A major new study from researchers at The University of Queensland warns that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will likely have three times the emissions of battery electric vehicles, if using the main grid, and won’t make much environmental sense until the Australian grid is largely decarbonised.
The findings by the researchers, published last week and presented at the Australian Electric Vehicle Association’s annual conference on Friday, are an important reality check for consumers considering their next options on vehicles, partiuclarly if that choice is based on environmental concerns.
Research fellow and co-author Jake Whitehead says the reasons for the significantly higher emissions from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (often abbreviated as FCEV, or FCV, or HEV) is because of the amount of energy required to create the hydrogen that powers the cells.\
“Whilst some reductions are expected over the coming years, the universal laws of thermodynamics dictate that a minimum of 39 kWh of electricity is required to split 9 litres of water into 1 kg of hydrogen gas in a 100 per cent efﬁcient electrolyser,” says the researchers, which include Robin Smit and Simon Washington.
“In addition, clean water must be supplied, requiring more energy. The hydrogen gas must then be compressed for use in transport, given its low energy density and standard atmospheric pressure, requiring another 15-20 kWh of electricity in total per kilogram of hydrogen gas, and then be distributed for use.
“One kilogram of hydrogen gas is expected to drive a FCV approximately 100 kilometres (under US EPA test conditions).
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Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.