Infoscience

Journal article

A quasi-Delphi study on technological barriers to the uptake of hydrogen as a fuel for transport applications : production, storage and fuel cell drivetrain considerations

The introduction of hydrogen in transport, particularly using fuel cell vehicles, faces a number of technical and non-technical hurdles. However, their relative importance is unclear, as are the levels of concern accorded them within the expert community conducting research and development within this area. To understand what issues are considered by experts working in the field to have significant potential to slow down or prevent the introduction of hydrogen technology in transport, a study was undertaken, primarily during 2007. Three key technology areas within hydrogen transport were selected – hydrogen storage, fuel cell drivetrains, and small-scale hydrogen production – and interviews with selected experts conducted. Forty-nine experts from 34 organisations within the fuel cell, automotive, industrial gas and other related industries participated, in addition to some key academic and government figures. The survey was conducted in China, Japan, North America and Europe, and analysed using conventional mathematical techniques to provide weighted and averaged rankings of issues viewed as important by the experts. It became clear both from the interviews and the subsequent analysis that while a primary concern in China was fundamental technical performance, in the other regions cost and policy were rated more highly. Although a few individual experts identified possible technical showstoppers, the overall message was that pre-commercial hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could realistically be on the road in tens of thousands within 5 years, and that full commercialisation could take place within 10–15 years, without the need for radical technical breakthroughs. Perhaps surprisingly, the performance of hydrogen storage technologies was not viewed as a showstopper, though cost was seen as a significant challenge. Overall, however, coherent policy development was more frequently identified as a major issue to address.

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