The Path to Drawdown: Fuel Cells
Internal combustion engine vehicles have dominated the transport and automotive landscape since the 1920s. But today, that landscape’s changing. Thanks to supportive policies and declining costs, there are millions of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road.
What once used to be an obstacle for EVs - the question of how far the car can travel on a single charge - is now much less of a concern. The average range of a battery electric vehicle produced in 2020 is about 217.5 miles, up from 124 miles in 2015.
While electric passenger cars and vans can be powered using lithium-ion batteries, there are other segments in the transportation sector that are more energy-intensive and harder to decarbonize: long-haul transport, shipping, and aviation. For these segments, hydrogen fuel cells will play an important role.
Hydrogen is an energy carrier that can be produced by using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Green hydrogen is the process of obtaining hydrogen by using renewable power, which directly displaces “brown” hydrogen, which is produced from processes powered by fossil fuels. If the world is to keep temperature increases below 1.5°C, green hydrogen needs to account for 12% of final energy use by 2050 (p. 24). And for this to happen, global electrolyser capacity - that’s the system that breaks down water molecules into hydrogen - needs to expand rapidly:
- <::marker> 0.3 GW of electrolyser capacity exists today
- <::marker> 5,000 GW of capacity will be needed by 2050
That’s a CAGR of 39.8% between 2021 and 2050