Sector's insights

Hydrogen: the fuel of the future

10 de March de 2022

Hydrogen is becoming the central axis on which transport and mobility will pivot in the coming years. An element that, still far from being used in the commercial and industrial sphere, is already set to be key to reducing pollution and complying with environmental standards.

Aeronautical industry

This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges hydrogen has to face if it is to become a useful fuel for industry. The difficulty lies in finding a good power-to-weight ratio in fuel cells so as not to reduce flight times.

Similarly, companies such as Airbus are working to launch the first hydrogen-powered test flights in the middle of this decade. These could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90% compared to fossil fuels.

HyPoint, a Silicon Valley start-up, is developing a hydrogen fuel cell system, a breakthrough element that will outperform all other electric power technologies, as well as increasing the energy density of lithium batteries sevenfold, facilitating the transition to zero-emission mobility in the aviation industry.

Marine industry

Closer to home is the use of hydrogen in the shipbuilding industry. Tests are already underway for the transport and use of this type of fuel. Earlier this year, the ship Suiso Fontier completed its maiden voyage, carrying H2 as a future mobile refuelling station for ships using hydrogen.

As with the aeronautical industry, the long distances the ships have to travel and the length of time they could be at sea posed a difficulty for refuelling. However, recently, in a similar way to the automotive industry, a system is being developed that would allow ships to be supplied with H2 with refuelling stations located at strategic points at sea.

Mobility and Automotive

For the railway sector, the outlook for the use of this type of fuel is really positive. In Spain there are more than 6,000 kilometres of unelectrified tracks, which means that part of the population does not have access to this type of mobility. To electrify them would require at least 2.81 billion euros.

The solution could be hydrogen trains with a double benefit: to reach a greater number of places without the need for this investment of millions of euros and a smaller spread of fossil fuels.

However, it is estimated that these hydrogen engines are currently only capable of transporting up to four carriages at a speed of 160 kilometres per hour. These figures are still far from the 250 km/h that the Alvia trains travel at or the 300 km/h that the AVE trains can reach.

As for the automotive industry, it is the one that presents the most complexities in the development of these fuels. The difficulty lies in the high costs of manufacturing this type of vehicle, with the future obstacle of market sales, and the problems of hydrogen storage, where recharging points similar to other energies are not as efficient as with hydrogen.