A new study from Stanford University has corroborated what should really be common sense by this point, that battery electric vehicles are a better choice for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are.
News to no one that isn’t a hydrogen ideologue, but still good to see things quantified in detail.
Notably, though, the new study found that part of the reason why communities would be better off investing in electric vehicles is that “hydrogen infrastructure provides few additional energy benefits for the community besides clean transportation.”
“We looked at how large-scale adoption of electric vehicles would affect total energy use in a community, for buildings as well as transportation,” stated lead author Markus Felgenhauer, a doctoral candidate at TUM and former visiting scholar at the Stanford Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP). “We found that investing in all-electric battery vehicles is a more economical choice for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, primarily due to their lower cost and significantly higher energy efficiency.”
Sensibly, the researchers focused their work on California, as the state is one of the few places where consumer hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are available (mostly owing to substantial state incentives and subsidies).
The press release provides more:
“In the study, the researchers created future scenarios for the Town of Los Altos Hills, a sunny, affluent community of about 8,000 residents located in Santa Clara County just a few miles from the Stanford campus. …
“The scenarios focused on 10 to 20 years in the future, when battery and fuel cell vehicles are expected to be in much wider use, and when solar power and electrolyzers are cost competitive with the electric grid.
“One scenario for the year 2035 assumed that electric vehicles would constitute 38% of the town’s vehicle fleet. It also assumed that fuel cell vehicles would be powered by locally produced hydrogen made with the cheapest available electricity, be it solar generated or obtained from the grid. Data about Los Altos Hills was fed to a computational model developed by study co-author Thomas Hamacher, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at TUM.”
“We provided data on the amount of energy Los Altos Hills needs throughout the day, as well as financial data on the cost of building new energy infrastructures,” stated study coauthor Matthew Pellow, a former GCEP postdoctoral scholar now with the Electric Power Research Institute. “We included the cost of making solar panels, electrolyzers, batteries, and everything else. Then we told the model, given our scenario for 2035, tell us the most economical way to meet the total energy demand of the community.”
The researchers also compared the carbon dioxide emissions associated with each scenario.
So, how did the two scenarios compare?
“In terms of overall costs, we found that battery electric vehicles are better than fuel cell vehicles for reducing emissions,” Felgenhauer noted. “The analysis showed that to be cost competitive, fuel cell vehicles would have to be priced much lower than battery vehicles. However, fuel cell vehicles are likely to be significantly more expensive than battery vehicles for the foreseeable future. Another supposed benefit of hydrogen — storing surplus solar energy — didn’t pan out in our analysis either. We found that in 2035, only a small amount of solar hydrogen storage would be used for heating and lighting buildings.”
The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the journal Energy. While the work was focused on a specific part of California, the researchers note that the findings are widely applicable, and that they will be working to demonstrate this through future examinations of other regions.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book
Our Latest EVObsession Video
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.