Racing into the hearts and minds of many growth investors, EV stocks were one of the hottest industries last summer. While enthusiasm for them is still high, hydrogen stocks are currently having their own day in the sun. With industries and governments espousing the virtues of hydrogen-based power, fuel cell stocks, in particular, have soared to lofty valuations.

But investors who believe that fuel cell stocks are the only opportunity to gain exposure to the burgeoning hydrogen economy are mistaken. My pursestrings are pretty tight right now -- the household ice cream budget is pretty high -- but if I had investment dollars to put to work, I wouldn't add the usual fuel cell suspects to my portfolio. Instead, I'd be picking up shares of Air Products & Chemicals (NYSE:APD), Brookfield Renewable (NYSE:BEP) (NYSE:BEPC), and Hyzon Motors (NASDAQ:HYZN).

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Demonstrating hydrogen expertise since the 1950s

Since it delivered liquid hydrogen to NASA in the 1950s for rocket fuel, Air Products and Chemicals is now at the forefront of developing hydrogen solutions for us bound to terra firma. Partnering with Cummins, Air Products is working on a project to develop hydrogen fuel cell trucks. If successful, the collaboration will result in Air Products converting its global fleet of 2,000 trucks to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The partnership holds greater promise than just that, though. According to Air Products, the two companies will "will work together to increase the accessibility of renewable hydrogen, including hydrogen infrastructure opportunities that promote the adoption of hydrogen for mobility."

Besides transportation solutions, Air Products is working on transformative hydrogen-production projects. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the company is developing NEOM, a $7 billion facility that will be capable of producing 650 tons of hydrogen daily with the help of renewable energy sources, including solar and wind. In the Great White North, Air Products is developing a $1 billion project in Edmonton, Alberta, that will produce liquefied hydrogen for use in vehicles throughout western Canada.

With a $64.3 billion market cap, Air Products deals in a variety of industrial gases besides hydrogen. In fact, the $8.95 to $9.10 in adjusted earnings per share that management forecasts for 2021 is likely not based on its hydrogen business, so investors looking for greater hydrogen exposure will want to look elsewhere. 

Focus on the future with a green energy powerhouse

Like Air Products, Brookfield Renewable deals in much more than just hydrogen. The company is a global titan in renewable energy; its global portfolio of almost 6,000 power-generating assets has a generating capacity of nearly 21 gigawatts.

Brookfield Renewable grabbed investors' attention last September, when it announced that it's working with a familiar name in the fuel cell industry, Plug Power. According to the arrangement, Brookfield Renewable will provide renewable energy-sourced electricity to Plug Power, which will use it to produce about 10 tons of liquid hydrogen daily.

Brookfield Renewable is not producing the hydrogen, but the deal illustrates the potential that it has to help other companies procure green hydrogen. Unlike traditional hydrogen production that relies on natural gas, green energy uses electricity from low-carbon sources (like solar and wind power) to electrolyze water and produce hydrogen.

The chemical symbol for hydrogen in a bubble.

Image source: Getty Images.

As companies strive to reduce their carbon footprints, green hydrogen is emerging as a popular option. Plug Power, for example, is targeting daily green hydrogen production of 500 tons and 1,000 tons by 2025 and 2028, respectively. How much attention are others paying to green hydrogen? A lot! Goldman Sachs believes that it could grow to be a $12 trillion market by 2050.

Admittedly, Brookfield Renewable doesn't have robust exposure to hydrogen right now, but that may certainly change, suggesting forward-looking investors with long time horizons should consider picking up shares. On its Q2 2021 conference call, Connor Teskey, the company's CEO, commented: "We expect green hydrogen to be a very large and attractive investable opportunity for Brookfield Renewable in the future and one that we feel that we are exceptionally well positioned for when the cost curve for the production of green hydrogen comes down over time." 

Go for a ride...if you can handle the risk

For growth investors comfortable with a more speculative stock, Hyzon Motors, which debuted on the markets in late July after a SPAC merger, deserves a look. In developing fuel cells for buses and heavy-duty trucks, Hyzon bears some resemblance to another well-known fuel cell-focused company, Nikola (NASDAQ:NKLA). Just hearing that name -- after Nikola's rapid rise and fall -- may lead some to dismiss Hyzon.

But lumping the two companies too closely together is a mistake. Unlike Nikola, which has no vehicles on the road, Hyzon has already demonstrated the ability to deliver vehicles to customers; its parent company, Horizon, has provided fuel-cell systems to power hundreds of buses and heavy-duty trucks.

Investors who have followed companies that have gone public through SPAC deals know well the lofty projections that the companies have about future finances. Hyzon is no different. The company is guiding for revenue of $37 million in 2021, growing to $3.3 billion in 2025.

Profitability also emerges over the next few years. Projecting that it will turn EBITDA-positive in 2023, Hyzon forecasts growing EBITDA to $505 million in 2025. Similarly, the company projects generating positive free cash flow in 2024.

A hydrogen stock for all sorts of investors

Since my budget is tight at the moment, I won't be adding to my portfolio in the immediate future. When I have the chance, though, I'll be strongly considering Air Products, Brookfield Renewable, and Hyzon. As a more conservative investment, Air Products balances out the more risky proposition that Hyzon represents and would help diversify my portfolio.

Brookfield Renewable, on the other hand, already has a spot among my holdings -- and I'm eager to add even more to that position when the time is right, considering management's interest in hydrogen.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.