In 2050, 113 million fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) could save up to 68 million tonnes of fuel and almost 200 million tonnes of carbon emissions. As such, they could make a significant contribution to reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector. That is the conclusion reached in the Shell hydrogen study entitled "Energy of the future? Sustainable mobility through fuel cells and H2", which Shell and the Wuppertal Institute jointly produced and which now has been translated into English.
Dr. Jörg Adolf, Chief Economist at Shell Deutschland and project lead for the study said: "Our company has been involved in the research, development and application of hydrogen for decades and even has a specific business unit called Shell Hydrogen. We can therefore say with confidence that the technology behind the production and application of hydrogen has made huge progress in recent years, and not only in the area of passenger cars."
The technology at the heart of hydrogen’s use as an energy source is the fuel cell, which is significantly more efficient than heat engines. Fuel cell systems are already widely used in the buildings sector. Hydrogen, which is the simplest and lightest of all the elements, has a high specific energy content and by far the highest energy density (per kilogram) of all the energy carriers used today. Since hydrogen usually only exists on earth as part of a compound, it has to be produced via a specific process. The most important primary energy carrier for the production of hydrogen is currently natural gas. "We believe that hydrogen produced via electrolysis using electricity from renewable sources of energy will play an important role in the future", says Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick, Vice-President of the Wuppertal Institute. This will also be necessary in order to take advantage of hydrogen’s potential environmental benefits.
Questions remain: Is hydrogen the one or one of the energy sources of the future? And if so, when and how could hydrogen become one of the leading energy sources in a global energy system? These questions are at the core of the Shell hydrogen study, which aims at assessing the situation and developing answers.
The study is available for free download from the Wuppertal Institute's publication server.