Climate change and fleet requirements for passenger cars make a switch from the internal combustion engine to electric cars unavoidable. The crucial question in the automotive industry is: Should we rely on the battery as an energy storage medium or hydrogen? Or even push both to the same extent and subsequently bringing them both to the road?
Politicians and experts, the media and social forums regularly discuss whether Volkswagen’s decision to press ahead with electric mobility is the right one. Or whether Europe’s largest car manufacturer should not focus more on alternative drive technologies, above all hydrogen-based fuel cell technology.
Science is largely in agreement on this issue, as several recent studies have shown. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, for example, assumes that hydrogen and synthetic fuels, so-called e-fuels, will remain more expensive than an electric drive, as more energy is required for their production.The Agora Verkehrswende (traffic transformation) initiative also points out that hydrogen and e-fuels do not offer ecologically sound alternatives without the use of 100 percent renewable energies, and that, given the current and foreseeable electricity mix, the e-car has by far the best energy balance. In the view of the Fraunhofer Institute, synthetic fuels and drive technologies such as hydrogen in combination with the fuel cell will indeed play a role – but not so much in the passenger car sector, but rather in long-distance and heavy-duty traffic, as well as in rail, air and sea transport. These segments will only be converted in later phases of the energy turnaround, i.e. beyond the year 2030, and closely linked to the expansion of renewable energies.
In fact, hydrogen-based fuel cell technology has one crucial disadvantage: it is very inefficient – both in terms of efficiency and operating costs. This is also confirmed in detail by a Horváth & Partners study, comparing both types of drive for e-cars from the customer’s point of view.