With stopping climate change now top of the strategic agenda, sustainable transport and green energy solutions are a priority for both policymakers and the automotive sector.

While the focus has often been on electric cars, vans, and aircraft, hydrogen-powered alternatives to petrol and diesel engines could theoretically be viable, as the main by-products of their use are water and heat, rather than greenhouse gases. 

Yet although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, how it is produced on earth is a critical consideration. Much is currently made via coal- or gas-powered processes (so-called black or grey hydrogen), which contribute to climate change.

Meanwhile, some reports suggest that ‘blue hydrogen’ alternatives, in which greenhouse gases are supposedly recovered downstream later, are even worse for the environment, due to fugitive emissions and the high volumes of gas used in production.

This means that clean, green-hydrogen alternatives are an urgent priority for development. However, the problem is that, at present, they are very expensive.

A new report from analyst firm Fact.MR suggests that the hydrogen vehicles industry will experience steady growth over the next decade, driven by green-hydrogen initiatives. This suggests that costs will gradually fall if the industry focuses on developing green processes.

According to analysts’ projections, the hydrogen vehicles market will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of three percent from 2021 to 2031, against a CAGR of just two percent in the five years since 2016.

China is the largest national consumer of hydrogen-powered vehicles, with Asia expected to generate over 40 percent of global demand over the next decade.

However, North America will have the largest share of the fuel cell market during the forecast period. The report explains, “Advanced automated technologies were adopted by US regions to stimulate the automobile industry, and to help develop the market for gasoline-powered machines alongside the advancement of the automobile industry. 

“This sustained the market rise for the use of hydrogen fuel. As per Fact.MR, the [fuel cell] market is poised to register a CAGR of four percent through 2031.”

Overall, hydrogen vehicles are “the most explored technology” in the automobile sector, says the report. “Diesel and petrol prices have skyrocketed in recent months – both globally and nationally [in the US] – prompting a shift towards hydrogen vehicles. 

“Global demand for high-performance, low-emission vehicles will drive the market for automobiles in the future. Additionally, the growing prevalence of reimbursement policies in the automation industry is fuelling growth in the hydrogen vehicles sector.”