The coronavirus outbreak has kept global communities confined for months. Though the main objective was stopping the spread of the virus, it also resulted in the steepest one-year decline in global carbon emissions since World War II. Daily global emissions fell by 17% at the peak of the lockdown, with road transport emissions responsible for 43% of this drop.1 However, as economies regain strength and people get back on the move, it is likely emissions will rapidly rebound.
But is going back to business as usual really an option? With existing clean transport solutions ready to be scaled, better air quality and cleaner urban life don’t need to be short-lived. It’s up to governments, industry and investors to redirect stimulus and investments for positive, lasting change.
Batteries and hydrogen: Two sides of the same coin
If we want deep decarbonisation, we need deep electrification. Analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that two solutions will be particularly crucial: batteries and hydrogen-powered fuel cells.2 Yet batteries and hydrogen fuel cells are often talked about as a zero-sum game. This way of thinking needs to change, as they share a symbiotic relationship and are mutually beneficial – so development and investment in both needs to happen in parallel. If our common goal is decarbonisation, this is no time for tribalism. This is time for collaboration. We need all hands (and technologies) on deck.
“Batteries and hydrogen are often talked about as a zero-sum game. This way of thinking needs to change….”
Though essential for electrified power solutions, battery transport applications are limited by recharging time and range. That’s where hydrogen comes in to enhance battery performance. While battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are the most competitive alternative for small vehicles and short ranges, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) offer increased flexibility by supporting long distance driving and high intensity in usage, as well as heavy-duty transport (trains, trucks, coaches, taxi fleets and forklifts). Whereas each technology has strengths for different uses, battery and hydrogen solutions can be combined in hybrid systems to overcome the limitations of each technology on its own, making a dent in overall carbon emissions, and supporting local air quality improvements and noise reductions3 for the full spectrum of transport.
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