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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Challenges to implementation of a hydrogen infrastructure for sustainable automotive transportation

Pierre Frederic Gaudillat

Challenges to implementation of a hydrogen infrastructure for sustainable automotive transportation


Transport accounts for more than half of total oil consumption in developed
countries, with serious consequences in terms of resource use and emissions. However,
petroleum products are extremely convenient, relatively cheap at present and the
infrastructure for their distribution is well established. Making transport sustainable will be
one of the main challenges of this century.

This research examines the challenges faced in the implementation of a sustainable
transport infrastructure based on hydrogen: the feasibility of current hydrogen technologies,
the predictable impact of a large-scale hydrogen system, and the problems of a transition
away from oil.

'Sustainable Transport' : main technologies, compared benefits and obstacles
By briefly comparing promising technologies for a sustainable transport system, we
will explore the available alternatives to fossil energy and consider why hydrogen is
presented more and more often as the 'fuel of the future', and in what sense this could come
true. In particular, the relative interest of hydrogen compared to renewable liquid fuels will
be examined, as well as the "chicken-and-egg" problem raised by the introduction of a new

The requirements of a sustainable Hydrogen transport economy
Building a sustainable hydrogen infrastructure from the ground up poses several
challenges in three main areas : production, storage and distribution of hydrogen.
The description of a plausible scenario for a large-scale hydrogen transport
infrastructure will highlight the main characteristics of such a system and the economic,
social and environmental impacts that have to be assessed, as well as the global energy
flows that would shift the balance we know today.
The transition to such a system raises specific questions in terms of emissions
optimisation over the transition period and overall environmental benefit.

Existing projects across the world
Faith in the future of hydrogen as a transport fuel has increased interest by forwardlooking
communities, firms and governments. We will present some case studies to
highlight the real-life challenges and hopes demonstrated by actual projects across the
world, and the local and regional opportunities that would influence the development of
hydrogen technologies.

Partial conclusions, prospects and limitations
In spite of the technological hurdles still to be overcome, hydrogen could prove to
be a viable alternative to fossil fuels in the long run. However, the transition from fossil
fuels is a serious challenge, in technological as well as social, economic, regulatory and
political terms. A more varied portfolio of renewable fuels might bridge the gap to
sustainable transport, with an emphasis on the link between global harmonisation and local
resources that will be considered in forthcoming research.




Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.