How new energy sources could reshape the future of driving

February 7, 2020

Saskia Harreman
Head of Knowledge Centre

According to projections by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Union (EU) is on track to meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target of 20% compared to 1990 levels by the end of this year. However, radical change is still required if we are to achieve the 2030 targets. These relate not only to domestic GHG emissions, but also to energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy sources. The mobility sector has an important role to play in accomplishing all of these targets – which is why the emerging renewable fuels of hydrogen and solar power could become relevant for fleet managers sooner than we expect.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are catching on rapidly, not least thanks to governmental support and automotive industry investment. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but many more EVs will need to be sold if the EU targets are to be met. So perhaps it is time to widen our view and consider other innovative sustainability-related advancements. The use of hydrogen and solar power as renewable fuels for electric vehicles has the potential to contribute to the EU’s climate goals. And as this rapidly becomes increasingly realistic, it could well offer a new way forward.

New energy sources for vehicles

Hydrogen is a hot topic because its unique properties make it ideal in the transition to clean fuel; combustion emits just pure water rather than CO2 and other harmful substances. Hydrogen is not without its challenges, however. There are three methods of hydrogen production (‘grey, blue and green’), each with their own pros and cons relating to sustainability and costs.

Overall, there is currently not enough hydrogen to power all cars, so the use of hydrogen as fuel has so far mainly been limited to buses in public transport networks. Heavy freight transport is regarded as offering the biggest opportunities in the future, mainly because hydrogen enables a longer range than rechargeable batteries. However, a number of hydrogen-powered passenger cars are already available, such as the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo, and hydrogen is attracting increased attention in the light commercial vehicle (LCV) segment too.

The launch of more new models of hydrogen-powered passenger cars could provide much-needed help in bringing prices down, thus stimulating both demand and investment in further development of this market. This would also help to tackle the issue of the sparse refueling infrastructure; hydrogen is currently available at just over 150 refueling stations in the whole of Europe.

In terms of energy efficiency, solar energy (along with onshore wind) is hard to beat, of course. Vehicles charged by the sun’s rays have long been regarded as science fiction. But in fact, a fully electric solar-powered vehicle – the Lightyear One – is now scheduled for market launch this spring and will be exclusively available through LeasePlan!

The signs seem to indicate it will mainly become a combination of hydrogen for heavy freight transport and EVs for general mobility and LCVs,

Why is this important for international decision makers

The core target in the Climate Agreement is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. Employers must do their bit to help achieve this goal. The biggest gains are to be made by switching to EVs – especially solar-powered ones – and vehicles running on sustainably produced hydrogen. As global trends and industry capabilities are rapidly changing, we provide you with updated information to stay well informed in order to define and sharpen the strategic approach for your international fleet.

Download the white paper

For more insights into what these developments could mean for your lease policy, feel free to contact us or download LeasePlan’s white paper ‘Is the sun shining on new energy sources? The future of solar-powered and hydrogen-powered mobility’.