Zero-emission mobility: Unlocking the potential for hydrogen transportation in Cornwall

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In 2021, the government released their Hydrogen Strategy, initiating the journey towards a low-carbon hydrogen economy to help the UK achieve its net-zero emissions ambition by 2050. To support this initiative, we are driving the development of a hydrogen infrastructure in Cornwall – aiming to provide locally produced affordable hydrogen to meet Cornwall’s green transport needs.

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The challenges with electric vehicles

Transporting people, goods and services to support economy plays a significant role in climate change due to our continued reliance on fossil fuels. Hydrogen is emerging as a promising alternative. By introducing green hydrogen as a source of transport energy, we can begin to significantly reduce our carbon footprint and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Both electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have important roles to play in the future of transportation and decarbonisation. While EVs offer several environmental advantages , there are disadvantages in comparison to hydrogen – both from an environmental and practical standpoint.

Not all electricity is green

While EVs produce zero emissions at the tailpipe, the environmental impact of their operation depends on the source of electricity. EVs are often powered by electricity that comes from the grid, which comes from a range of energy sources. According to the National Grid↗, less than 40% of the electricity generated in 2022 came from renewable sources. If the electricity comes from fossil fuel power plants, the overall emissions associated with EVs may not be significantly reduced.

The environmental impact of battery production and disposal

EVs rely on lithium-ion batteries, which require the extraction and processing of raw materials including lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Aside from being expensive materials, mining has both environmental and social impacts. Furthermore, battery disposal and recycling present challenges in terms of managing potentially hazardous waste.

Range limitations

EV range is improving, but the limited range is still a concern. In the highly competitive freight industry, long-haul operations are common and the need for frequent recharging can cause inconvenience and longer travel times compared to traditional vehicles.

Driving the transition to green hydrogen transportation in Cornwall

As a part of our long-term vision, we will drive the development of a green hydrogen infrastructure in Cornwall by supplying accessible, affordable, and locally produced green hydrogen. Businesses currently reliant on damaging fossil fuels will have the opportunity to use green hydrogen to fuel their transportation needs. Carbon footprints will be reduced, bringing us closer to achieving a green, net-zero Cornwall.

The value of hydrogen-powered transportation

Hydrogen has a number of other advantages over EVs:

  • Zero emissions – 100% green

    When hydrogen is burned as fuel, the only byproduct is water vapour, producing zero greenhouse gas emissions. While both hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and EVs produce zero emissions at the tailpipe, their environmental impact depends on the source of energy used to produce the hydrogen or electricity. Our hydrogen, produced by electrolysis and generated locally by 100% renewable sources, is guarenteed green.

  • Efficient and flexible energy storage

    Producing hydrogen by electrolysis allows us to efficiently store excess energy to be used during periods of low renewable energy generation. This keeps our hydrogen availability constant and on demand. Hydrogen fuel cells are also lighter than battery systems, allowing for more payload capacity in certain transportation applications, including heavy-duty trucks and freight transport.

  • Long range and quick refuelling

    Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can be refuelled quickly, similar to traditional petrol or diesel vehicles. Freight is a highly competitive industry with deliveries often being time sensitive, where businesses rely on efficiency and productivity. Having long-range vehicles with quick refuelling options adds a competitive edge allowing companies to offer faster deliveries, more flexible logistics solutions to their customers, and more efficient and reliable services.

  • A versatile fuel source

    Hydrogen can be used in cars, buses, trucks – even ships and planes. It offers versatility across different transportation sectors, enabling the decarbonisation of a wide range of vehicles.

How a hydrogen powered transportation network would benefit Cornwall

Cornwall’s abundance of renewable energy sources – including wind, solar, and tidal power – makes it the ideal region for a hydrogen transportation network. By harnessing these resources to produce green hydrogen locally, Cornwall can reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels, improve air quality, and become more independent from energy suppliers. Adopting hydrogen-powered buses and trains will also enhance the overall visitor experience for the 5 million tourists that visit the region every year, and showcase Cornwall’s commitment being at the leading edge of sustainability.

Creating jobs and stimulating growth

Cornwall’s economic situation faces unique challenges. As a predominantly rural region with a heavy reliance on tourism and agriculture, we have experienced slower economic growth and higher rates of poverty than many other parts of the country. Creating a hydrogen fuelled transportation network in Cornwall, utilising its renewable energy resources and commitment to sustainability, not only benefits the environment but also stimulates job creation in the local renewable energy sector. As the demand for hydrogen-powered vehicles increases, we will help put Cornwall on the map as the hub for hydrogen technology innovation and manufacturing, positioning the region to play a vital role in the UK’s transition to a greener economy.

There are some big challenges to overcome before hydrogen can become a mainstream fuel source, such as the production and distribution infrastructure required for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. We are determined to help UK overcome these. Developing a hydrogen-powered transportation network in Cornwall offers significant environmental, economic, and social benefits. By investing in green technologies such as hydrogen-powered transportation, Cornwall can create a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous future for its residents and visitors alike.

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