Batteries more sustainable than fuel cells, study says

November 17, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Over the past years, hydrogen fuel cell and battery propulsion technologies gave themselves a race about the pole position in electromobility. A joint study by the Stanford University and TU Munich (Munich Technical University) generated a rather significant hint which one makes more sense.

Fuel cell fans must be very strong now: Battery electric cars are clearly superior over fuel cell, at least in terms of sustainability. The reason is that hydrogen requires a very costly infrastructure; batteries therefore are the more cost-effective solution.

A team of researchers around Sally Benson, head of the Stanford Global Climate and Energy project. The team compared multiple different development scenarios for the time span until 2035, based on data of the Californian town of Los Altos Hills near San Francisco. The study also considered how the different electromobility approaches affect the overall energy consumption.

“If you take into account the total costs, you come to the conclusion that battery-driven electric vehicles are the superior solution to reduce the emissions, better than fuel cell vehicles”, said TUM doctorate Markus Felgenhauer who is also working for carmaker BMW in the area of energy management. The study shows that the fuel station infrastructure required for fuel cell vehicles is rather costly. To offset the additional cost it would be necessary to make the vehicles significantly cheaper. However, for the foreseeable future his won’t happen - quite the contrary, Felgenhauer explained.