That's among key findings of a new series of future-gazing reports from LowCVP (the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership) on the eve of its annual conference (24 June 2015, Westminster).
Initial public support will also be needed to enable investment in the infrastructure to be kick-started, along with long-term policy clarity and consistent government and regulatory support.
The research, by consultancy Element Energy, says that the deployment of a public refuelling infrastructure – necessary for the UK to meet its carbon emission reduction targets for transport – will require more than £10 billion investment by 2050.
The studies are described as the missing piece of the jigsaw, complementing earlier work by the Automotive Council, which focused on the transition to lower carbon powertrains and fuels.
Aside from pointing to the need for a massive programme of installing electrical charging points for electric vehicles, the authors' point to a requirement for natural gas refuelling stations to support heavy-duty vehicles.
Refuelling technologies are mature, it says, but regulatory barriers need to be addressed. The UK, say the reports' authors, benefits from an extensive and advanced high-pressure gas grid, but refuelling stations need to be sited to take account of well-to-tank emissions and truck movements.
Meanwhile, for hydrogen, the study highlights its medium- and long-term potential as a vehicle fuel.
Its finding: initial infrastructure investments will require financial support from government, while local government can play a part by providing a base load through adopting hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles in public fleets.
Hydrogen demand from a range of vehicle types, from passenger cars to commercial vehicles and buses, will be needed to sustain the infrastructure during this early phase.
Then, beyond 2020, decreases in fuel cell vehicle costs and access to low cost, low carbon hydrogen is expected to allow a transition to profitable, private sector investments to build a UK-wide refuelling network.
Meanwhile, beyond 2030, the introduction of more fuel efficient engines and other road transport fuels will put pressure on the commercial viability of the existing forecourt network, particularly in rural locations.
The reports also comment on the potential for LPG and, longer term, for liquid air to contribute to decarbonisation and air quality improvement before 2050.
"The Infrastructure Roadmaps provide much of the missing information that was needed to give policy makers with a clear overview of the road to decarbonisation in terms of transport fuels," comments LowCVP policy and operations director Jonathan Murray.
And Celine Cluzel, lead author for Element Energy, adds: "These reports show the transport refuelling system of the future will be very different from today... It also shows there is still scope for many innovations and R&D, which is an opportunity for the UK to seize."
Mark Constable, EDF Energy's senior product manager - electric vehicles and future heat, says: "The reports recognise the quite different stages of lifecycle development for each fuelling infrastructure.
"We hope that this report is of value to all who read it, and that the march towards the ULEV future continues unabated."
Use the link below to download the reports.