Given the high degree of industry investment, good infrastructure and proven effectiveness of battery solutions, electrification should remain the fuel of choice for light vehicles such as cars. Since battery costs grow linearly with vehicle size or distance covered, there comes a point when hydrogen fuel cells become superior to traditional batteries. Moreover, the raw material requirement for hydrogen fuel cells is much lower than for batteries or combustion engines. That’s why there’s considerable interest in hydrogen as an alternative fuel in the logistics and shipping industries, whose fleets tend to fit the criteria of size and distance. Larger transportation also have the size and space needed to accommodate hydrogen fuel cells.
In Switzerland, leading retailers such as Coop, Migros and Spar have all added hydrogen-powered vehicles to their logistics fleets. According to Hydrospider AG, a Swiss company focusing on green hydrogen production, distribution and trade, there are already more than 50 trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells on the road in Switzerland today, and the number is set to grow to more than 1,600 by the year 2026.
Some promising first steps have also been taken at the supply level, with a handful of hydrogen filling stations already operating in Switzerland. The H2 Mobility Switzerland Association – whose members operate over 2,000 filling stations in Switzerland, and use more than 4,000 heavy goods vehicles – has set itself the goal of establishing a nationwide network of hydrogen filling stations across Switzerland.
As the energy system relies more heavily on renewables, H2 will play a crucial role in the storage of renewables-generated electricity as it is able to cope with intermittency and seasonal imbalances. Hydrogen can store energy for weeks or even months. This addresses one of the critical limitations of renewable energy sources, i.e., that peaks and troughs are often driven by season or weather, and need to be carefully managed.