- Hydrogen makes sense in cars?
- “Automotive Industry 2035 – Forecasts for the future”
- “Rational reasons will trigger large economies of scale in e-mobility”
- Range anxiety and fast charging as key factors
- A question of efficiency
- “Dangerous hype” about hydrogen?
- What are the costs for the consumer??
The production start of the ID.3 raises the question of the most advisable drive technology: battery or hydrogen? Volkswagen explains in a current contribution, where according to the current state, the decisive advantages of the E-drive against the fuel cell. And why the manufacturer consists of the decision to consistently promote e-mobility for correct.
For weeks and months, yes, among politicians and experts, in media and social forums the question is discussed: it is correct, electromobility decided and consistently advanced? Or should automakers not rely more on other alternative drive technologies, especially the hydrogen-based fuel cell technology?
The Volkswagen Group’s decision is clear: As a large volume manufacturer, it is focusing on battery-powered electric cars for a broad target group – even if Group Research is continuing to explore fuel cell technology and Audi has announced a hydrogen-powered vehicle for 2021. However, the turnaround in mobility must take place in large volumes – if only for the sake of climate protection and the Paris Agreements. In just a few years, Volkswagen plans to sell more than a million electric vehicles a year.
Hydrogen makes sense in cars?
Volker Quaschning, Professor for Regenerative Energy Systems at the HTW Berlin, shares this assessment. According to Quaschning, in order to produce hydrogen cars in large quantities, numerous countries would have to import regenerative hydrogen, which is hardly feasible in the near future. In addition, the hydrogen solution will ultimately be more expensive than the battery variant because of the high energy losses.The climate footprint of the two vehicle variants, on the other hand, “hardly differs in the end.Quaschning’s conclusion: It is very likely that hydrogen will be used “especially in vehicles with high daily mileage”. “The normal car for average applications will very likely be a battery car in the future. There are no environmental disadvantages as a result.”
“Automotive Industry 2035 – Forecasts for the future”
Fichtner’s and Quaschning’s positions coincide with the results of the study “Automobile Industry 2035 – Forecasts for the Future”, in which the management consultancy Horváth & Partners recently had a detailed examination carried out to determine whether battery-powered or hydrogen-powered e-cars will prevail in the future. The study was created over a period of six months, accompanied by 80 people/interview partners and financed by the management consultancy itself. “The main reason for our investigation was that Horváth & Partners serves many clients in the automotive supply industry. Of course, they want to know what they have to prepare themselves for in the next 10 to 15 years,” said Dietmar Voggenreiter, who headed the study.
The study first undertakes an analysis of the reasons for purchase. Why should customers switch to electric cars? A two-phase model is currently the most likely, they say: the “push phase” and the subsequent “pull phase”.
In the push phase from now until around 2023/2025, manufacturers will push e-mobility. The main reasons are the strict CO2 standards. Added to this are the initially high investment costs. Both mean that purchase incentives have to be set in order to bring electric cars onto the market. In the subsequent pull phase up to 2030 and above all up to 2035, e-cars will also become financially more interesting for customers.
Because with the introduction of the Euro 7 standard, the combustion engines are becoming more expensive, and the purchase price delta compared to electric cars is falling. This development is also reinforced by the fact that a CO2 tax – no matter how detailed it may be designed – makes fossil fuels even more expensive.
“Rational reasons will trigger large economies of scale in e-mobility”
At the same time, many customers experience the consumption cost advantage compared to petrol and diesel as very positive (more so in countries with lower electricity prices than in Germany). This cost advantage is supplemented by lower service costs: Because the electric car has fewer service-relevant components such as oil and petrol filters than a combustion engine, less maintenance and repairs are required. And: The costs for oil and lubricant changes are completely eliminated.
Overall, the study shows that fuel costs are around 400 to 600 euros lower and service costs are 200 to 400 euros lower per year, depending on the model. A price advantage of 600 to 1000 euros in just twelve months is very interesting for consumers. “There will come a time, and fairly quickly, when rational reasons will trigger large economies of scale in e-mobility,” says Voggenreiter from Horváth & Partners
Range anxiety and fast charging as key factors
In addition, however, there are the emotional issues: fear of range and fast charging. Both, the authors of the study are convinced, will be solved and will then no longer slow down the spread of electric cars in the pull phase from 2023/2025. The ranges will increase, and more charging points and quick charging stations will minimize the fear of breaking down.
Finally, the discussion about the actual CO2 savings: Because the electricity used to manufacture electric cars is still “dirty”, at least not green everywhere, an electric car today brings a comparatively large “rucksack” with it when it is produced. Investigations calculate that it is only after more than 100.000 kilometers in total (production and operation) saves more CO2 than a combustion engine. According to the study, this will also change in the coming years in favor of e-cars: With more green electricity in the production of e-cars and batteries, this “initial rucksack” will gradually become smaller, and the e-car will save more CO2 more quickly.
Horváth & Partners have also taken on board the criticism from many hydrogen advocates that they should take into account the so-called dark lull in battery operation. The dark lull means the time when power generation is not possible due to darkness and/or no wind. For this purpose, a corresponding additional requirement was added to the primary energy requirement of the battery.
A question of efficiency
The most interesting part of the study remains: Which energy has the best efficiency and is the most cost-effective to power electric cars: battery or hydrogen operation?
With battery-powered e-cars, only eight percent of the energy is lost during transport before the electricity is stored in the vehicle’s batteries. When the electrical energy is converted to drive the electric motor, another 18 percent is then lost. The battery-powered e-car thus achieves an efficiency of 70 to 80 percent, depending on the model.
With hydrogen-powered e-cars, the losses are significantly greater: 45 percent of the energy is already lost in the production of hydrogen through electrolysis. Of the remaining 55 percent of the original energy, another 55 percent is lost when converting hydrogen into electricity in the vehicle. This means that the hydrogen-powered electric car only achieves an efficiency of 25 to 35 percent, depending on the model. For the sake of completeness: When burning alternative fuels, the effectiveness is even worse: only 10 to 20 percent overall efficiency.
“Dangerous hype” about hydrogen?
“In addition to the very real potential of green hydrogen, there is currently a dangerous hype,” warn experts from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) management consultancy in a new study quoted by the Handelsblatt. Also the Horvath&Partners study comes to the same conclusions here.
Instead of spending billions on the vision of a hydrogen society, investments in the promising technology should rather focus on applications in which they also make economic sense, the authors of the study conclude.
“We believe that there is great potential in pushing green hydrogen into applications where it can really take off in the long term. Above all in industry, but also in heavy goods, air and ship traffic,” says Frank Klose, co-author of the study.
The fuel cell has many advantages (range, fast refueling, no heavy battery on board) but one decisive disadvantage: It is comparatively inefficient – in terms of its efficiency and its costs. “No sustainable economy can afford to use twice the amount of regenerative energy to drive fuel cell cars instead of battery vehicles,” says study leader Dietmar Voggenreiter.
Hydrogen could only be used in niches, in trucks and buses, and over long distances. The battery weight, the range and the refueling time play a decisive role here. It increases extremely with increasing capacity, which then makes batteries uninteresting even for trucks. In addition, existing truck filling stations could be converted into a hydrogen filling station network with reasonable effort due to their lower number.
What are the costs for the consumer??
It is clear that hydrogen-powered e-cars will be more expensive than battery-powered vehicles, not only to buy, but above all to operate. The double primary energy requirement of hydrogen-powered vehicles compared to battery-powered vehicles will be reflected in consumer prices. Drivers already pay around nine to twelve euros per 100 kilometers for hydrogen-powered e-cars, but only two to seven euros per 100 kilometers (depending on electricity prices in the individual countries) for battery-powered e-cars very differently for their individual mobility.
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