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How big is the greenhouse gas footprint of alternative drive concepts? To answer this question, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE conducted a study , comparing the life cycles of electric and fuel cell vehicles. The study was commissioned by H2 MOBILITY Deutschland , an amalgamation of the companies Air Liquide , Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell, and TOTAL that want to drive the development of a hydrogen infrastructure for fuel cell cars. It examined the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the manufacture, operation, and disposal of battery and fuel cell vehicles with ranges of 300 km and more for the periods 2020-2030 and 2030-2040. Different scenarios were considered for the generation of electricity and hydrogen, including electricity from photovoltaics (best case) and from the German electricity mix (worst case) and hydrogen from electrolysis with wind power (best case) and from the reformation of steam from natural gas (worst case).

The results showed that the two drive concepts complement each other: “For long distances, fuel cell vehicles are more climate-friendly and for short distances, battery-powered vehicles,” says Dr. Christopher Hebling of the Fraunhofer ISE. At 150,000 km, even in the worst-case scenario, the GHG emissions of the fuel cell vehicle are below those of comparable battery vehicles (90 kWh battery) powered by the German electricity mix.