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Greener, Faster, Cheaper: A Combination of Battery and Fuel Cell Electric Technology Is Key to Successfully Decarbonising Global Transport

The Hydrogen Council's study highlights the need for both fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) to achieve efficient and rapid decarbonization in the automotive industry.

• Both BEVs and FCEVs are needed to achieve net-zero economically and sustainably
• A “combined world” will harness benefits of both technologies at a system level
• It will also help de-risk the most significant transition in the automotive industry’s history

Brussels, 27 October 2021 – Both fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are needed to achieve the most significant transition in the automotive industry’s history – decarbonisation. According to the Roadmap towards zero emissions: the complementary role of BEVs and FCEVs study published by the Hydrogen Council with analytical support from McKinsey & Company, a “combined world”, leveraging the respective strengths of both FCEVs and BEVs, will enable greener transportation faster and cheaper compared to relying on a single technology.

While BEVs are vital for fast decarbonisation and will be a mainstream solution for many use cases, FCEVs similarly have their particular use case strengths, in much the same way that gasoline and diesel play complementary roles today. FCEVs will provide the best option for regions with constrained renewables or limited grid capacity in the mid-to-long term, high power and energy demand vehicle segments, and customer segments with a preference for long range and fast refuelling. The “combined world” will provide superior system efficiency, lifecycle carbon intensity and reduced resource demand.

Building the hydrogen refuelling network alongside battery charging infrastructure will be more cost effective than building a charging infrastructure powerful enough to cover all use cases, including those with high power demands and little charging capacity. To convert all vehicles to BEVs would require costly grid investments in hard-to-serve and high demand areas, such as inner city public fast chargers. Savings, resulting from just 10% of the fleet converting to FCEVs instead, would more than compensate for the cost of a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in a fully decarbonised scenario. Further, hydrogen can be produced from renewable electricity at peak production, preventing curtailment and grid overload, which will produce a higher systemic efficiency than a single-technology world.

“Climate change calls for a global and massive response to decarbonize our society, with transport being at the forefront of challenges to tackle. This will require a combination of different technologies, taking into account the energy infrastructure of each region. This study confirms hydrogen has a key role to play for the development of low-carbon mobility, especially long-haul transportation. We look forward to working with partners to boost innovation for cost-effective solutions, and to collaborate with government leaders to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen for clean transportation,” said Benoît Potier, Chairman and CEO of Air Liquide and Co-chair of the Hydrogen Council.

“This report provides a comprehensive perspective on how to tackle the enormous challenge of global decarbonization. It illustrates the experience of the Hydrogen Council’s more than 120 members across diverse sectors – from leading international car manufacturers in North America, Europe and Asia to infrastructure providers pursuing a range of transportation solutions, including BEVs and FCEVs – all working to transform their industries and deliver on ambitious global climate goals.” said Tom Linebarger, Chairman and CEO of Cummins and Co-Chair of the Hydrogen Council.

“It’s become abundantly clear that FCEVs and BEVs are the two key zero emission mobility solutions and will need to be deployed in tandem for the most optimal environmental and economic results. The specific mix of each solution will be determined by each region’s energy production capability and vehicle segment served, but the world needs both and it needs them fast,” said Daryl Wilson, Executive Director of the Hydrogen Council.

“BEVs and FCEVs offer comparable systemic efficiency and similar benefits in terms of carbon intensity. However, hydrogen specifically offers the ability to produce the fuel in ideal locations with high renewable electricity generation and can be transported over long distances to regions that require renewable energy imports. The case becomes even clearer when storing excess renewable electricity via electrolysis that would otherwise be lost,” said Bernd Heid, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company.


About the Report:
This report was authored by the Hydrogen Council with analytical support from McKinsey & Company. Its messages have been developed in dialogue with the Observatory Group, that consists of representatives from government agencies and academia, as well as associations and companies active in sectors like regenerative electricity generation, electricity grid equipment manufacturing, electric vehicle charging, fleet management. See Report here.

About the Hydrogen Council:
The Hydrogen Council is a global CEO-led initiative that brings together leading companies with a united vision and long-term ambition for hydrogen to foster the clean energy transition. The Council believes that hydrogen has a key role to play in reaching our global decarbonisation goals by helping to diversify energy sources worldwide, foster business and technological innovation as drivers for long-term economic growth, and decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors. Using its global reach to promote collaboration between governments, industry and investors, the Council provides guidance on accelerating the deployment of hydrogen solutions around the world. It also acts as a business marketplace, bringing together a diverse group of 120+ companies based in 20+ countries and across the entire hydrogen value chain, including large multinationals, innovative SMEs, and investors. The Hydrogen Council also serves as a resource for safety standards and an interlocutor for the investment community, while identifying opportunities for regulatory advocacy in key geographies. To find out more visit and follow us on Twitter @HydrogenCouncil and LinkedIn.

Hydrogen Council Press Office (FTI Consulting):
Lilya Nguyen, +1 202 346 8865 – (Global/U.S.)
Evelyne Bauer, +32 477 56 26 15 – (EU)

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