A new report suggests there could be 1.6 million hydrogen-powered vehicles on Britain’s roads by 2030.
The forecast is made in an interim report commissioned to evaluate the benefits of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and to ensure the UK is ready for their commercial roll-out.
Produced by the UKH2Mobility project, the study provides a roadmap for the introduction of vehicles and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in the UK.
The report found that the initial uptake of FCEVs will progress as models are introduced to the market and the fuelling network matures. The roadmap shows that once mass FCEV production is established there is the potential for 1.6 million vehicles on UK roads by 2030, with annual sales of more than 300,000.
In order to keep the cars on the road, a co-ordinated network of hydrogen refuelling stations will need to be established, focusing first on national trunk routes and heavily populated areas.
It is claimed that an initial roll-out of 65 stations would provide enough coverage in line with early vehicle sales, with the network growing in line with the number of FCEVs on the road to provide 1,150 sites by 2030.
In the early stages, however, the report acknowledges a possible lag between the creation of the refuelling network and there being enough FCEVs on the road to make it financially self-sustaining. The report says that phase one of the project estimated the total finance needed to be around £400m to 2030. Phase two will be focused on both reducing this figure and considering different models for delivering it.
The final report of phase one is due to be published in March. Phase two of UKH2Mobility, which brings together leading businesses from the automotive, energy, infrastructure and retail sectors with government, will then use the information and roadmap produced in phase one to develop a detailed business case and specific actions for participants to commit to.
Dr Graham Cooley, chief executive officer of UKH2Mobility participant ITM Power, said: ‘We are pleased with the findings of phase one of UKH2Mobility, which reflect a diligent process of appraisal by the collaborative partnership.
‘Phase one sows a seed for the adoption and development of a new transport system, which will allow society to decarbonise road transport and clean up emissions, without disrupting its business and social routine.
‘Phase two will show how that seed can proliferate, enabling the UK to be a world leader in the deployment and manufacturing of the necessary electrolyser refuelling technology and fuel-cell vehicles. This presents the UK with a very real economic opportunity for growth.’
Additional findings from the UKH2Mobility project
Consumer— up to 10 per cent of new-car customers will be receptive to fuel-cell vehicles when first introduced, attracted by the newness of the technology and environmental considerations. ‘Early adopter’ interest will need to be fostered and converted into sales to build confidence in and support for FCEVs, as the first models become available in world markets within the next three years.
Environment— the roadmap shows that, based on the uptake figures above, FCEVs could reduce UK annual total vehicle CO2 emissions by three million tonnes in 2030. Replacing diesel vehicles with FCEVs could also save between £100m and £200m a year in the cost of damage to air quality caused by vehicle emissions by 2050.
Fuel production— FCEVs produce no harmful tailpipe emissions, but some forms of hydrogen production do generate CO2. Using a range of manufacturing methods can deliver hydrogen at a cost that is competitive with diesel, with 60 per cent lower CO2 emissions in 2020, improving to 75 per cent less in 2030. Hydrogen production will be on course for zero emissions by 2050, at which time FCEVs could have a market share of between 30–50 per cent.