Hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles convert compressed hydrogen from the fuel tank into electricity that powers the electric motor 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 up to five minutes to refuel – similar to current refuelling times for petrol and diesel cars.
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. Shell is involved in various initiatives:
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 partnership with ITM.
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.