Hydrogen versus Battery

Prof. Volker Quaschning
Prof. Volker Quaschning

Prof. Volker Quaschning has been drawing attention to the climate problem for months with many public contributions and actively supports the Fridays-for-Future-Kids by, for example, setting up the Scientists-for-Future group and thus providing scientific support for the youth movement. In mid-August, he published a fact check on the question: Which car has the best climate balance? In this context, he also pursued the thesis that it would be better to rely on the fuel cell car rather than the battery car for climate protection.

He writes about it:
In order to operate a fuel cell car, hydrogen must first be produced and brought to high pressure. In the car itself, this must then be converted back into electricity with the help of a fuel cell. Both cause high losses, so that a fuel cell car needs almost three times as much electricity to produce the necessary hydrogen as a battery car needs to charge the batteries. So if you want to compare both vehicle variants, you also have to consider the production costs for the hydrogen for the fuel cell car. This eliminates the high manufacturing energy required for the battery. At the end of the day, the carbon footprint of both vehicle variants hardly differs [Ste19].

Currently, a large part of the hydrogen in Germany is produced from natural gas. This does not generate any benefits for climate protection. If we wanted to replace all cars with fuel cell cars and produce hydrogen through renewable energies in Germany, we would have to install almost three times as many wind power and solar plants. However, at least for the installation of the necessary wind power plants the necessary locations are missing in Germany [Qua16]. With the hydrogen solution we would therefore be dependent on the import of regenerative hydrogen. It is likely to be difficult to achieve this within the time windows required for climate protection. In addition, the hydrogen solution will also be more expensive than the battery version due to the high losses in the end.

It is therefore very likely that the hydrogen solution will be used primarily in vehicles with high daily mileages such as trucks, buses or cars for extreme frequent drivers. The normal car for average applications will very probably be a battery car in the future. There are no environmental disadvantages as a result.


Prof. Volker Quaschning, University of Technology and Economics (HTW)
Initiator of Scientists for Future

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