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Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Battery and Fuel Cell Electric Cars, Trucks, and Buses


Addressing the pressing challenge of global warming, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector is a critical imperative. Battery and fuel cell electric vehicles have emerged as promising solutions for curbing emissions in this sector. In this study, we conducted a comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) for typical passenger vehicles, heavy-duty trucks, and city buses using either proton-exchange membrane fuel cells or Li-ion batteries with different cell chemistries. To ensure accuracy, we supplemented existing studies with data from the literature, particularly for the recycling phase, as database limitations were encountered. Our results highlight that fuel cell and battery systems exhibit large emissions in the production phase. Recycling can significantly offset some of these emissions, but a comparison of the technologies examined revealed considerable differences. Overall, battery electric vehicles consistently outperform fuel cell electric vehicles regarding absolute greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, we recommend prioritizing battery electric over fuel cell vehicles. However, deploying fuel cell electric vehicles could become attractive in a hydrogen economy scenario where other factors, e. g. the conversion and storage of surplus renewable electricity via electrolysis, become important.

Funding source: Parts of this work were funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), project number 398051144, and by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of the Federal Republic of Germany as part of the Research Campus Mobility2Grid [ (accessed on 14 March 2024)], funding code: 03SF0674A.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Germany

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