Building the hydrogen highway

Meeting our reduced emissions targets isn’t a matter of one single solution — it will require innovation from every sector. As a significant contributor to global emissions, the transportation sector has massive opportunity to be a solutions leader. And electric vehicles aren’t the only technology with big potential. Here’s how hydrogen technology could contribute to zero-emissions vehicles.

Canada’s commitment to both reduce its GHG emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 requires bold actions from both public and private leaders to support the decarbonization of GHG-emitting sectors. Achieving Canada’s commitments will require large-scale deployment of a mix of available zero-emission energy technologies. To tackle climate change and meet our targets, several interventions will be required across all sectors to transition to zero-emission or low carbon intensity fuels.

Canada, as a world leader in hydrogen technology and research, has the opportunity to implement home-grown zero-emission solutions that both support our economy and contribute to a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future. While the technology for hydrogen is available, the economic business case for large-scale end-use is still emerging.

The hydrogen opportunity

The recent Hydrogen Strategy for Canada (December, 2020) presents an ambitious and comprehensive road map for how hydrogen power will help achieve our net zero goals by 2050.

A cornerstone to Canada’s road to decarbonization, hydrogen power will follow various pathways and regional implementation strategies, depending on regional feedstock, existing energy sources, cost, and carbon intensities.

According to the Hydrogen Strategy for Canada, a well-developed hydrogen strategy may provide up to 30 per cent of Canada’s end-use energy by 2050.

Canada’s submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change showed that — without further intervention — Canada was set to miss its 2030 Paris Accord target by 77 megatonnes*.
(*2019 reporting)



Internal combustion engine cars driven for one year


of all cars registered in Canada

Why hydrogen?

While electric vehicles are effective in many instances, long-haul trucking and transportation are particularly suited to hydrogen-powered fuel cells, as electric vehicles have a number of operational disadvantages — the range of battery electric vehicles is short relative to an average freight trip, and fueling times for electric batteries are significantly longer than hydrogen fuel, the weight of batteries compromise the amount of cargo that trucks can carry, and batteries can be ill-suited for cold climates due to increased power draw further limiting the range.

Currently, heavy-duty hydrogen freight trucks are in the pre-commercial phase in North America, and as part of the Hydrogen Strategy, will need to be scaled up across key regions and hubs in Canada in the short-term. Private industry is eager to participate, but business leaders have cited road blocks such as a lack of existing network infrastructure, high fuel costs, transition risk and adoption costs, and market uncertainty.

Key stakeholders in the value chain

The opportunity will require exceptional levels of engagement, collaboration and initiative from the public sector, industry members, and local and Indigenous communities to create pan-Canadian expertise and knowledge while developing tailored, regional solutions.

Hydrogen Production & Distribution

  • Power producers
  • Storage and handling
  • Equipment manufacturers
  • Distribution technologies
  • H2 producers
  • Natural gas providers

Fuel Cells and OEMs

  • Fuel cell manufacturers
  • Truck & Original Equipment manufacturers
  • Information technology providers
  • Refueling station manufacturers

Freight Carriers / Fleet Owners

  • Trucking associations
  • Fleet owners
  • Major retailers
  • Postal services
In 2019, 730 Mt-CO2e were emitted in Canada, 65 Mt-CO2e of which were specifically attributed to heavy duty freight vehicles.*

The time is now

Any infrastructure projects currently in the concept phase that support large-scale adoption of zero-emission or low-carbon fueling alternatives must be put into motion today in order to significantly contribute to our 2030 target.

One of our first opportunities could be found in the Ontario–Quebec 401/20 highway, which is the busiest trucking corridor in Canada in terms of volume, economic activity, and cross-border trade with the US. 2012 data gathered from commercial vehicle surveys estimate that approximately $200,000,000 worth of goods move along the corridor each day.

By reimagining the future of long-haul trucking, and beginning those changes today, we can create reliable supply chains that bolster our economy in a more environmentally sustainable way.

Hydrogen fuel has enormous potential to help us accelerate the journey to a low-carbon economy, but there are costs and challenges involved. In Canada, we have the potential to leverage our existing natural gas infrastructure to help overcome those challenges to deliver low-carbon energy safely and reliably. Find out more.


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