Over 1.5m hydrogen cars on UK roads by 2030

Posted on 4 Feb 2013 by Tim Brown

Figures only realistic if 'all the dominoes fall into place'.

Over 1.5m hydrogen powered vehicles could be on UK roads by 2030 according to a joint Government-industry study published today.

The forecast was made in an interim report produced by the UKH2Mobility project – a collaborative group involving government and manufacturers including Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and Ford.

The study provides a ‘roadmap’ for the introduction of vehicles and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in the UK.

“The transition to ultra-low emission vehicles has already begun,” said Business Minister Michael Fallon. “Successful commercialisation of the technology will require Government to work in true partnership with industry.

“We already have a strong automotive sector and must ensure it stays that way. Opportunities for the UK to take a leading role in low carbon technologies will be looked at as part of our auto industrial strategy, published later this year”.

The report predicts that only 10% of new car customers will be receptive to fuel cell vehicles when first introduced.

However, the roadmap estimates that once mass FCEV production is established, bringing costs down, there is the potential for 1.6 million vehicles on UK roads by 2030, with annual sales of more than 300,000.

Presently only Hyundai and Honda are operating limited manufacturing operations of hydrogen vehicles for general use. Hyundai hopes to produce 1000 FCEVs by 2015 and Honda stated that it could start mass producing vehicles based on its FCX concept by the year 2020.

At the 2012 World Hydrogen Energy Conference, Daimler AG, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota all confirmed plans to produce hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for sale by 2015, while Ford, GM and Nissan also have similar plans.

One of the biggest barriers to the uptake of hydrogen vehicles is a lack of infrastructure, primarily refuelling stations. The roadmap suggests an initial roll-out of 65 stations, focused around national trunk routes and heavily populated areas, would provide sufficient coverage in line with early vehicle sales.

A Toyota spokesman said that the figures from UKH2Mobility project were feasible but that a great deal of work was needed. “For this to be realistic we need all the dominoes to fall into place; we need consumer acceptance and a great deal infrastructure to be built to make this work.”

However,  a total of 1,150 sites would be needed by 2030 and would cost £400m.

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 £100 million and £200 million a year in the cost of damage to air quality caused by vehicle emissions by 2050.

FCEVs produce no harmful tailpipe emissions, but some forms of hydrogen production, such as extraction from methane (CH4), do generate CO2. Using a range of manufacturing methods could deliver hydrogen at a cost that is competitive with diesel, with 60% lower CO2 emissions in 2020, improving to 75% 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 to 50%.