If haulage operators are to transition successfully to hydrogen-powered vehicles then decentralised methods of providing hydrogen must be rolled out, because the development of the country’s hydrogen fuelling infrastructure could take ”decades”.

The warning comes from specialist engineering firm IMI. Chief executive Jackie Hu welcomed the government’s most recent Hydrogen Strategy Update which underlines the importance of H2 in the future of the heavy transport and logistics sector as it transitions away from diesel-fuelled fleets. However Hu pointed out that the government’s current plans for a limited rollout of existing H2 infrastructure could hamper the uptake of the fuel.

Hu said that ”while the update’s emphasis on co-locating supply and demand through large-scale hydrogen storage and integration within gas networks are undoubtedly welcome steps in this direction, this plan’s full execution could take years if not decades to materialise”.

Hu is arguing for a more decentralised approach which can be delivered much more rapidly than large-scale hydrogen storage and integration within gas networks. He said: ”Green, decentralised solutions such as proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers could help bridge this gap.

”Adopted at scale, these solutions could help alleviate current obstacles while the fit-for-purpose hydrogen vehicle infrastructure required for the sector’s net zero journey is being developed.”

Another benefit would be less reliance on the National Grid which would reduce the strain on the network, highlighted by the continuation of demand flexibility services this winter, Hu said.

”The use of smaller-scale, modular hydrogen facilities based on electrolyser technology are well-placed to alleviate this issue in urban areas and hard-to-electrify rural locations,” he added.

“Such challenges demonstrate the logistical obstacles that need to be overcome to integrate hydrogen into the UK’s National Grid. But even though this may be a complicated process, it is necessary nonetheless.

”Decentralised energy generation solutions can help commercial transport operators more easily transition to alternative fuels regardless of location, while also lowering storage and transport costs that may have previously proved a barrier to implementation.

”The convenience and consistency of on-site electrolyser technology should be considered as a cornerstone of the sector’s decarbonisation plans while the latest Hydrogen Strategy Update’s recommendations are rolled out,” Hu explained.