Hydrogen is an important topic in the transition towards sustainable energy supply as well as in the transition towards sustainable mobility. However, these transitions are seldom considered together. In this paper we argue that a technical and institutional integration around grid-connected electric vehicles could lead to considerable synergy and efficiency improvements, as well as increased potential for achieving sustainability goals. The key to the integrated perspective is that the present utilization of car power-trains is on average possibly only about 5%. This implies that in effect 95% of the time these high-tech products are standing idle at a parking lot. This highly inefficient use of capital investments in a high-tech product in a offers of large potential for improvement in various ways.
With the renewed interest for the electric vehicle in its various forms like battery electric vehicles (BEV), (hydrogen-driven) fuel cell vehicles (FCV) and various types of hybrid propulsion, the potential role of this technology in the energy transition and possibly a very radical innovation becomes opportune. Connecting all 6 million cars in the Netherlands (assumed to the fuel cell vehicles) to the grid, for example, provides a total generation capacity of about 240 GW, i.e. more than 10 times the installed present electric power production capacity.
The starting points above have been used for developing two future visions that served as an input to a backcasting analysis. In the first vision A FCV's are used to provide power during peak hours and to store surplus power from large-scale renewable energy sources by using a reversible fuel cell. The fuel cell can charge the hydrogen storage devices on board the FCV's, but hydrogen is also provided by fuel stations. In the second vision B the power delivered to the grid by the grid-connected FCV's will fully meet the electricity demand, making central power plants obsolete.
The paper discusses and analyses both visions, before it deals with required changes, various implications and recommendations how to address further possibilities to explore research, social and policy issues, using the Netherlands as a case. The paper also discusses current developments with regard to plug-in vehicles, focusing in particular on developments in FCV's. It also introduces the backcasting approach and how it has been applied in the backcasting study reported on.