Study finds fuel cell cars more climate friendly than batteries at longer range

Cars that are powered by hydrogen and fuel cells (FCEVs) have been found to be “more climate friendly” than battery-powered vehicles (BEVs) at a range of 250km or more.

Published in July, the study by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems saw an examination of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated in the manufacture, operation and disposal of BEVs and FCEVs with ranges of 300km or more. Cars with larger batteries were found to have more GHG emissions than for the fuel-cell system in a comparable power class.

Solar power charging was considered optimum for the battery car, with the best-case scenario for hydrogen being 100% generation from wind energy and the worst being 100% from natural gas, with the study placing an emphasis on the energy source used. Even in a worst-case hydrogen scenario, the GHG footprint over an entire lifecycle was still found to be below comparable BEVs for the next 10 years and lower than diesel vehicles. 

The study concluded vehicles with medium and small batteries of less than 50kWh storage capacity and ranges of up to 250km reduce emissions during operation, while fuel cell vehicles have substantial advantages at longer ranges.

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