Hydrogen Fuel - Hope or Hype?

The UK Prime Minister claims global leadership on hydrogen technology. But does it represent a panacea for our current fossil fuel dependence?

Ranging in application from construction equipment to micro-taxis, trucks, boats, vans, buses, and now aircraft, reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to generate electricity emits only water.

While at first glance, it sounds like a viable alternative to current technology for the range of needed applications, hydrogen requires new infrastructure, and competition from electric vehicles left hydrogen appearing less attractive as a replacement for conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. 

JCB has developed a prototype excavator, and says it would need a battery weighing five tonnes to generate the same power electrically, taking hours to refuel.

Hydrogen on the other hand, is lighter than air and takes minutes to fill a tank. Similar applications are being trialed with buses, and orders for 80 double-deck buses from the JCB Wrightbus factory at Ballymena in Northern Ireland are now being filled.

Addressing charging infrastructure requires provision of hydrogen pumps on motorways and the same network could fuel hybrid battery and hydrogen cars of the future.