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Electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are expected to become more important in the longer term to help power growing numbers of cars and trucks. They offer the potential to reduce CO2 emissions from road transport – because they emit no CO2 while in use. But actual CO2 emissions depend on how the energy they use is produced.

The commercial success of both technologies depends on refuelling infrastructure being put in place and consumer acceptance of these new vehicles.

Shell and hydrogen

Shell hydrogen pump

Hydrogen can be used in modified internal combustion engines, but it is most efficient in fuel cell vehicles.

These vehicles convert the energy found in hydrogen into electricity to run their engines, emitting only heat and water from their exhausts.

The total CO2 emissions of hydrogen, however, depend on how it is produced. Currently most hydrogen is made from non-renewable sources such as natural gas or by gasifying coal.

In the future CO2 emissions from hydrogen could be lowered by using biomass or renewable electricity to electrolyse water and break it down.

For hydrogen to play a significant transport role, vehicle manufacturers, fuel suppliers and governments need to work together to simultaneously create demand for hydrogen cars while installing the supply infrastructure needed to make hydrogen an attractive option for consumers.

In Germany, Shell is partnering with Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, and Total to set up a hydrogen refuelling network of up to 400 filling stations by 2023.

Shell also has three filling stations in Los Angeles and is assessing the potential for more sites in California, as well as in the UK and the Netherlands.

Shell is actively involved in a number of public and private hydrogen transport collaborations including:

  • The Japan Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Demonstration project
  • The European Union Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative 
  • The H2 Mobility initiative in Germany.

Shell and electrification

Electric vehicles will become increasingly common. The CO2 benefits of using electric vehicles depend on how the electricity is produced – for example from cleaner-burning natural gas, wind or solar power.

Shell is running eMobility trials with commercial fleet customers in the UK, Germany and USA.

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