In 2050, 113 million fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) could save up to 68 million tonnes of fuel and almost 200 million tonnes of carbon emissions. As such, they could make a significant contribution to reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector.

That is the conclusion reached in the Shell hydrogen study entitled “Energy of the future? Sustainable mobility through fuel cells and H2”, which Shell and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy jointly produced and officially published today in Berlin, the main focus of which is the mobility sector.

Dr. Jörg Adolf, Chief Economist at Shell Deutschland and project lead for the study said: “Our company has been involved in the research, development and application of hydrogen for decades and even has a specific business unit called Shell Hydrogen. We can therefore say with confidence that the technology behind the production and application of hydrogen has made huge progress in recent years, and not only in the area of passenger cars.”

The technology at the heart of hydrogen’s use as an energy source is the fuel cell, which is significantly more efficient than heat engines. Fuel cell systems are already widely used in the buildings sector. In Japan, there are more than 200,000 micro CHP fuel cell systems in operation which provide homes with both heat and power.

In the transport sector, fuel cells are in principle suitable for use in all means of transport, not just passenger cars. In fact, material handling vehicles (e.g. forklift trucks) currently boast the largest stock of fuel cell electric vehicles. There are over 11,000 of them in North America alone. On account of a wide range of publicly funded projects, buses are the means of transport for which hydrogen and fuel cells have been most heavily tested in vehicle fleets. However, a lot of development work still needs to be done with regard to trains, ships and aircraft.

Photo: courtesy Shell