What if the “hype” around hydrogen disappeared?

As electricity advances, the theoretical progress of the hydrogen fuel cell is slower than that of lithium-ion batteries. As hydrogen projects become more and more numerous, democratization may require the action of governments. Otherwise, this fad might just disappear.

Not enough progress?

The hydrogen fuel cell is generally presented ecologically as: one of the most interesting ways to produce energy. According to its tributaries, it is a matter of abundant energy with a low environmental impact, despite some fairly legitimate criticisms. Today, projects, including hydrogen, are on the rise. indeed, from many private and public actors working on practical applications. Examples are EDF, Air Liquide and other start-ups or car manufacturers. We recently mentioned that Airbus aims to launch a “zero-emissions” hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035. Google co-founder Larry Page would like to design a giant airship equipped with a huge hydrogen fuel cell.

Only here, despite the development of a real economy based on hydrogen, are we still a long way from democratization. The hydrogen fuel cell is at the heart of theoretical progress, on the way to less restrictive weight and charging times. However, this progress is much slower than that of lithium-ion batteries and others that they can potentially replace. Some automakers that have launched projects with hydrogen have already changed their tone, desiring focus on electricity.

airbus hydrogen plane 1
Airbus aims to launch a “zero emission” hydrogen aircraft by 2035.
Credit: Airbus

More work to do

In a report published by the BloombergNEF (BNEF) firm on April 7, 2021, experts believe that governments act at the level of the law, the latter want the industry to turn concretely to hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen could indeed find its best applications in industry, where fossil fuels are still financially competitive. Specialists speak of setting up a rather heavy CO2 tax with the aim of accelerating the transition. However, the risk is that you put in too much effort for an energy source that could exceed demand. However, this need not be a problem, as an increase in demand would mean lower prices.

The real concerns lie elsewhere: The combustion of hydrogen does not emit carbon, but this is not necessarily the case with its production. However, hydrogen could really become 100% clean energy, but this would require significant investment. The aim is to be equipped with infrastructures that also work with renewable energy sources, while showing able to capture CO2 out of production. If necessary, producing that much hydrogen would be useless to limit the effects of human activities on the environment.