transition to go from fossil derived to clean and renewable hydrogen.”