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Optimal Pathways for the Decarbonisation of the Transport Sector: Trade-offs Between Battery and Hydrogen Technologies Using a Whole Energy System Perspective


Several countries have revised their targets in recent years to reach net-zero CO2 emissions across all sectors by 2050 and the transport sector is responsible for a significant share of these emissions. This study compares possible pathways to decarbonise the transport sector through electrification including passenger cars, light commercial vehicles and heavy commercial vehicles. To do so, we explore 125 scenarios by varying the share of battery and hydrogen-based fuel cell electric vehicles in each of the three categories above independently. We further model the decarbonisation of the industrial hydrogen demand using electrolysers with hydrogen storage. To explore the potential role of electric and hydrogen transport, as well as their trade-offs, we use GRIMSEL, an open-source sector coupling energy system model of Switzerland which includes the residential, commercial, industrial and transport sectors with four energy carriers, namely electricity, heat, hot water and hydrogen. The total costs are minimised from a social planner perspective. We find that the full electrification of the transport sector could lead, on average, to a 12% increase in costs by 2050 and 1.3 MtCO2/year which represents a 90% CO2 emissions reduction for the whole sector. Second, the transport energy self-sufficiency (i.e. the share of domestic electricity generation in final transport demand) may reach up to 50% for the scenarios with the largest share of battery electric vehicles mainly due to a smaller energy demand than with hydrogen vehicles. Third, more than three quarters of the industrial hydrogen production is met by local photovoltaic electricity coupled with battery at minimum costs, i.e. green hydrogen. Finally, the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier to store electricity over a long period is not cost-optimal.

Funding source: This research project is financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) in the context of the project the project “The role of energy storage in the context of the Swiss energy transition” (acronym: SwissStore, grant number 205121 172703/1) as well as by the Chair for Energy Efficiency at University of Geneva.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Switzerland

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