Many energy experts predict that hydrogen will satisfy our energy needs in the long run, because it represents a major step forward for modern industrialized society.
In recent years, Western governments attempted to find new energy solutions that can satisfy out growing energy needs, to power industry and commerce. However, the search for new energy solutions has not been particularly successful, especially because of the EROI (Energy-Reutrn-on-Energy-Invested), this includes photovoltaics and wind energy, is not yet sufficient to make them truly competitive with fossil fuels, especially oil and gas. Crude oil and natural gas, crude oil especially, has the advantage that it is readily accessible, and that it can be used without any further technical steps in its natural liquid form, at the same time it can be transported to another location with little effort. Natural gas can be liquefied using complex technology, but it is much less suited for transport in comparison to crude oil. Hydrogen, on the other hand, is very difficult to transport, and there are major obstacles regarding the safety of hydrogen use.
The handling of hydrogen brings with it a lot of problems in the transport sector, where many obstacles still have to be overcome. To avoid any misshappenings, new processes will have to be introduced in automobile construction and the development of a completely new hydrogen-based infrastructure.
The transport of hydrogen fuel is particularly problematic for the transport sector because hydrogen evaporates through the smallest openings. In order to avoid this problem, the entire transport sector would have to be revamped and adapt to the new hydrogen economy. How far automobile producers can be driven in that direction remains to be seen. In the short term, hydrogen will certainly not be able to replace fossil fuels.
When will the point be reached where hydrogen-powered vehicles will replace conventional diesel engines?
At this point in time the energy industry and especially the automotive industry are focusing on the production of battery-powered vehicles, perhaps completely ignoring the future of a hydrogen-powered economy. This is not to say that battery-powered vehicles will not be used, but rather that the future will certainly not only lie in battery-powered cars. Despite all technical and process-related developments, these still represent a very expensive transport solution for a very small customer segment who can afford to buy electric cars, but will certainly not be used in mass transport. The quality of rocks and metal ores and minerals has declined dramactially over the last 10 or 20 years world-wide, metals that are needed for industrial production of electric cars are simply not abundant enough. Rather, different transport solutions will be offered to different customer segments, and different transport solutions will exist side by side side.
The geological characteristics of Mother Earth and current availability of rare earths and metals used for batteries, metals that only exist in certain geopolitically problematic regions of our planet, do not allow battery-powered vehicles to be delivered quickly to the customer at the desired price. Cheaper solutions are needed. Even if we can create a hydrogen economy hydrogen transport will most certainly remain a luxury good for some time to come. At the same time, diesel-powered vehicles will continue to be the prefered means fo transport for the masses. Everything has its price.