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Batteries, Fuel Cells, or Engines? A Probabilistic Economic and Environmental Assessment of Electricity and Electrofuels for Heavy Goods Vehicles


Uncertainty surrounding the total cost of ownership, system costs, and life cycle environmental impacts means that stakeholders may lack the required information to evaluate the risks of transitioning to low-carbon fuels and powertrains. This paper assesses the life cycle costs and well-to-wheel environmental impacts of using electricity and electrofuels in Heavy Good Vehicles (HGVs) whilst considering input parameter uncertainty. The complex relationship between electricity cost, electrolyser capacity factor, CO2 capture cost and electricity emissions intensity is assessed within a Monte Carlo based framework to identify scenarios where use of electricity or electrofuels in heavy goods vehicles makes economic and environmental sense. For vehicles with a range of less than 450 km, battery electric vehicles achieve the lowest total cost of ownership for an electricity cost less than 100 €/MWh. For vehicles that require a range of up to 900 km, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles represent the lowest long-term cost of abatement. Power-to-methane and power-to-liquid scenarios become economically competitive when low-cost electricity is available at high-capacity factors and CO2 capture costs for fuel synthesis are below 100 €/tCO2; these fuels may be more applicable to decarbonise shipping and aviation. Battery electric HGVs reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to the diesel baseline with electricity emissions of 350 gCO2e/kWh. Electricity emissions less than 35 gCO2e/kWh are required for the power-to-methane and power-to-liquid scenarios to meet EU emissions savings criteria. High vehicle capital costs and a lack of widespread refuelling infrastructure may hinder initial uptake of low-carbon fuels and powertrains for HGVs.

Funding source: This work was supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) through the MaREI Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine under Grant No. 12/RC/2302_P2 and 16/SP/3829.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Ireland ; United Kingdom

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