Hydrogen is the most abundant and lightest element in the universe and has the highest energy content of common fuels by weight, about three times more than diesel, natural gas or bioethanol. It is also extremely versatile: it can be transformed into electricity, used as a fuel for transportation, heating and cooling, but is mainly used in various industrial applications today.
Hydrogen can be produced in a number of different ways:
- Gray hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels (natural gas or coal), a process which creates large amounts of CO2 emissions
- Blue hydrogen is produced in the same way, but the carbon is captured and stored
- Green hydrogen is produced from renewable energy sources via the electrolysis of water and is completely carbon free, or from other renewable sources like biomass
The hydrogen market is already a huge, US$135 billion, annual market – however, it is almost all gray hydrogen. We believe that clean hydrogen (green and blue) will play a key role in creating a clean, secure and affordable energy future, enabling countries and companies alike to realize their net zero targets. Today, a burgeoning global industry is taking shape to leverage hydrogen’s ability to be both an energy carrier and a clean fuel that can be stored and used later.
Hydrogen produced via electrolysis and hydrogen used in fuel cells is based on “reverse” chemical reactions. While electrolysis uses water and electricity to create hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2), fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity and water vapor. If the electricity used for electrolysis comes from renewable sources, then the whole chain from water to hydrogen to power does not emit any carbon.
Among the different applications for clean hydrogen, heavy duty transportation is particularly promising:
- The value proposition for fuel cell technology and clean hydrogen as a fuel is more compelling for vehicles with long range requirements, high utilization, heavy payloads and the need for fast refueling
- Heavy duty trucks and buses offer “return to base” refueling opportunities, which means the roll-out of clean hydrogen refueling stations is more efficient: you can build centralized infrastructure to improve economics
- Heavy-duty trucks contribute disproportionally to emissions. For example, commercial trucks and buses represent about 10% of all long-haul vehicles in North America, yet contribute 33% of greenhouse gas emissions. In Europe, transport is responsible for nearly 30% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions, of which 72% comes from road transportation.
At Hyzon Motors, we believe large-scale deployment of clean hydrogen fuel cell mobility will be a key factor in reducing emissions, while at the same time fulfilling the operational requirements of heavy-duty road transport in terms of range, refueling time and payload capacity.
The production, transport and industrial use of hydrogen are well established industries with long track records involving major multi-national companies like Air Liquide, Linde and Praxair.
Hydrogen is a flammable gas and, as with any other gas or fuel, requires appropriate safety measures at all times. It also demonstrates various positive characteristics: it is a non-toxic gas, is lighter than air so it disperses quickly if it leaks and it burns with low radiant heat.
At Hyzon, we ensure appropriate safety measures are in place at all stages, including production, transport, storage and of course within our vehicles and fuel cells. When planning a hydrogen installation, we are very careful to implement the appropriate ventilation and leak detection equipment. We also integrate safety considerations in the design of our fuel cells and in the way we retrofit our trucks.
To avoid current common misconceptions about hydrogen, we encourage you to read Hydrogen safety: busting the myth that hydrogen is more dangerous than gas by Hydrogen Fuel News.
- IPCC report
- Goldman Sachs report: “Carbonomics – The Rise of Clean Hydrogen”, July 2020