We observe air quality issues in our cities. It is not only about CO2 but also about NOx, SOx and particulate matter. These are much smaller particles that enter the bloodstream and are at the root of the cause of many deceases in big urban agglomerations. It is therefore important to tackle one of the main causes of these issues at city but also rural level: the transport sector.
Battery Electric Vehicles & Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles have a role to play
Many technologies have been developed over the years. Advances in terms of cleaner and more fuel-efficient engines have been made and there are, today, solutions to access a zero-emission mobility: Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs). These technologies enable the transition to a zero-carbon, zero emission transport sector. Even though these are two electric vehicles, one is directly powered by electricity (BEVs) and the other is powered through hydrogen (FCEVs).
Each technology offers their respective advantages and disadvantages.
Battery Electric Vehicles
- It is easier for to start the commercialisation as charging can be done at home or at work; however, a BEV can be recharged in 40min (fast charger) to 16hrs (home/office charging);
- Smaller cars are cheaper due to the smaller size of the battery (below 55kW); However, such a BEV has an autonomy of around 150km;
- The overall efficiency process from the electricity generation to the use of the car is better than for FCEVs (due to the multiple conversion processes); however, the surge in electricity demand of many fast charging electric points or home/office charging requires major adaptations of the electricity grid as today’s grid is not capable of coping with such demand.
Hydrogen offers a zero compromise, zero emission solution
- A FCEV has an autonomy of 500+ km
- A FCEV can be refuelled/refilled in under 5 minutes
- The business model and operation of a hydrogen infrastructure is the same as for a current gas station. This means that a FCEV infrastructure can be built on existing gasoline distribution and retail infrastructure, creating cost adv., preserve jobs and capital assets, reconverting it from a fossil fuel-based sector to a zero-emission one;
- The current value chain and corresponding jobs are safeguarded;
- A much higher energy density of the hydrogen storage system (compared to batteries), the sensitivity of the FCEV powertrain cost and weight to the amount of energy stored (kWh) is low. This means that this as the range, the weight or the volume to be transported grow in importance, the value proposition of FCEV increases. This is specifically important for Heavy duty vehicles as the increased required amount of hydrogen for these applications is much less than the number of batteries needed as their requirement mean that the increased number of batteries in a truck would be linear.
- Fuel Cells (platinum) recycling rates of >98% today. Batteries do not achieve this rate;
- The adaptation to a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure means no major impact on the electricity grid. To the contrary, the possibility to absorb the electricity when there is too much of it in the grid means that it deletes the stress and enables the decoupling of electricity supply and car refuelling.
Hydrogen in the different transport segments
However, hydrogen can be used as zero emission mobility in the different transport sectors whilst keeping the infrastructure and value chain in these equal:
Source: Hydrogen Council
In order to achieve a truly zero emission mobility sector, specifically in urban areas, cars need to be more and more electrified. FCEVs offer the public the best replacement for their current cars as it would be a zero-emission alternative without compromising their current driving habit.
Light Duty Vehicles (LDVs)
These vehicles have a particular set of requirements. Delivery trucks, etc. are driving around cities and in rural areas where the autonomy given by FCEVs enables these services to be delivered without compromises. Once more, having a dedicated refuelling/refilling station at the loading facility facilitates the refuelling as they would be able to do so in under 10 minutes.
Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs)
Trucks, buses, etc. are vehicles that need long range and high-power density. Features that are only available with FCEVs. The same applies to off-road vehicles.
Specifically those circulating in protected environments, need to switch from diesel-powered generators to a zero-emission solution. As the electrification of such lines is impossible, the hydrogen solution is therefore suitable. But this is also the case for normal lines where the traffic is not sufficiently dense to justify the high cost of electrification (catenaries) Furthermore, FCEV trains are already cost competitive with diesel trains (from a Total Cost of Ownership perspective).