The South Korean government has announced an ambitious plan to move towards green energy by building three hydrogen-powered cities by 2022. Hydrogen promises to be a significant alternative for vehicles, homes and factories that can scale more easily for large deployment.

Hydrogen as a fuel source – and like most other alternative energy sources – has both pros and cons. On the pro side, when combined with oxygen to produce energy, the only byproduct of hydrogen is water. Additionally, it achieves more than twice the fuel economy of gasoline vehicles. It is considered a high-efficiency, low-polluting fuel that can be used for transportation, heating, and power generation, especially in places where the use of electricity creates other problems.

Hydrogen does come with some downsides, most notably its higher cost and the challenging requirements to transport it. However, it presents no more safety issues than gasoline.

Korea’s plan to create the first three hydrogen-powered cities will include cooling, heating, electricity generation and transportation. The specific locations of the three test cities are still under evaluation, but the intent is to apply hydrogen technology to its entire transportation system, including buses and personal cars.

Image: FuelCellsWorks

Hydrogen charging stations are also a crucial part of the plan – hydrogen fuel cell vehicles generally offer greater range and faster refueling times than electric vehicles – and will be available in bus stations and parking spaces. Due to the substantial advantages of hydrogen as a fuel source, there is strong expectation that they will accelerate the transition to cleaner vehicles across the nation.

Korea’s announcement complements the nation’s larger strategy to power 10 percent of the country’s cities, counties and towns by hydrogen by 2030, eventually increasing to 30% by 2040. This includes drastic increases in the numbers of hydrogen-powered vehicles and charging points in the next three years. South Korea’s government has earmarked money to subsidize these vehicles and charging infrastructure until their wide adoption and cost efficiencies.