Stefan Herbst and Jürgen Gouldner, on behalf of Hydrogen Councildiscuss the benefits of deploying electric vehicles with batteries and fuel cells.
The transport sector is responsible for about 24% of the world’s CO2 emissions.1 Decarbonizing it will require perhaps the most significant transition in the history of the industry. Despite the challenge, it is important to tackle it in order to achieve carbon neutrality on a global scale.
Two electric mobility technologies, powered by batteries and hydrogen fuel cells respectively, have emerged as commercially viable solutions in different market segments that can help us move towards clean mobility. However, these solutions often compete with each other instead of complementing each other. This reductive dichotomy must be challenged by industry, governments and the general public if we are to achieve our common climate goals.
Many industry leaders are committed to a vision of decarbonising transport through a “combined world” approach – a set of solutions that includes both fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs). They mobilize unprecedented investment to bring both solutions to market because they believe that working together will make our transport greener and faster and cheaper than just one technology.
The advantages of implementing both BEV and FCEV
First, the implementation of BEV and FCEV in tandem maintains flexibility and choice for consumers in all transport sectors. The optimal choice between BEV and FCEV depends on the location and end use. With both available, we can meet the expectations of consumers and owners who want to optimize value. The better we meet customer needs and expectations, the faster they will make these clean decisions.
Second, from a systemic point of view, BEV and FCEV are remarkably similar in efficiency when starting from a power source – whether solar or wind. However, BEVs are not a viable option for all regions and applications and hydrogen can fill this gap. Hydrogen can be produced in regions with an abundance of renewable energy sources and sent to regions that are struggling to achieve self-sufficiency with renewable sources, thus expanding the penetration of renewable sources throughout the world economy.
Finally, the synergy between BEV and FCEV continues in the development of the related refueling or refueling infrastructure. While it is generally agreed that one infrastructure is cheaper than two, the data show that developing two infrastructure networks is more cost-effective. This is because hydrogen charging can reduce peak loads and bring large amounts of energy to relatively remote areas that have critical transport needs, while minimizing otherwise necessary and extremely expensive upgrades or grid expansion.
Cooperation is needed to decarbonise transport
We are convinced that both technologies are needed. We know that the transition to decarbonised transport is just beginning. Even with the high growth in BEV sales in recent years, 98% of passenger vehicles and almost 100% of commercial vehicles on the road are still powered by internal combustion engines. BEV and FCEV contribute to the same goal: decarbonisation of the global fleet. Every BEV and FCEV on the road is a step in the right direction.
The transition to zero-emission transport is very challenging, but it can be achieved when industry and government are focused on the goal and work together. We have at our disposal not just one, but two commercially viable options that can speed up and eliminate the risk of transition while keeping costs low. The pursuit of both FCEV and BEV simultaneously encourages innovation and progress. In the race to save the planet from global warming, we must follow both paths to succeed.
Technical Manager for Hydrogen Propulsion and Technical Fuel Cells Business Unit
Vice President of Fuel Cell Technology and Vehicle Projects
Please note that this article will also appear in the tenth edition of ours quarterly publication.