Most Automotive Leaders Back Hydrogen over BEV, Study Claims

Most automaker executives at director level believe hydrogen fueled vehicles would be better at combating climate change that BEVs.

The study run by automotive technology management consultants, Expleo, is based on the views of 225 senior executives from the automotive industry, split equally between the UK, France and Germany. It 71% of respondents believe hydrogen has significant ecological advantages of battery powertrains but there remains uncertainty around infrastructure and green hydrogen which is holding investment back.

Its report, The Road to Hydrogen Cars – Making the Automotive Sector Cleaner, suggests 36% of leaders recognize the potential for a green hydrogen solution to contribute toward sustainability goals but 28% think that investment remains weighted towards BEVs. The top benefits of hydrogen vehicles were lower emissions, cited by 51% of the UK leaders questioned, while 47% pointed better range and 48% welcomed their less reliance on rare minerals. However, many appear luke-warm about investing heavily in the technology while concerns remain around the lack of infrastructure and production of green hydrogen.

Respondents called out safety of engineering, complexity of scaling up production access to service stations and adequate supplies of sustainably sourced hydrogen as the main barriers to adoption.

Yet, more than 71% believe their company has the know-how to engineer affordable hydrogen solutions. The cost of production was seen as less of an issue in the UK where just 32% when in France 41% saw this as a barrier while and in Germany 47% said it is a challenge to the technology.

Automotive leaders remain optimistic about the immediate future for hydrogen with 63% of respondents in the UK believing that the first consumer options will be on the roads within two years. To achieve this, a strong commitment from government will need to be partnered with investment strategy, as seen in France where the report reveals that 36% of automotive companies are investing in hydrogen meanwhile just 28% are doing so in the UK and 27% in Germany.

Steve McEvoy, vice-president of automotive at Expleo, said: “The UK industry is aware of the potential that hydrogen has but a significant number are cautious about committing to the technology. The reality is, without significant investment in the infrastructure needed to store, transport and retail hydrogen alongside a solution to produce green hydrogen, manufacturers will continue to have reservations.

“Despite these challenges, our research shows there is an appetite among parts of the industry for hydrogen. Sustainable fuels are integral to the future of mobility, and if any government is to inspire innovation in the sector, they need to make it clear to leaders that investment in hydrogen technology won’t be in vain.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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