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Hydrogen-powered cars

Today, transportation is 92% driven by oil and is responsible for 25% of all CO2 emissions. Moreover, the growth of developing economies is expected to lead to a rise in the number of automobiles in use worldwide.

Various studies indicate that the number of cars in circulation around the world could increase substantially between now and 2030. Today, there are around 1 billion vehicles in circulation; by 2030, the total could reach 1.5 billion.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles are electrical vehicles. The electricity they use is produced directly onboard the vehicle by a fuel cell that uses hydrogen. These ”zero emission” vehicles release only water and are already sharply reducing and even eliminating CO2 emissions. Various studies suggest that the hydrogen powered vehicle will be among the preferred solutions in the field of sustainable mobility: it combines respect for the environment with a great degree of autonomy.

Sustainable mobility

Coordinated by a group of industrial (carmakers, oil and industrial gas companies) and institutional (NGOs, and European and governmental organizations) players of the first rank, a comparative study has concluded that hydrogen will be among the leading solutions in the clean mobility objectives put forth by the European Commission.

This study  compared the technical, economic and environmental characteristics of vehicles and the infrastructures needed to achieve the objectives set by the European Commission in the area of reducing CO2 emission levels. The report concludes that it is necessary to develop a complementary set of vehicles in order to make zero carbon mobility a reality in Europe. It appears that vehicles running on fuel cells are the solution with the least carbon footprint for long distance travel and large vehicles (which represent 75% of total transport-related emissions).

The survey shows that both electrical and hydrogen infrastructures are necessary. In particular, rolling out a hydrogen infrastructure for cars appears to be technically feasible, economically affordable, and adjustable to needs.

Hydrogen energy : a solution for clean mobility

Did you know ?

Hydrogen offers a decrease of at least 20% in terms of CO2 release.

Combined with a fuel cell, hydrogen is a vector of clean energy that offers a decrease of at least 20% in terms of CO2 release compared with diesel engines. Developing the use of this gas for transportation purposes is one way of reaching the Paris objectives.

How it work

Hydrogen-powered cars are electric vehicles that produce their electricity onboard from a fuel cell.

Electric vehicles that run on hydrogen offer many advantages:

  • No local pollution
  • Substantial autonomy of almost 400 miles
  • Road performances rival those of conventional cars, flexible use
  • No shifting of gears required (electrical engine)
  • Hydrogen fill-up takes 3 to 5 minutes
  • High output of the propulsive chain: Fuel cell and electrical engine
  • No noise pollution
Hydrogen is an obvious solution for limiting dependency on oil and also ensuring that our vehicles are more environmentally friendly.


Its environmental performances

A car running on a hydrogen-powered fuel cell battery does not release CO2. It only releases water vapor.

Calculating the total environmental performance of a car, known as “from well to wheel”, means taking into account the following emissions:

  • Well to tank: emissions that are generated during the production of the fuel and for getting the fuel to the car.
  • Tank to wheel: emissions that are produced when a car uses this fuel.

Studies have been carried out to compare the emissions of identical cars, running on different types of fuel:

  • A car running on gas that consumes 3 gallons/100 miles
  • A car running on a fuel cell that consumes 1.6 kg/100 miles of hydrogen produced by methane reforming and transported by pipeline.

cH2ange -  Fuel cell cars

cH2ange is an initiative led by the Air Liquide Group on social media. This project revolves around the role hydrogen can play in the energy transition. 
Be part of the change. Join us on cH2ange.

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Its advantages

Electric vehicles that use fuel cells combine the advantages of conventional cars with a low environmental impact.

Electric vehicles that use fuel cells do not release co2 or polluting gases when they are operated, just steam.
Palo Alto Hydrogen Fueling Station

The electricity produced by the fuel cell running on hydrogen enables a vehicle to run cleanly and quietly.

The hydrogen electric car is a silent vehicle as the only perceptible noise is that which comes from wheel hitting the road and that related to aerodynamic phenomena.

A hydrogen-powered car consumes about 1.6 kg of H2 for 100 miles. Cars carry around 5 or 6 kg of hydrogen in highly pressurized tanks. The car’s autonomy is therefore around 400 miles. The use of a hydrogen-powered car does not mean a change in daily habits, since it takes no more time to fill up than with a normal car, just 3 to 5 minutes.

In addition, hydrogen electric vehicles benefit from the developments already made on hybrid vehicles: the battery in the car is recharged using the energy recovered during braking. This flexibility makes it possible to truly optimize the use of energy onboard the vehicle.

© Air Liquide - Chrystelle Raso