Pure hydrogen has a bright long-term future as a fuel in all forms of transport — including controversial segments such as cars, and long-distance aviation — according to an anonymous survey of Hydrogen Europe members.

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The influential trade association’s 54-page report about the findings, entitled Long-Term Outlook on Zero-Emission Mobility, showed that more than half of the 99 “expert” respondents believed that hydrogen — in its compressed or liquid form — was a “perfect fit” or close to a “perfect fit” for almost every mode of transport in the survey.

The only exceptions — ie, with less than 50% of the vote stating a perfect or close to perfect fit — were cruise ships (with 46.1% stating one of the two), bulk carriers (46.5%), small container ships (feeder vessels) (45.9%), large container ships (41.1%) and medium-range flights (49.2%).

The preferred fuel in every shipping category, as well as medium-range flights, was e-fuel derived from hydrogen (ie, synthetic LNG, ammonia, or methanol).

By contrast, the majority of respondents thought that compressed hydrogen was a perfect fit (or close to a perfect fit) for cars, vans, buses, coaches and trucks, with liquid H2 seen as a good fit for ferries by 50% of respondents.

For the aviation section of the survey, the hydrogen options were fuel cells or H2 jet engines.

Fuel cells were seen as a perfect or near perfect fit for “very short-range” flights of less than 500km by 64.7% of respondents, with the H2 jet engines meeting those options for “short-range” flights of 500-1,500km, according to 56% of respondents.

Curiously, while “synthetic drop-in fuels” were a choice for the shipping questions, it was not listed for aviation, despite being widely regarded as the most likely zero-emission option for long-distance flights by those outside the industry.

Transport mode % of respondents describing compressed H2 (700 bar) as a perfect fit (or close to one)
[*350 bar where that was the preferred option]
% of respondents describing batteries as a perfect fit (or close to one)

Cars 66.2% 84.7%
Vans 75.5% 65.9%
Long-haul trucks 80.6% 8.7%
Regional delivery trucks 67.7%* 44.6%
Urban delivery trucks 56.1%* 84.6%
Municipal utility trucks 64.5%* 69.6%
Urban buses (up to 300km) 62.8%* 62.4%
Intercity buses (300-500km) 78.6% 14.3%
Coaches (more than 500km) 83.7%

Outside of the hydrogen industry, few experts believe that pure hydrogen will ever be more than a niche fuel in cars and long-distance shipping and aviation.

Battery electric vehicles are simply far cheaper to run, while the volumetric density of even liquid hydrogen is far lower than that of ammonia, methanol or synthetic aviation fuel (all derived from clean H2), meaning it will be difficult to store enough H2 fuel for long journeys.

Because the survey was anonymous, Hydrogen Europe cannot be sure which of its members responded.

“As the survey was conducted on a voluntary basis, it is assumed that most respondents consider mobility to be part of their business – either directly (manufacturing of vehicles/vessels/aircraft, end-users) or indirectly (providing hydrogen for refuelling, manufacturing of components/providing necessary infrastructure).”

Respondents were asked to give their opinions on all the different long-term transport solutions on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being “not suitable” and five being a “perfect fit”.