Smart Transport

The 'crucial' role of hydrogen


Hydrogen Europe represents 185 industry members and 25 national hydrogen association and promotes the use of hydrogen in the EU. 

Sabrine Skiker, EU policy manager for land transport at the organisation, says: “There is common agreement by stakeholders and the European Commission that hydrogen will play a crucial role in long haul, where battery will not do the trick.”

But it also has a role in urban delivery, for buses and other sectors. Battery EVs are starting to be used in city centres where a 60-mile daily range is sufficient. “Out of the city centre, for inter-city and suburban buses, hydrogen starts to play a key role,” she says. 

The use of hydrogen fuel cells allows the range to be extended up to 250 miles as well as more flexible operations where routes are not fixed, with refuelling taking only 10-12 minutes.

An example is Cologne, where in the city centre operator KVB uses battery buses, while in the suburbs RVK is using 35 Van Hool A 330 FC fuel cell buses (to be increased to 50).

Portuguese manufacturer Caetano recently launched a fuel cell bus, the H2.City Gold. It is available in 10-metre and 12-metre versions and is powered by the same fuel cell stack as the Toyota Mirai passenger car. 

The same logic applies to urban delivery. Groupe PSA has announced it will launch hydrogen versions of the Peugeot Expert, Citroën Jumpy and Vauxhall Vivaro next year. Renault has launched fuel cell range-extended versions of the Kangoo and Master, and Volkswagen is developing a hydrogen version of its Crafter van. 

“They are using this option because of operational flexibility and payload, and to make sure you can drive using the air-conditioning in summer without worrying,” Skiker says.

Hydrogen Europe’s view is that the advent of mobility as a service (MaaS) and automation means vehicles will be used more intensively, and, in the case of automated vehicles, the need for constant connectivity and the use of artificial intelligence in guidance systems will require a lot of energy, bringing hydrogen into the picture.

Skiker stresses that Hydrogen Europe sees fuel cell and battery technology as complementary. “We don’t see this as a battle,” she says. “We see huge developments in batteries, but there will be applications where battery won’t be sufficient.”

Fuel cells are now considered technically mature, but work is needed to bring the costs down. However, in January, the Hydrogen Council predicted cost parity between fuel cell and diesel for heavy-duty trucks would be reached by 2030. 

Read David Fowler's full article in Smart Transport Journal

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