The UK could see more than 1.5 million hydrogen powered vehicles on the roads by 2030, a study has suggested.
The forecast is part of an interim report which has been commissioned to work out the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and ensure that the UK is well placed for their roll-out in the commercial sector.
The UKH2Mobility project, which came up with the study, unites top businesses from the automotive, energy, infrastructure and retail sectors with government.
With the study giving a "roadmap" for introducing vehicles and a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, Business Minister Michael Fallon announced that the change to ultra-low emission vehicles has begun already.
Mr Fallon said the report could bring about "really significant new economic opportunities" and diversify the supply of national energy as well as free road transport from carbon emissions.
He added that the findings showed hydrogen fuel cell electric cars for sale could make a big contribution in this field.
True government partnership with industry was needed to commercialise the technology successfully, said Mr Fallon.
The need for quick action was recognised by the UKH2Mobility project in order that businesses and customers see any benefits, he added.
"Our international rivals are looking to steal a march in this area and so UKH2Mobility recognises the importance of prompt action," said the minister, who added that the UK already had a strong automotive sector and had to ensure that this remained the case.
The auto industrial strategy, to be published this year, will examine opportunities for the UK to take a lead role in in low carbon technologies.
The study found that as many as 10% of new customers will be receptive to the first fuel cell vehicles as they will be drawn to the new technology and environmental considerations. It also found that initial uptake of vehicles would progress with models coming on to the market and the maturation of the fuelling network, and a co-ordinated network of hydrogen refuelling stations will need to be established.
The roadmap shows that FCEVs, which give out no harmful tailpipe emissions, could cut UK annual total vehicle CO2 emissions by three million tonnes in 2030.
The encouragement of early purchase of FCEVs needs a network of hydrogen refuelling stations, concluded the study which added that there will be a delay between setting up the network and the existence of enough FCEVs on the road to make it financially self-sustaining.
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