• Juniper Research says the number of hydrogen vehicles in service globally will exceed 1 million in 2027
  • Others disagree – hydrogen is becoming more competitive in transport but cars aren’t there yet 
  • Momentum for commercial hydrogen vehicles is building with Volvo Trucks testing their viability 


A new study out of UK-based research consultancy, Juniper Research, has suggested hydrogen vehicles could be taken up like hot potatoes and become a viable alternative to battery electric vehicles (BEV) by 2027.

The study suggests the number of hydrogen vehicles in service globally will exceed 1 million in 2027 – from just over 60,000 in 2022, demonstrating growth of more than 1,500%.

Hydrogen vehicles are best described as vehicles that use hydrogen propulsion systems as their onboard fuel, with the chemical energy of hydrogen and oxygen reacting with fuel cells and converting the energy to electricity.

According to Juniper, the consumer market will lead the hydrogen vehicles space, with cars accounting for more than 60% of hydrogen vehicles in service globally in 2027.

The nascent development stage of many car types and the high average cost of hydrogen powered cars at over $70,000 are the top two key factors limiting adoption, the consultancy writes.

“Manufacturers will need to make hydrogen vehicles more affordable to become viable for fleets, but increased range and suitability for heavy goods transport will ultimately drive growth and economies of scale,” Research co-author Olivia Williams explained.


The verdict is out

But not everyone agrees with this forecast, especially in relation to cars.

An Australian hydrogen market study by Advisian Group puts forth the argument that while hydrogen is expected to become more and more competitive in the transport sector as we head closer to 2050, there are only a few segments approaching commercial competitiveness right now – and cars aren’t one of them.

In the near term, Advisian says the only segments which may reach commercial competitiveness in the near term include line haul vehicles (those which carry out 9-to-5 trucking jobs, transporting freight over road and rail over long distances), material handling and return to base vehicles such as buses.

As we inch closer to 2030, hydrogen could become more competitive in select sectors such as mining vehicles and out to 2050, sectors could expand even further to light vehicles, heavy haul rail, aviation, ammonia, and natural gas networks.


Hydrogen-fuelled articulated trucks ‘make sense’

Lending further support to Advisian’s study, Frontier Energy (ASX:FHE) managing director Mike Young says targeting articulated trucks that use more hydrogen than cars to travel the same distance made economic sense.

Hydrogen is also more likely to be a more viable power source as the batteries required to power a truck would be 10 times the mass of its hydrogen equivalent.

“If you’re replacing a petrol car and it does 10 litres per 100km versus an articulated truck which does 50 litres per 100km – in my view that is the market that should be looked at because your relative reduction per kilometre in CO2 is five times higher,” he said.

“The market you want to be concentrating on is the one where you get the highest economic return.

“Fuel cells lend themselves really well to vehicles, which require a lot of energy and a lot of diesel, so on a per kilometre basis it just makes sense that the bigger trucks are the ones that are being converted.”


Volvo Trucks to add fuel cell trucks to its mix

The momentum for commercial hydrogen vehicles is already starting to build up.

Earlier this week, Volvo Trucks announced a third CO2 neutral option would be added to its product portfolio in the second half of this decade – fuel cell electric trucks powered by hydrogen.

The fuel cell electric trucks will have an operational range comparable to many diesel trucks – up to 1000km – and a refuelling time of less than 15 minutes.

Customer pilots will start in a few years from now and commercialisation is planned for the latter part of this decade.

Volvo Trucks president Roger Alm said the company has been developing the technology for some years now.

“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric trucks will be especially suitable for long distances and heavy, energy-demanding assignments.

“They could also be an option in countries where battery charging possibilities are limited.”

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