Post #72: Virtual postcard from Oslo

With severe travel restrictions still in place, your author has sadly not had the chance to travel to Oslo recently; there have been no opportunities to visit the Vigeland Sculpture Park, Viking Ship Museum, Arkershus Fortress or anything similar. However, he was there in spirit – along with around 400 other people – yesterday, attending the Norwegian Hydrogen Conference, an event arranged by hydrogen.no (an industry body) and hosted entirely virtually.

Eight hours of online presentations provided a fascinating insight into key developments in the hydrogen industry. Presenters comprised a broad range of stakeholders including politicians (both leading parties in Norway were represented), industry players, (across multiple sectors including energy and transport) consultants, analysts and lawyers. If there was one clear consensus that emerged from the event then it was that hydrogen has a crucial role to play as a future fuel in a low (or zero) carbon world.

Regardless of the end-market use for hydrogen (and heavy-duty trucking seems the most logical at present), the key challenge is how to scale up the industry. Consensus at the conference seemed very much to be of the view that hydrogen fuel technology is where solar was a decade or so ago. Falling costs can help drive industry growth although the perennial problem remains whether to build infrastructure before the demand for new solutions exists, or vice versa.

From an industry perspective, both Toyota and Iveco made compelling cases for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FECVs). Toyota described a process whereby vehicles would transition over time from hybrid to battery-operated to FECV. Toyota highlighted how FECV costs had already fallen by over 95% since its first prototype models a decade ago, yet the industry was still just at “stage one.” Meanwhile, Iveco is a key partner to Nikola (a leading FECV truck business based in the US), which already has an order book for its products equivalent to $10bn. Per Iveco, by bringing down the total cost of vehicle ownership through an integrated hydrogen infrastructure (vehicles and charging stations), Nikola is driving “end-to-end disruption.”

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