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Comparing e-Fuels and Electrification for Decarbonization of Heavy-Duty Transports


The freight sector is expected to keep, or even increase, its fundamental role for the major modern economies, and therefore actions to limit the growing pressure on the environment are urgent. The use of electricity is a major option for the decarbonization of transports; in the heavy-duty segment, it can be implemented in different ways: besides full electric-battery powertrains, electricity can be used to supply catenary roads, or can be chemically stored in liquid or gaseous fuels (e-fuels). While the current EU legislation adopts a tailpipe Tank-To-Wheels approach, which results in zero emissions for all direct uses of electricity, a Well-To-Wheels (WTW) method would allow accounting for the potential benefits of using sustainable fuels such as e-fuels. In this article, we have performed a WTW-based comparison and modelling of the options for using electricity to supply heavy-duty vehicles: e-fuels, eLNG, eDiesel, and liquid Hydrogen. Results showed that the direct use of electricity can provide high Greenhouse Gas (GHG) savings, and also in the case of the e-fuels when low-carbonintensity electricity is used for their production. While most studies exclusively focus on absolute GHG savings potential, considerations of the need for new infrastructures, and the technological maturity of some options, are fundamental to compare the different technologies. In this paper, an assessment of such technological and non-technological barriers has been conducted, in order to compare alternative pathways for the heavy-duty sector. Among the available options, the flexibility of using drop-in, energy-dense liquid fuels represents a clear and substantial immediate advantage for decarbonization. Additionally, the novel approach adopted in this paper allows us to quantify the potential benefits of using e-fuels as chemical storage able to accumulate electricity from the production peaks of variable renewable energies, which would otherwise be wasted due to grid limitations.

Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Italy

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