Hydrogen as an energy carrier has experienced a surge in attention from corporations, governments, investors, and the general public. It is being heralded as the critical link for transitioning the energy sector away from fossil fuels towards clean and renewable sources. As a result, countries and companies are investing heavily in research to make hydrogen commercially viable, especially within industries that are energy and pollution heavy.
Hydrogen is no industry newcomer. From oil and steel to chemicals and fertilizers, industrial sectors are already using its “grey” form to supplement their intense energy demands. Though global demand for hydrogen has grown steadily over the past few decades, reaching 120 million tons in 2019, production is far from the levels needed to cover future industrial needs in a low carbon economy. Production must be significantly scaled.
What’s more, it must be green and clean, not the grey and dirty sort that is responsible for 830 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year. Currently, green hydrogen – the sort made using renewable energy and water electrolysis, and the sort needed to reach net zero by 2050 – represents less than 4% of all hydrogen produced. Ramping up production is necessary but costly, hampered by a host of technical challenges across the supply chain.
The idea is simple. Use an electric current to break water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. If that electric current comes from renewable sources, then the process is carbon-free. Reversing the process via a fuel cell (putting hydrogen and oxygen back together) creates an electric current (and water as a byproduct). Scaling, however, adds complexity.
At every stage of hydrogen’s supply chain – storage, transmission, and distribution – challenges grow as scale increases. Generating green hydrogen at industry scale remains the biggest hurdle and explains why volumes have remained low.
Tightening emissions standards, a clean renewable fuel, and a sector in transition would imply that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the sustainable solution of choice for cutting emissions in transport
Despite the significant technical, economical, and logistical hurdles, most experts agree that within five to ten years, hurdles will be cleared and hydrogen’s decarbonizing potential will be realized.
Road transport is a heavy carbon-emitting sector and with the pending demise of the internal combustion engine, it is already in a state of disruption. Tightening emission standards, a clean renewable fuel, and a sector in transition would imply that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the sustainable solution of choice for cutting emissions in transport. However, closer analysis reveals a better path forward – battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs).
Batteries certainly have disadvantages. For one, they are heavy, which limits range. In addition, fuel cell EVs offer faster refueling. Moreover, battery manufacturing is energy intensive and recycling is not optimal from an economic point of view. Finally, battery manufacturing employs controversial minerals like cobalt, where ethical sourcing poses problems.
But even these arguments against batteries are weakening. Breakthroughs that surmount previous challenges are emerging across all aspects of battery technology – from weight, range and charging to recycling and raw materials in production.
Battery-powered electric vehicle (BEVs) also start with some significant advantages of their own. The cost of owning and using a BEV is cheaper (fuel cell components are currently costly), their lifetime emissions and carbon footprints are lower (most hydrogen fuel is still produced using dirty sources, see graph), and their energy efficiency is higher (green hydrogen-powered cars still need twice the amount of renewable electricity to cover the same range).
What’s more, battery-powered EVs are popular among consumers and sales are increasing worldwide. More demand means increased economies of scale, which will drive costs further down and infrastructure spending further up.
The outlook for hydrogen-powered vehicles improves when applied to the larger scales needed for public transport. But here too, batteries win in terms of sustainability and economic costs where infrastructure and networks already exist.
Hydrogen’s long-range, lightweight and fast-fueling features make it ideal for long-haul cargo transport, and companies such as Daimler, Shell, Hyundai, and Toyota are investing heavily in developing fuel cell fleets. Meanwhile, BEV suppliers are working to optimize vehicle designs in order to shed weight in other areas.
Moreover, in markets like the EU, regulations mandating driver breaks have reduced the time and cost advantages of fuel cell electric vehicles. For long-haul transport, freight trains electrified by overhead wire infrastructure offer a more economical and sustainable alternative.
To maximize efficiency in warehousing requires forklifts to be at near 100% operating capacity. Unlike battery powered forklifts, fuel cells can operate for long stretches without stopping for lengthy recharges that take both forklift and driver out of action. Added efficiency is why warehousing and distribution giants like Walmart and Amazon are expanding fuel cell forklift fleets.
So, is the hype around hydrogen justified? The answer is a yes, but the hype should be directed to the right sectors.
So, is the hype around hydrogen justified? The answer is a yes, but the hype should be directed to the right sectors. Though exceptions exist, notably forklifts, battery-powered vehicles offer a more sensible way to decarbonize road transportation with immediate effect.
As technology advances, production scales and supplies increase, the hope and hype of green hydrogen for decarbonizing heavy-emission sectors will cede to probable and predictable. 2050 is a few decades removed, but the one directly ahead will be especially critical for revealing how quickly hydrogen technologies can surmount challenges and turn hope into a tangible alternative for fueling the world’s economies.
This information is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer to sell or an invitation to buy any securities or products, nor as investment advice or recommendation.
The contents of this document have not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”). Robeco Singapore Private Limited holds a capital markets services license for fund management issued by the MAS and is subject to certain clientele restrictions under such license.
An investment will involve a high degree of risk, and you should consider carefully whether an investment is suitable for you.
Warning/Important note: This website contains information which is only available to qualified investors as defined below. If you are not a qualified investor, please click “I Disagree” to leave the website.
By clicking on "I agree", I declare that:
1 - This website may only be accessed directly or indirectly by the following persons in Singapore:
1) “institutional investor” under section 304 of the Securities and Futures Act (Cap.289)(“SFA”), which means:
(i) the Government; (ii) a statutory board as may be prescribed by regulations made under section 341 of the SFA; (iii) an entity that is wholly and beneficially owned, whether directly or indirectly, by a central government of a country and whose principal activity is (A) to manage its own funds; (B) to manage the funds of the central government of that country (which may include the reserves of that central government and any pension or provident fund of that country); or (C) to manage the funds (which may include the reserves of that central government and any pension or provident fund of that country) of another entity that is wholly and beneficially owned, whether directly or indirectly, by the central government of that country; (iv) any entity (A) that is wholly and beneficially owned, whether directly or indirectly, by the central government of a country; and (B) whose funds are managed by an entity mentioned in sub-paragraph (iii); (v) a central bank in a jurisdiction other than Singapore; (vi) a central government in a country other than Singapore; (vii) an agency (of a central government in a country other than Singapore) that is incorporated or established in a country other than Singapore; (viii) a multilateral agency, international organisation or supranational agency as may be prescribed by regulations made under section 341 of the SFA; (ix) a bank that is licensed under the Banking Act (Cap.19); (x) a merchant bank that is approved as a financial institution under section 28 of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act (Cap.186); (xi) a finance company that is licensed under the Finance Companies Act (Cap.108); (xii) a company or co-operative society that is licensed under the Insurance Act (Cap.142) to carry on insurance business in Singapore; (xiii) a company licensed under the Trust Companies Act (Cap.336); (xiv) a holder of a capital markets services licence; (xv) an approved exchange; (xvi) a recognised market operator; (xvii) an approved clearing house; (xviii) a recognised clearing house; (xix) a licensed trade repository; (xx) a licensed foreign trade repository; (xxi) an approved holding company; (xxii) a Depository as defined in section 81SF of the SFA; (xxiii) an entity or a trust formed or incorporated in a jurisdiction other than Singapore, which is regulated for the carrying on of any financial activity in that jurisdiction by a public authority of that jurisdiction that exercises a function that corresponds to a regulatory function of the Authority under this Act, the Banking Act (Cap.19), the Finance Companies Act (Cap.108), the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act (Cap.186), the Insurance Act (Cap.142), the Trust Companies Act (Cap.336) or such other Act as may be prescribed by regulations made under section 341 of the SFA; (xxiv) a pension fund, or collective investment scheme, whether constituted in Singapore or elsewhere; (xxv) a person (other than an individual) who carries on the business of dealing in bonds with accredited investors or expert investors; (xxvi) the trustee of such trust as the Authority may prescribe, when acting in that capacity; or; (xxvii) such other person as the Authority may prescribe.
2) “relevant person” under section 305(1) of the SFA, which means:
(i) An accredited investor; (ii) a corporation the sole business of which is to hold investments and the entire share capital of which is owned by one or more individuals, each of whom is an accredited investor; (iii) a trustee of a trust the sole purpose of which is to hold investments and each beneficiary of which is an individual who is an accredited investor; (iv) an officer or equivalent person of the person making the offer (such person being an entity) or a spouse, parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of that officer or equivalent person; or (v) a spouse, parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of the person making the offer (such person being an individual).
3) any person who acquires the units [in a collective investment scheme] as principal if the offer is on terms that the units may only be required at a consideration of not less than $200,000 (or its equivalent in a foreign currency) for each transaction, whether such amount is to be paid for in cash or by exchange of units in a collective investment scheme, securities, securities-based derivatives contracts or other assets, and if the following condition is satisfied: (i) the offer is not accompanied by an advertisement making an offer or calling attention to the offer or intended offer; (ii) no selling or promotional expenses are paid or incurred in connection with the offer other than those incurred for administrative or professional services, or by way of commission or fee for services rendered by any of the persons specified in section 302B(1)(d)(i) to (vi) of the SFA; and (iii) no prospectus in respect of the offer has been registered by the Authority or, where a prospectus has been registered (A) the prospectus has eAccxpired pursuant to section 299 of the SFA; or (B) the person making the offer has before making the offer 1. informed the Authority by notice in writing of its intent to make the offer in reliance on the exemption under this subsection; and 2. taken reasonable steps to inform in writing the person to whom the offer is made that the offer is made in reliance on the exemption under this subsection.
4) Or otherwise pursuant to, and in accordance with the conditions of, any other applicable provision of the SFA.
If you are not any of the types of persons described above, you are not authorized to enter this website and you should leave this website immediately.
2 Terms and Conditions
You acknowledge that you have read these Terms and Conditions (“Terms”) prior to accessing the website located at www.robeco.com/sg (“Website”) and you agree to be bound by the Terms. If you do not agree to all of the Terms, you are not an authorised user and you should not use the Website. The Website is owned by Robeco Singapore Private Limited (company registration number: UEN. 201541306Z), which is licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) pursuant to the Securities and Futures Act (Cap.289) (“SFA”) of Singapore, and is managed by Robeco Singapore Private Limited and/or its affiliates (collectively, as “Robeco”). The Website is intended for and should be accessed by institutional investors or accredited investors (as defined under Section 4A of the SFA) of Singapore. The Website is not directed to, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of or located in any locality, state, country or other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to law or regulation or which would subject the Robeco to any registration or licensing requirement within such jurisdiction. It is your responsibility to observe all applicable laws, rules and regulations of any relevant jurisdiction. The content contained in the Website is owned by Robeco and/or its information providers and is protected by applicable copyrights, trademarks, service marks, and/or other intellectual property rights. You may not copy, distribute, modify, post, frame or link the Website, including any text, graphics, video, audio, software code, user interface, design or logos. You may not distribute, modify, transmit, reuse, repost, or use the content of the Website for public or commercial use, including all text, images, audio and/or video. Robeco may terminate your access to the Website for any reason, without prior notice. Neither Robeco, nor any of its associates, nor any director, officer or employee accepts any liability whatsoever for any loss arising directly or indirectly from the access of the Website. You agree to indemnity and hold Robeco, its associates, directors, officers or employees harmless against any and all claims, losses, liability, costs and expenses arising from your use of the Website due to violation of the Terms. Robeco reserves the right to change, modify, add or remove any parts of the Terms at any time and for any reason. The Terms shall deemed to be effective immediately upon posting. The Terms shall be governed by, and shall be construed in accordance with, the law of Singapore.
The Website has not been reviewed by the MAS. Accordingly, the Website may not be accessed directly or indirectly to persons in Singapore other than (i) to an institutional investor under Section 304 of the SFA, (ii) to a relevant person pursuant to Section 305(1), or any person pursuant to Section 305(2), and in accordance with the conditions specified in Section 305, of the SFA, or (iii) otherwise pursuant to, and in accordance with the conditions of, any other applicable provision of the SFA.
Nothing in the Website constitutes tax, accounting, regulatory, legal or investment advice. The Website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer to sell or an invitation to buy any securities or products, nor as investment advice or recommendation or for the purpose of soliciting any action in relation to Robeco’s businesses, or solicitation by anyone in any jurisdiction in which such an offer or solicitation is not authorised or to any person to whom it is unlawful to make such an offer and solicitation. Any reproduction or distribution of information from the Website, in whole or in part, or the disclosure of its contents, without the prior written consent of Robeco, is prohibited. By accessing to the Website, you agree to the foregoing.
The funds referred to in the Website are for information only. It is not a recommendation or investment advice, nor does it mean the funds is suitable for all investors. The contents of the website is not reviewed by the MAS. Any decision to participate in the funds should be made only after reviewing the sections regarding investment considerations, conflicts of interest, risk factors and the relevant Singapore selling restrictions. You should consult your professional adviser if you are in doubt about the stringent restrictions applicable to the use of the Website, regulatory status of the funds, applicable regulatory protection, associated risks and suitability of the funds to your objectives.
Any decisions made based on the information contained in the Website are the sole responsibility of yours. Any investments made or to be made shall be with your independent analyses based on your financial situation and objectives. The investments and strategies contained in the Website may not be suitable for all investors and are not guaranteed by Robeco.
Investment involves risks and may lose value. Historical returns are provided for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily reflect Robeco’s expectations for the future. The value of your investments may fluctuate. Past performance is no indication of current or future performance. The Website may contain projections or other forward looking statements regarding future events or future financial performance of countries, markets or companies and such projection or forecast is not indicative of the future. The information contained in the Website, including any data, projections and underlying assumptions are based upon certain assumptions, management forecasts and analysis of information available on an “as is” basis and without warranties of any kind, whether express or implied, and reflects prevailing conditions and Robeco’s views as of the date published or indicated, and maybe superseded by subsequent events or for other reasons. The information contained in the Website are accordingly subject to change at any time without notice and Robeco are under no obligation to notify you of any of these changes. Robeco expressly disclaims all liability for errors and omissions in the information presented in the Website and for the use or interpretation by others of information contained in the Website.
Robeco Singapore Private Limited holds a capital markets services licence for fund management issued by the MAS and is subject to certain clientele restrictions under such licence. An investment will involve a high degree of risk, and you should consider carefully whether an investment is suitable for you.