Hydrogen: the lesser-known powertrain of green transport

Brian Foster - Head of industry 

It’s always thrilling to see exciting new developments unfolding around clean transport. I’m talking here specifically about hydrogen. Of course, the electrification of the UK’s transport network has made positive strides, but fact remains that it can only serve a small slice of our transport power needs. The good news is that hydrogen can get past some of the limits of electric vehicles (EVs). The way I see it, hydrogen represents an important revolution in the clean energy arena – and it’s happening now!


For starters, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles produce no waste at the tailpipe other than water vapour. Simply put, the clean burning compressed gas is converted first to electricity which in turn powers the vehicle – it’s that easy! Think of the impact on our carbon footprint. Our own research estimates that converting 25% of our bus fleet to hydrogen could cut the country’s CO2 emissions by as much as 385,201 tonnes just over a 5-year period.[1] We’d be that much closer to reaching the UK’s 2050 climate objectives.


The beauty of hydrogen is that it helps to quash a central pitfall with EVs: their range. With a typical range of 50-100 miles, EVs aren’t really cut out for long-haul journeys. On the flip side, hydrogen fuelled vehicles can go on for hundreds of miles before their next refill. This makes them ideal for off-grid routes, tricky terrain and rural environments. They’re also just as quick to refuel as diesel and can piggy-back on existing gas station infrastructure.


This doesn’t mean that we should do away with existing electric charging points though. Today, we’re seeing more and more hybrid vehicles that can either take electric power from a direct source or generate it from hydrogen combustion. My feeling is that we can expect to see investment in electrification continue as the crisis unfolds, but a hybrid approach may be the most cost-effective green transport strategy.


The question is - how will this be financed? Transport infrastructures typically require capital beyond the scope of the public purse. With a crisis on our hands, private sector finance may be necessary to round off available funds in the creation of green, smart public services and cities. If you too think hydrogen is the future, take a look at our latest report on the topic here or get in touch to schedule a chat!



Brian Foster- Head of Industry Finance