The Future of Hydrogen: Why Aren’t Hydrogen Engines Used Today?

The Future of Hydrogen: Why Aren't Hydrogen Engines Used Today?

In the Vast World of Renewable Energies and Sustainable Technologies, Hydrogen Emerges as a Leading Candidate to Revolutionize Our Way of Moving and Producing Energy

Despite its potential, hydrogen engines have not yet achieved mass adoption. Why is this? Join me as we explore the technical and economic factors that influence this situation and gain a deeper understanding of the fascinating world of hydrogen.

The Promise of Hydrogen

Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, has been proposed as a clean solution for many of our energy needs. Hydrogen engines can operate in two main ways: through direct combustion of hydrogen in a modified internal combustion engine or through fuel cells that generate electricity to power electric motors. The reaction in fuel cells combines hydrogen with oxygen from the air to produce electricity, with the only byproduct being water, making it an extremely clean alternative.

The Reality

Despite the promise of hydrogen, its widespread adoption faces several challenges:

  1. Green Hydrogen Production: Most hydrogen produced today comes from processes that use fossil fuels, specifically natural gas reforming, which emits CO2. For hydrogen to be truly sustainable, it must be produced by electrolysis using electricity from renewable sources. However, this method is expensive and requires large amounts of electricity.

  2. Storage and Transportation: Hydrogen has a low volumetric energy density compared to fossil fuels, making its storage and transportation a challenge. It needs to be compressed at high pressure (700 bar) or liquefied at low temperatures (-253°C), both costly and energy-intensive processes.

  3. Refueling Infrastructure: Unlike gasoline or diesel, the infrastructure for distributing and refueling hydrogen is almost nonexistent in many countries. Spain, for example, has fewer than 10 operational hydrogen stations, which severely limits the practical viability of hydrogen vehicles.

Economic Aspects

  1. High Initial Costs: Hydrogen vehicles, such as the Toyota Mirai or the Hyundai Nexo, are significantly more expensive than their internal combustion counterparts or even battery electric vehicles (BEVs). This is due to the high production costs of fuel cells and hydrogen tanks.

  2. Economies of Scale: The mass production of hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure has not yet reached a scale that allows for significant cost reductions. Automakers and infrastructure providers need colossal investments and a secure adoption market to justify these expenses.

Comparison with Electric Vehicles

Battery electric vehicles have advanced significantly in the last decade. With an ever-expanding charging network and improvements in battery energy density, BEVs present serious competition for hydrogen vehicles. Additionally, the cost of batteries has decreased considerably, making BEVs more accessible to the average consumer.

Governmental Support and the Future

In recent years, there has been an increase in governmental support for the development of hydrogen technologies. The European Union’s “Hydrogen Roadmap” and Spain’s National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) both include ambitious targets for the deployment of green hydrogen and its integration into various applications, from transportation to heavy industry.

Opportunities and Technological Advancements

  1. Production Innovation: Companies and universities are researching more efficient and cheaper methods to produce green hydrogen. Technologies such as high-temperature electrolysis and the use of photocatalytic materials are on the horizon.

  2. Hydrogen Storage: Research into storage materials such as metal hydrides and carbon nanotubes promises to make hydrogen storage and transportation safer and more efficient.

  3. Fuel Cell Improvements: Advancements in fuel cell efficiency and durability are under development, which could reduce costs and increase the competitiveness of hydrogen vehicles.

Debunking Myths and Exploring Its Potential in Spain

In the world of clean energy, hydrogen presents itself as a silent titan, loaded with the potential to revolutionize our energy future. However, despite its obvious advantages, its large-scale adoption remains a challenge. In this post, we will address the question “Why aren’t hydrogen engines used?”, debunking common myths and exploring the reasons why this technology is ready to take off, especially in a country like Spain.

Debunking Myths: Hydrogen is Not Just a Utopia

Myth 1: Hydrogen is too expensive and inefficient.

While it is true that large-scale hydrogen production from renewable sources is still in its early stages, costs have decreased significantly in recent years. Additionally, the efficiency of hydrogen engines is comparable to that of internal combustion engines and far exceeds electric motors in terms of power and range.

Myth 2: Hydrogen is dangerous and its storage is complex.

Hydrogen is, indeed, a flammable gas, but no more so than gasoline or natural gas. With proper safety measures, its storage and transportation are viable and reliable. Additionally, storage technologies like metal hydrides are evolving rapidly, improving safety and efficiency.

Myth 3: There is no hydrogen infrastructure.

Hydrogen infrastructure is under development, but refuelling stations are already in operation in several countries. Investment in this infrastructure is growing rapidly, driven by government policies and private sector interest.

Spain: An ideal scenario for hydrogen

Spain has great potential to become a leader in hydrogen production and use, thanks to its abundant solar and wind power. In addition, the Spanish government has demonstrated a strong commitment to the development of this technology, setting ambitious targets for the production and consumption of green hydrogen.

Benefits of hydrogen for Spain:

Energy decentralisation: Hydrogen allows renewable energy to be stored and transported efficiently, promoting decentralisation of the energy system and energy independence.

Job creation: The hydrogen industry has the potential to generate thousands of jobs in Spain, both in production and in the end use of the technology.

Emissions reduction: Green hydrogen is a clean energy source that does not produce polluting emissions, which contributes to the fight against climate change and improves air quality.


Although hydrogen engines present an environmentally and technically viable alternative to fossil fuels, several technical and economic challenges have prevented their widespread adoption. However, with government support, technological innovation and growing interest in sustainable solutions, the future of hydrogen looks promising. The key will be to overcome current barriers and develop a robust infrastructure that makes hydrogen an accessible and attractive option for all.

Hydrogen is not just a utopia, but a real technology with enormous potential to transform our energy system. While there are still challenges to overcome, technological advances and political support are paving the way for a hydrogen-powered future. In Spain, conditions are ripe for this technology to flourish, generating economic, social and environmental benefits for the country.

In short, although the road to hydrogen adoption is complicated, the environmental benefits and long-term potential make it worth the investment and effort. So stay tuned, because hydrogen could be the fuel of the future closer than we think.

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