Experts Finally Agree – Both battery and hydrogen fuel cars are needed to decarbonize

Experts Finally Agree – Both battery and hydrogen fuel cars are needed to decarbonize

September 12, 2023 10 By John Max

Though it may seem that the world is dividing between these clean energies, it’s not either/or.

Often when there are discussions about hydrogen fuel cells or battery electric engines, the conversation will focus on which one is the best clean energy option to power our future. Increasingly, experts are agreeing that it won’t be one or the other, and that it is likely that they will not be the only clean power options as we move forward in the battle against climate change.

There are advantages to both types of carbon emission-free power and they each have their place.

Proponents of each technology have been vocal in spotlighting the benefits that they have to provide. Often, they will compare battery electric to hydrogen fuel cell performances, particularly when it comes to vehicles. However, experts are now coming to the conclusion that it’s not really a matter of deciding which technology will win out and which will disappear. Instead, each form of clean power will find its place, as each has strengths in their own areas.

It’s true that battery electric passenger vehicles have taken a tremendous head start over hydrogen cars, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for both. Geography, use, cost, climate and other factors all play a role in determining which option is best suited.

Even in passenger vehicles hydrogen fuel cars are expected to play a supporting role in coming years.

According to Toyota’s fuel cell integration group senior engineering manager Jackie Birdsall and McKinsey & Co senior partner Bernd Heid, as zero-carbon transportation continues to advance, it is likely that fuel cell vehicles and electric cars will play complementary roles to each other.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle and Battery Electric Vehicle

They discussed this subject while taking part in an online panel hosted by Automotive News.

Two options are better than one

“I think we will see in the next year that we will need both technologies,” explained Heid. “The interesting part is that it’s not only dependent on the propulsion technology of the powertrain, but it also has to do with the infrastructure. And we will see that two infrastructures will be cheaper to society than if we just do all-electric infrastructure.”

hydrogen news ebook“Hydrogen and fuel cell electric vehicles are complementary,” said Birdsall in agreement, stating that the vehicle decarbonization transition cannot be accomplished through a single technology. “There’s two different use cases. Our job is to give these zero-emission technologies, to make them available to the customer, and then the customer can choose the application or the powertrain that best suits their lifestyle [and] that best suits their fleet’s needs.”

About the future of electric and hydrogen fuel vehicles, Birdsall went on to add that, “We need to invest in the infrastructure equally for both battery electric and for fuel cell electric vehicles so that they can both succeed and both be available because in reality, we’re going to need both if we are going to really achieve our decarbonization goals.”

FAQs about the debate between Battery Electric Cars and Hydrogen Fuel Cars

1. What are the main points of debate between Battery Electric Cars and Hydrogen Fuel Cars?

The main points of debate include:

  • Efficiency: Some argue that electric cars are more energy-efficient as they convert a higher percentage of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. However, others point out that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can have a longer driving range.
  • Infrastructure: Critics of hydrogen cars point to the lack of hydrogen fueling stations, while those skeptical of electric cars often point to long charging times and limited range.
  • Environmental impact: Both types of vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions, but there is ongoing discussion about the overall environmental footprint of each, considering factors like the production and disposal of batteries or the production and transportation of hydrogen.

2. Why do some people prefer Battery Electric Cars over Hydrogen Fuel Cars?

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People who prefer BEVs often cite their superior energy efficiency, lower running costs, and the growing availability of charging infrastructure. They also note that electricity can be produced from renewable sources, contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions.

3. Why do some people prefer Hydrogen Fuel Cars over Battery Electric Cars?

Supporters of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles value their speedier refueling processes and extended travel ranges in comparison to Battery Electric Vehicles. They contend that hydrogen, being the universe’s most abundant element, offers a virtually inexhaustible source of fuel. Furthermore, they emphasize that green hydrogen can serve as an ultimate fuel source capable of powering not only vehicles but also high-emission industries such as cement production. Using green H2 also will reduce the escalating demand for lithium mining.

4. Are there any compromises or middle grounds in this debate?

Yes, some propose plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as a middle ground. These vehicles run on battery power for short trips and switch to gasoline or diesel for longer journeys. Alternatively, some suggest that BEVs could be used primarily for urban commuting, while FCVs could be used for longer trips.

5. Which technology is winning the debate?

Currently, BEVs are more prevalent due to more developed infrastructure and lower vehicle costs. However, many experts believe that both technologies will coexist in the future, serving different needs in the transportation sector.

Please note that this information is subject to change as technology continues to evolve.


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