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Green hydrogen in transportation

With the target set by the European Climate Law of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050, the green hydrogen will play a major role in the decarbonization of our energy, industry, and transport sectors. The transport sector nowadays is the only sector whose emissions are higher than 1990 and they keep growing. Road transport is responsible for 2/3 of the EU transport emissions1. Hydrogen can be used directly, i.e. in fuel cells, but it will also be the basis for many e-fuels like syngas and ammonia, that can be used in common internal combustion engines.

Green hydrogen in ground transport Source: Toyota, Hyzon Motors, Alstom, Solaris

Green hydrogen in ground transport

Green hydrogen is one of the most promising solutions to achieve zero emissions in road transport, especially true in heavy-duty vehicles like trucks, vans, and trains. This is mostly because replacing internal combustion engines with batteries has several drawbacks when it comes to heavy-duty vehicles, such as the weight of the required battery and the range. Moreover, fuel cells light vehicles have several advantages over battery-driven alternatives. The longer range and the shorter refueling time are the most notable, but also the fact that consumer habits won't change (it is required to go to a station to refill and not plug your vehicle). However, there are currently under 200 hydrogen charging stations on the territory of the EU compared to more than 250,000 charging stations for EVs.This is one of the reasons why fuel cells vehicles are not yet so popular. 

Green hydrogen in maritime transport

More stringent limits on pollutant emissions oblige ship owners to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. Technology improvements in recent decades have reduced the fuel consumption and environmental impact of ships. However, shipping remains a significant contributor to global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), volatile organic compounds (VOC), particulate matter (PM), hazardous air pollutants, NOX, and SOX2. Using domestically-produced green hydrogen as a fuel with fuel cells is one of the ways to cut down not only on emissions but the price of maritime fuel, which has seen a vast increase in the past years due to the new fuel regulations. Fuel cells are a great alternative for the low-autonomy vessels, however, for the deep-sea voyages, e-fuels made from hydrogen, like ammonia,  have a better potential.

Green hydrogen in air transport Source: Airbus

Green hydrogen in air transport

A hydrogen plane is an aircraft equipped with hydrogen-fueled fuel cells or jet engines that burn hydrogen or a combination of both. As well as in shipping, an alternative to pure hydrogen are the hydrogen-based e-fuels such as ammonia or methanol. The main advantage of the e-fuels over pure hydrogen is the fact that they can be used in current jet engines without or with minimum changes of the system. A shift towards e-fuels will reduce the environmental impact of flights by 50-75%, and with fuel cells by 75-90%.

What is happening in Bulgaria?

In Bulgaria already several municipalities have expressed interest for the replacement of their current public transport diesel buses with ones running on fuel cells. Moreover, the municipality of Sofia is considering the possibility of installing range extenders for its trolleybuses fleet. The range extenders will be based on fuel cells and fueled by locally produced green hydrogen. This vastly reduces the total cost of ownership of the buses and the capital costs needed for the extension of the network, due to the fact that the retrofitted trolleys will be able to run on routes that do not have an electrical network installed. Several companies in the maritime sector also expressed interest in retrofitting existing vessels and the designing and construction of entirely new fuel cells driven low-autonomy ships. 

Unfortunately, in 2021 there are so far no publicly available hydrogen fueling stations.