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Evaluating Fuel Cell vs. Battery Electric Trucks: Economic Perspectives in Alignment with China’s Carbon Neutrality Target


The electrification of heavy-duty trucks stands as a critical and challenging cornerstone in the low-carbon transition of the transportation sector. This paper employs the total cost of ownership (TCO) as the economic evaluation metric, framed within the context of China’s ambitious goals for heavy truck electrification by 2035. A detailed TCO model is developed, encompassing not only the vehicles but also their related energy replenishing infrastructures. This comprehensive approach enables a sophisticated examination of the economic feasibility for different deployment contexts of both fuel cell and battery electric heavy-duty trucks, emphasizing renewable energy utilization. This study demonstrates that in the context where both fuel cell components and hydrogen energy are costly, fuel cell trucks (FCTs) exhibit a significantly higher TCO compared to battery electric trucks (BETs). Specifically, for a 16 ton truck with a 500 km range, the TCO for the FCT is 0.034 USD/tkm, representing a 122% increase over its BET counterpart. In the case of a 49 ton truck designed for a 1000 km range, the TCO for the FCT is 0.024 USD/tkm, marking a 36% premium compared to the BET model. The technological roadmap suggests a narrowing cost disparity between FCTs and BETs by 2035. For the aforementioned 16 ton truck model, the projected TCO for the FCT is expected to be 0.016 USD/tkm, which is 58% above the BET, and for the 49 ton variant, it is anticipated at 0.012 USD per ton-kilometer, narrowing the difference to just 4.5% relative to BET. Further analysis within this study on the influences of renewable energy pricing and operational range on FCT and BET costs highlights a pivotal finding: for the 49 ton truck, achieving TCO parity between FCTs and BETs is feasible when renewable energy electricity prices fall to 0.022 USD/kWh or when the operational range extends to 1890 km. This underscores the critical role of energy costs and efficiency in bridging the cost gap between FCTs and BETs.

Funding source: This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, with the funding account number of 52272371.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways

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