Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have the potential to be an important part of a future low-carbon transport system.

When driven, the vehicle’s fuel cell converts compressed hydrogen from the fuel tank into electricity that powers the motor. FCEVs produce no emissions from the tailpipe, only water. When renewable electricity is used to make the hydrogen, the vehicle can effectively be driven without generating any carbon emissions.

FCEVs have the performance and acceleration of petrol and diesel cars. They can drive similar distances to combustion engines and take only minutes to refuel, unlike most battery-electric cars which have shorter ranges and take hours to recharge.

Man refuelling at Shell Hydrogen station in Germany

It's about working together 

For hydrogen mobility to succeed, vehicle manufacturers, fuel suppliers and governments need to work together. They need to produce more hydrogen cars and install the supply infrastructure to make hydrogen an attractive option for consumers.

But car manufacturers will only invest in developing attractive and affordable vehicles if there is a refuelling structure in place; and fuel suppliers will only invest in infrastructure if there is demand for hydrogen fuel from their consumers. It is a classic “chicken and egg” dilemma.

To help solve the dilemma, Shell is taking part in several initiatives.

In Germany, for instance, we have set up a joint venture with industrial gas manufacturers Air Liquide and Linde, car maker 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.

We already operate three hydrogen filling stations in Germany, with four more to follow in early 2016. One station, in Hamburg, uses electricity generated by wind power to produce emission-free hydrogen on a well-to-wheels basis, which is stored on-site. In the USA we operate two hydrogen filling stations in Los Angeles.

We are assessing the potential for more in California, the UK, Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg.

If the chicken and egg dilemma can truly be resolved, FCEVs, along with electrification via plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles, will make an important contribution to reducing emissions from road transport.

Related links

See what it takes to build a new hydrogen filling station

October 13, 2015 - Shell to install nationwide network of hydrogen vehicle fuelling pumps in Germany

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