As we navigate the alternative fuels landscape, the electric vehicle (EV) sector stands out with its rapid advancement and unwritten future. Highlighting this shift, a projection from PwC estimates a remarkable trajectory for the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) market, stating, “The electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) market could grow from $7 billion today to $100 billion by 2040 at a 15% compound annual growth rate.” This forecast underscores the significant investment and growth anticipated in the infrastructure supporting electric vehicles, marking a pivotal moment in the transition towards more sustainable transportation solutions.

Despite a relative surge in EV adoption, a significant challenge remains in their environmental impact. According to the National Academies of Science, up to two-thirds of the electricity used for recharging EV batteries comes from burning fossil fuels, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. This reality highlights a critical area for improvement in the EV ecosystem, underscoring the need to transition the electric grid towards more renewable or low emitting sources to fully realize the environmental benefits of electric vehicles.

Two primary EV methods are battery electric power, where the vehicle uses stored electricity to power its motor, and fuel cell electric, where electricity is generated through the use of fuel cells. Battery electric is the default in most people’s minds, and requires expansive infrastructure investment on multiple fronts. As mentioned, that starts with much more power onto the grid, more renewable and low-carbon power capacity added, more electric grid infrastructure, and then more charging stations to keep the vehicles moving.

A potentially less infrastructure-intensive way to support EV development is to leverage existing infrastructure in a way that enables more clean hydrogen for use in fuel cell EVs.

The proliferation of retail hydrogen fueling stations in select markets, such as California, bolster the initial deployment of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) by manufacturers like Hyundai and Toyota. These stations are strategically located in key urban and connector locations, with mobile hydrogen fuelers also in development to support further infrastructure expansion. Efforts to extend hydrogen fuel availability to Hawaii and the East Coast are underway as the demand for FCEVs grows, making the construction of more stations economically feasible. Expanding hydrogen applications, including for heavy-duty trucks, is expected to enhance fuel efficiency and reduce costs for both heavy- and light-duty hydrogen fuel users.

Infrastructure development is crucial for the adoption of hydrogen technology, with the U.S. Department of Energy’s H2USA initiative leading the charge in collaboration with various stakeholders. This effort aims to provide reasonably-priced hydrogen across strategic locations, complementing the growing network of over 100 retail and planned stations across the country. Safety, codes, and standards are being developed based on industry best practices, with DOE coordinating to ensure hydrogen’s safe use in transportation.

To accelerate the transition to a hydrogen-powered future, initiatives like H2USA can help stakeholders demonstrate hydrogen’s viability as a transportation fuel. Further leveraging existing infrastructure can even extend the potential further by reducing new build outs. One example is distributed hydrogen production, where the clean fuel is produced on-site rather than at a centralized facility. Innovative methods like thermal methane pyrolysis can even accomplish this without carbon dioxide emissions. Encouraging the development and use of hydrogen fueling infrastructure promotes cleaner energy options and supports the broader adoption of FCEVs, driving us toward a more sustainable and energy-diverse future.

As we stand on the precipice of the future, the exploration and adoption of sustainable fuel alternatives like biodiesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), and electric and hydrogen vehicles may herald a new era in transportation. Yet, the path to a greener future is paved with challenges that require collective action, innovation, and enormous infrastructure investments.

Governments and policymakers can participate by prioritizing the development of supportive legislation that incentivizes the use of clean fuels, invests in research and development for sustainable technologies, and builds a robust infrastructure to accommodate these changes. The private sector also plays a pivotal role by innovating in the field of alternative fuels, investing in sustainable practices, and leading by example in corporate responsibility. The collaboration between government and the private sector is also key, to find ways to strategically and prudently utilize existing infrastructure to its optimal level.

In conclusion, the journey toward a greener future is a collective endeavor that requires the engagement of all sectors of society. By embracing innovation, advocating for prudent policy change, supporting sustainable practices, and making informed choices, we can steer our world toward a cleaner, more sustainable future. The road ahead is long, and the infrastructure challenges are significant, but with determination and collective action, a greener future is within our grasp.

We do not have to wait for the future to shape us—instead, we can shape the future, one sustainable mile at a time. Together, we can turn the tide against climate change and pave the way for generations to come, proving that when it comes to our planet, the power of human ingenuity and commitment knows no bounds.

Follow along in this alternative vehicle fuels series and click here for our kick off blog or the whole series.


Written by Mustafa Haque, Public Policy Intern

The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.