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From The Carbon Economy To The Hydrogen Economy


To start down the road to the hydrogen economy, we propose large-scale deployment initiatives supported by long-term policy frameworks in countries that are early adopters.

Jeremy Rifkin, an American futurist, envisions the dawn of a new economy powered by hydrogen that will fundamentally change the nature of our market, political and social institutions, just as coal and steam power did at the beginning of the industrial age (The Hydrogen Economy, 2017.) How far have we come?

Shift to The Hydrogen Economy

In the past, people could just imagine the world utilizing hydrogen power. Now thigs got changed due to the technology development. The hydrogen economy is the use of hydrogen as a low carbon fuel, particularly for heating, hydrogen vehicles, seasonal energy storage and long-distance transport of energy. The hydrogen economy is being created as part of the low-carbon economy. To phase out fossil fuels and limit global warming, hydrogen is starting to be used as its combustion only releases clean water, and no CO 2 to the atmosphere.

To realize this vision and achieve its desired impact, a significant step-up across the value chain would be required. Many of the required technologies are already available today – now is the time to deploy hydrogen infrastructure and scale-up manufacturing capacities so as to achieve competitive costs and mass-market acceptance. According to the Mckinsey report, ‘Hydrogen scaling up, 2017,’ the annual demand for hydrogen could increase to almost 80 EJ in 2050, enough to meet the world’s current energy demand for two and a half months. This increase is due to an increase in uses – from feedstock to the industry, residential, transportation and power sectors – as well as a global rollout from priority markets to the rest of the world that is expected to start soon.

Countries Reaching for Hydrogen Economy

FCEV markets are driven by a combination of consumer demand, and initiatives implemented by individual cities. Major countries in the world are trying to provide improved safety, automated driving, enhanced vehicle performance, and increased sustainability. Hydrogen fuel cells are a key technology option within this transformation.

H2USA, a public-private partnership, was established to promote the widespread adoption of FCEVs by addressing hurdles to establishing hydrogen fueling infrastructure. National Hydrogen Scenario achieves a high level of FCEV market adoption, with FCEV sales that are primarily driven by the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate and other market support mechanisms, which are complemented by strong stakeholder planning and coordination in ZEV states (11 states including California). H2USA plans to produce 27% of national ‘green’ cars by 2050.

The ‘H2 Mobility’ initiative has set up a specific action plan for the construction of a nationwide hydrogen refueling netw ork for fuel cell-powered electric vehicles. The current network of filling stations in Germany’s public hydrogen infrastructure shall be expanded, thanks to a joint investment of € 350 million. The deployment of 1.8 million FCEVs and 1,000 hydrogen stations in Germany by 2030 are intended. According to this plan in metropolitan areas, drivers of fuel cell-powered vehicles will have at least 10 hydrogen refueling stations available each.

This would ensure a need-related supply for fuel cell-powered electric vehicles to be introduced into the market in the next few years. To be specific, Germany plans to generate 50% of the total energy using renewable energy by 2030.

Since the Fukushima incident back in March 2011, the Japanese government aims to develop a hydrogen economy. The ‘Energy Plan’ in April 2014 announced the agenda that will execute exact plans.

Japan seeks to commercialize hydrogen power generation as well as international hydrogen supply chains and cut the unit hydrogen power generation cost to 17 yen/kWh around 2030. Japan aims to increase the number of FC buses in Japan to around 1,200 by 2030, as well as 900 refueling stations, 5.3 million fuel cells for home use, and 800,000 FCEVs.

Through ‘Made In China 2025’, the Chinese government is aiming to get a million fuel cell vehicles on the roads and 1,000 charging stations by 2030 and is backing up this ambition with massive subsidies.

Canadian fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems Inc. has been working with China to produce 5,000 EV buses annually.
Over this period 13 bus manufacturers have developed a variety of fuel cell bus configurations and FCEVs.

Hydrogen Economy: South Korea

Korea indeed is one of the pioneers. Hyundai revealed the first commercially produced hydrogen fuel cell automobile back in 2013. And the 2018 second-generation Hyundai Nexo became the most powerful FCEV in the market. It has an EPA rated range of 611km. However, it could not get distributed widely due to not enough charging stations.

For Fixed Type, four countries – South Korea, Germany, Japan, and the U.S – mostly develop and demonstrate the fuel cell system technologies for transportation and station. At present, Germany and Japan are in fierce competition in the fixed-type home fuel cells. And Korea is one step ahead in the industrial fuel cell market.

*Transport type: fuel cell system technologies for vehicles such as FCEVs, trains, or vessels
*Fixed type: fuel cell system technologies for power plants or heating

The roadmap for ramping up the hydrogen economy released by the South Korean government last January has the mid- and long-term objective of using hydrogen as a major energy source that can replace fossil fuels. The plan is for hydrogen to drive a new growth engine and turn South Korea into a society fueled by eco-friendly energy.

According to this road map, the government’s plan is focused on increasing the production of hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles, expanding the supply of fuel cells and building a system of producing and supplying hydrogen. The government will continue to invest in infrastructure for hydrogen supply.

How would the Hydrogen Economy look like

According to Mckinsey, producing hydrogen would meet 18% of the total final energy demand by 2050. And with its environmental benefits, the hydrogen economy could create opportunities for sustainable economic growth. We envision a market for hydrogen and hydrogen technologies with revenues of more than $2.5 trillion per year, and jobs for more than 30 million people globally. Half of this revenue would come from hydrogen sales, the other half from sales of vehicles, trains, boats, machinery, drones, and fuel cell batteries.

Achieving this vision would create significant benefits for the energy system, the environment, and the global economy. Across all seven roles, hydrogen could account for most of the total energy consumed by 2050. This would reduce annual CO2 emissions by roughly 6 Gt compared to today’s technologies.

To achieve this hydrogen vision, companies across the value chain will need to step up their efforts from hydrogen production and infrastructure to end-use applications. Building the hydrogen economy would require annual investments, but it will be worth trying for solving a number of problems that we face.