Hydrogen could play an important role in reducing emissions by 2030 through increased production of low-carbon “green hydrogen,” the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) explained last week. blog post.

The carbon footprint of fuel cell vehicles can vary dramatically depending on how the hydrogen they use is produced. Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis with electricity generated from renewable sources to minimize carbon emissions. And by the end of the decade, the grid should have enough capacity for electrolysis, RMI predicts.

Green hydrogen is poised to scale up this decade because it is based on “commercially developed technologies” and thus expects no breakthroughs, the group said, adding that commercial demand for decarbonization is creating a market for green hydrogen.

Toyota ‘Project Portal’ proof-of-concept semi-tractor powered by hydrogen fuel cells for Port of Los Angeles

Major shippers such as Amazon, Unilever and Ikea are aiming to fully decarbonize their shipping by 2040 through the Cargo Owners Alliance for Zero Emission Vessels (CoZEV). For large cargo ships, fuel cells may be more suitable than batteries, and Toyota has already demonstrated fuel cell vehicles in port operations.

Manufacturers of electrolyzers are also ramping up production, RMI said, citing data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which shows that machines equivalent to 210 GW of generating capacity could be produced worldwide by 2027, when all production capacity is at full capacity.

In many cases, existing gas pipelines can be used to transport hydrogen, and it can be stored in geological salt caverns, according to RMI. Globally, projects to build “hydrogen hubs” around this infrastructure are already underway, with some funding earmarked in the 2021 federal infrastructure law.

Toyota 'Project Portal' proof-of-concept semi-tractor powered by hydrogen fuel cells for Port of Los Angeles

Toyota ‘Project Portal’ proof-of-concept semi-tractor powered by hydrogen fuel cells for Port of Los Angeles

Illustrating the importance of choosing green hydrogen for any future projects, RMI has previously warned that these centers can be as dirty as coal if the hydrogen was produced by high-carbon methods, such as the production of hydrogen from natural gas. Even an early version of the infrastructure bill discussed coal as a potential source.

So while green hydrogen capacity may be abundant by the end of the decade, regulators must ensure its use. Soft regulations could also lead to the proliferation of “blue hydrogen,” which is considered clean but can still be very carbon-rich. For example, 2021 study found that the much-discussed method of reducing emissions by capturing the carbon dioxide released during the manufacturing process actually produces 20% more emissions than burning coal.

Although it is being produced, hydrogen is now more likely to be used in commercial trucks than in passenger cars. Automakers are shifting their focus to fuel cells away from light trafficwith Toyota plans make fuel cell modules for trucks in the US starting in 2023. General Motors announced in 2021 a program with Navistar to produce 2,000 long-haul hydrogen semi-trucks.