Hydrogen vs Electrification: Could hydrogen and electrification have a symbiotic relationship?

Rather than being competitors could hydrogen infrastructure complement electric vehicle infrastructure? Whilst light vehicles may be more likely be battery powered in the future, heavy trucks are a little more difficult to decarbonise and therefore it is likely that an alternative will be needed to batteries for those harder to decarbonise parts of the fleet. This may be hydrogen.

PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane) electrolysis technology uses container based modular units, with relatively maintenance free technology. What they do need is a ready supply of electricity and lots of it. In a hydrogen world filling stations may be able to generate their hydrogen locally (rather than needing to be supplied by tanker) using PEM electrolysis – however this will very certainly need large connections to the electricity grid.

Fast EV charging stations in the future will also need to have big grid connections, with more and more electric vehicles on the road these connections are going to get bigger and bigger – especially with some chargers packing an impressive 350kw (compared to a tiny 7kw home charger!) for just one charge point. The grid connection won’t be consistently used as cars come and go and the larger fast ones are very unlikely to be used over night. The potential exists to use that grid capacity to generate hydrogen. This hydrogen could then be stored ready for when a vehicle arrived which needed it. Filing stations of the future could therefore deliver both electric vehicle and hydrogen charging – the hydrogen being generated overnight when the grid capacity isn’t being used.

Finally if there was more electricity demand than the grid could deliver, or electricity was extremely expensive, the hydrogen could be put back through a fuel cell to charge the vehicle.

Thus for transport, hydrogen and electrification might not be competitors but symbiotic partners – relying on each other to deliver their form of energy. Charging electric vehicles and filling hydrogen trucks may well be done in the same place sharing the same gird connection, but with the technologies symbiotically linked to deliver the optimum outcome.

Perhaps the future energy system isn’t about Hydrogen vs Electrification but rather how technologies work hand in hand?

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