Hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars are set to play a key role in reducing the emissions of road transport as we move forward. That is the conclusion of an unprecedented European study conducted to date on the prospects of various power-train solutions for personal mobility.
The study was prompted by the target set by the EU Commission and G8 nations to reduce overall CO2 emissions by 80% and road transport emissions by 95% by 2050. The study explores and compares the economics, sustainability and performance of internal combustion engines, battery electric vehicles, fuel-cell electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids for various vehicle segments.
According to the study, fuel cell electric cars, battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids need to reach a considerable market penetration in order to meet the CO2 reduction targets. The study found that whereas battery electric vehicles are ideal for short trips, in urban locations for example, fuel-cell electric vehicles offer the added advantage of longer ranges and shorter refuelling windows. The study thus concluded that they present the most viable drive concept for reducing CO2 emissions in the medium and larger vehicle segments. This segment covers about 50% of all vehicles and currently accounts for around 75% of all CO2 emissions in road traffic.
Based on current production methods, which involve steam reforming of natural gas, hydrogen cuts CO2 emissions for each kilometre driven by up to 30% compared with conventional petrol and diesel cars. The study shows that the 95% reduction target can be achieved by 2050 with the help of various hydrogen production methods, with an increasing share of renewable sources in the mix.
Linde, a world leading gases and engineering company, joined 29 other companies and organisations from the automotive, oil and gas, industrial gases, utility and energy industries in supporting the study by submitting comprehensive data. “This latest study provides convincing substantiation of the key conclusion we drew in a study back in 2005,” says Dr Andreas Opfermann, head of innovation management at Linde. “The cost involved in building up a hydrogen infrastructure would be of reasonable proportions. This has now been underscored by the latest in-depth findings.”
Linde is currently researching various production options aimed at gradually increasing the share of ‘green’ sources in the hydrogen landscape. One of these uses liquid biomass (glycerine), a by-product of biodiesel production, as the feedstock.
Looking at the total cost of ownership of a vehicle, the playing field will be more or less level for all drive concepts by 2025 – or earlier, with tax exemptions and/or incentives during the ramp-up phase.
In its ‘balanced’ scenario, the study assumes that fuel-cell vehicles will account for 25% of all cars on the road by 2050. This requires an investment of around Eur3 billion in a Europe-wide hydrogen refuelling infrastructure by 2020. Expressed as a percentage of the total cost of ownership, this corresponds to a mere 5%. To access the full study, visit www.zeroemissionvehicles.eu.