Hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles convert compressed hydrogen from the fuel tank into electricity that powers the engine of a vehicle. When driven, such cars do not produce greenhouse gases from their tailpipe – the only emission is water vapour. When renewable electricity is used to make the hydrogen, the vehicle can effectively be powered without generating any emissions.

Hydrogen vehicles have similar performance and acceleration capabilities to petrol and diesel cars. They are quick to refuel and can drive similar distances. Energy is stored in compressed hydrogen fuel, rather than a battery, which means that hydrogen-powered cars can potentially drive up to 700 kilometres without refuelling.

The cars take only three minutes to refuel – similar to current refuelling times for petrol and diesel cars.

illustration of future of hydrogen in the transport sector

The future of Hydrogen

In 2017, Shell published a study on the future of hydrogen in the transport sector, jointly produced with the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy.

Full Shell hydrogen study

The study concludes that in 2050, 113 million fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) could save up to 68 million tonnes of fuel and almost 200 million tonnes of carbon emissions, making a significant contribution to reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector.

Hydrogen study presentation

Man refuelling at Shell Hydrogen station in Germany
Shell already has hydrogen facilities at five of its retail stations in Germany. One station, in Hamburg, uses electricity generated by wind power to produce low carbon hydrogen, which is stored on-site

How Shell works together

For hydrogen electric transport to succeed, vehicle manufacturers, fuel suppliers and governments need to work together.

There is a need for more hydrogen vehicles to be available as well as sufficient refuelling infrastructure to attract customers. Businesses also require incentives to build this infrastructure.

In Germany, Shell is part of a joint venture with industrial gas manufacturers Air Liquide and Linde, car manufacturer Daimler and energy companies Total and OMV, to develop a nationwide network of 400 hydrogen refuelling stations for new hydrogen car models by 2023.

The German government and the European Union are also part-funding the initiative.

In 2017 Shell became the first branded fuel retailer to sell hydrogen at one of its retail sites in the UK. The new hydrogen refuelling station in Cobham, on the outskirts of London, is the first of three hydrogen stations Shell plans to open in the Southeast of England in 2017, in partnership with ITM. Learn more about our hydrogen refuelling station in Cobham here.

In the USA, Shell has two hydrogen filling stations in Los Angeles, and is currently working in partnership with Toyota, with the support of the State of California, to further develop its hydrogen refuelling network.

Shell is assessing the potential for similar projects in other parts of the USA as well as the UK, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg.

Related links

Shell opens hydrogen station in the UK

See what it takes to build a new hydrogen filling station

October 1, 2015 - Shell to install nationwide network of hydrogen vehicle fuelling pumps in Germany

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