Fuel cell more climate-friendly than BEVs on long distances, says Fraunhofer

July 15, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Fuel cell more climate-friendly than BEVs on long distances, says Fraunhofer
In times of a heated debate about climate change, battery electric vehicles are ahead of the game - even compared to fuel cell drives, right? A study by the Fraunhofer Institute comes to a surprising but unequivocal conclusion.

In a study, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE (Freiburg, Germany) investigated the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) generated during the manufacture, operation and disposal of battery and fuel cell vehicles with ranges of 300 kilometers and more for the periods 2020-2030 and 2030-2040 and compared them with those of battery electric vehicles. In addition, the scientists compared the values of diesel-powered passenger cars.

In their study, the researchers gave a detailed breakdown of how much material is required for the production of batteries, fuel cells and hydrogen tanks, and what emissions are produced during production and processing.

The result: The GHG footprint of the production and recycling of a fuel cell system including tank corresponds approximately to that of an electric drive with a battery capacity of 45 to 50 kWh. For cars with larger batteries, more GHG is emitted than for the fuel cell system in a comparable performance class.

In operation, the energy source for electricity and hydrogen is crucial. Following the assumptions of the study published by the Berlin think tank AGORA Verkehrswende, the Fraunhofer ISE has assumed solar power as the optimum for the battery car, whereby the battery vehicle is charged at a wall box at home. In the best case scenario for hydrogen, this is generated from 100% wind energy. However, emissions generated during charging were also compared with the electricity mix available in Germany and hydrogen production in the mixed case (50% natural gas and 50% wind power) or in the worst case 100% natural gas.

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