Key differences between hydrogen fuel cell and electric cars

  • Hydrogen and electric cars have their own benefits and challenges.
Hydrogen is considered a true zero-emission fuel as it emits only water vapour into the air.
Hydrogen is considered a true zero-emission fuel as it emits only water vapour into the air.

With an increasing focus on greener powertrain solutions, hydrogen fuel cell technology is finding a stronger footprint alongside other green propulsion technology like electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid technology. There are a lot of questions that arise from confusion, like are hydrogen cars greener than electric cars? Are hydrogen cars the best mobility alternative for the future of transportation compared to electric cars?

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Here is a comprehensive view of the differences between hydrogen fuel cell technology and battery electric propulsion technology.

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It is important to understand how the two types of vehicle propulsion system work.

How hydrogen and electric cars work

Hydrogen cars come with an electric motor, which is fuelled by hydrogen fuel cells that allow hydrogen to react with oxygen to create the chemical production of electricity and water vapour. The electric charges through the hydrogen, and the only emission is water vapour. In that case, it comes as a true zero CO2 emission propulsion technology. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are also known as fuel cell electric vehicles or FCEVs. Unlike petrol or diesel-powered vehicles, FCEVs come refuelled with hydrogen at the refuelling stations.

An electric car, on the other hand, comes powered by a lithium-ion battery pack paired with an electric motor. The battery pack supplies energy to the motor to power the various parts of the vehicle. The battery pack is recharged by plugging into the electricity grid, much like any other electrical device Majority of EVs also come with brake energy recuperation technology that allows the battery to be recharged mildly during braking. In this case, the heat produced during the brake application is converted into energy and produces electricity.

If we compare the hydrogen and electric cars based on some parameters like range, refuelling, safety, emission and cost of ownership, what is the result we get? Here is a look.

Range

Hydrogen fuel cars offer a greater range than EVs. They offer better refuelling time as well. The electric cars, on the other hand, the range is largely dependent on which vehicle the consumer is buying. More expensive EVs offer a better range than cheaper models.

Refuelling

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are highly expensive to refuel than their electric vehicle counterparts. The availability of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is also very less compared to the EV charging infrastructure. A major benefit for the EVs is that they can be charged using 15 Amp home chargers as well.

Safety

Hydrogen gas is highly flammable, which makes the safety of these vehicles a major concern. Hydrogen gas burns in air at concentrations ranging from four to 75 per cent. Electric cars come with their own safety concerns and challenges. Lithium-ion batteries are substantially safe from fire risks but once there is a fire, it is unputdownable because of the extreme heat they generate.

Emissions

Hydrogen and electric cars don't produce CO2 emissions from their exhausts. But none of them is a zero-emission product considering the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere during the manufacturing process of the vehicles and the fuel as well.

Cost of ownership

Electric vehicles can be expensive to buy, but their consecutive cost of ownership is substantially lower than internal combustion vehicles or even hydrogen vehicles as well. Hydrogen vehicles, on the other hand, are more expensive than electric vehicles, with no budget options on the market currently.

First Published Date: 11 Oct 2022, 17:16 PM IST
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