Fuel cell vs battery electric vehicles – a comparison of alternative fuels

Fuel cell vs battery electric vehicles – a comparison of alternative fuels

It’s well documented by now that fossil fuel vehicles are a significant contributor to carbon emissions – one passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. To save our planet, we have to explore alternatives, and make these alternatives the mainstream on roads in the next 20-30 years. 

The main contenders as it stands are fuel cell vehicles and battery-operated electric vehicles – but how do they compare? 

Elmelin at The Battery Show Europe

Elmelin at The Battery Show Europe

After a number of postponements, we are thrilled to be attending and exhibiting at the Battery Show Europe in Stuttgart, Germany from 30th November – 2nd December, 2021.

Our capabilities and products are a fantastic fit for this sector, we have been involved in projects used in a range of battery applications. We’re particularly excited to be doing innovative work in the automotive industry, helping leading manufacturers devise safer solutions that protect those travelling in electric cars.

3 considerations for low-carbon vehicle technology

3 considerations for low-carbon vehicle technology

The two primary types of low carbon vehicle that are currently available to the mass market are those powered by electricity (battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, extended-range electric vehicles) and those powered by hydrogen fuel cells (FCEVs). Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) operate purely on electricity, whereas plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and extended-range electric vehicles (E-REVs) use internal combustion engines to power the vehicle some of the time. There are several considerations to be taken into account when it comes to each type of technology, the impact on the environment, and the implications for the manufacturer and the end-user. 

 

LCVs and emissions

Although EVs and PHEVs (in electric mode) operate with zero tailpipe emissions, there are some emissions from the source of their electrical power. So until the global infrastructure transitions towards clean electricity, EVs can’t truly be seen as a “zero emission solution”. Despite this, research has found that over their lifetime, EVs in countries such as Sweden and France have average emissions around 70% than ICE vehicles (as their electrical power comes mainly from nuclear and renewables), and in the UK, emissions around 30% lower. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (or FCEVs), emit only water and air, so again emit zero carbon from the tailpipe. However, there is a similar challenge – currently, hydrogen fuel is produced and transported to pumps using fossil fuels, but as demand rises and investment in the technology increases, the infrastructure will be able to develop and we will be able to reduce emissions in the supply chain. 

 

Energy density 

Ostensibly, a major concern in consumer vehicles is their range. Manufacturers working on LCV projects are continually trying to find ways to extend the range of alternative fuel vehicles. Currently, the BEV with the longest range is the Tesla Model 3, which has a 405-mile range on one charge (although this is currently only an estimate), which is longer than the average for ICE vehicles, with most having a 250-300 mile range. PHEVs and E-REVs can match or exceed the range of an ICE vehicle, but only a part of this range is powered purely by electricity. E-REVs have a range of around 150 miles after which the onboard ICE generator kicks in to charge it. PHEV batteries usually have a range of around 20-30 miles. BEVs are able to achieve increasingly longer ranges because of the high energy density of the large lithium-ion battery packs that are used within them (around 100-265 Wh/kg). 

Hydrogen fuel cells vehicles can achieve ranges of around 300 miles to match the average of current consumer vehicles, however, this comes with an additional challenge. Hydrogen’s energy density is significantly lower than that of both li-ion batteries and gasoline, at around 8 mJ/L. To meet the current standards and range of consumer vehicles, a significant amount of hydrogen would need to be stored on-board, with tank capacities for around 5-13 kg of hydrogen. While the hydrogen storage weighs less than li-ion delivering the same amount of range, the concern is the volume of these tanks and the space that they would need to take up. Therefore, thus far it’s been proposed that hydrogen fuel is primarily a solution suitable for larger vehicles, not necessarily passenger vehicles. 

 

Energy efficiency

Of course, when it comes to powering a vehicle, it’s not just about how much energy you can store, it’s about what you can do with it. A study by Volkswagen found that the energy efficiency losses suffered by hydrogen from “well-to-tank” (from production to use within the vehicle) are significantly higher than those suffered by li-ion batteries. The overall efficiency rate of electric vehicles is around 76%, compared to hydrogen, which is 30%. This is due to all the ways in which the hydrogen has to be processed in order for it to power a vehicle – from generating the energy, it goes through electrolysis, then compression and liquefaction, then transportation and filling, then into the fuel cell, then into a low capacity battery, then into the engine. By contrast, electrical energy is generated, transported and stored, transferred into a high capacity battery then into the engine.

 

Elmelin are working closely with automotive manufacturers to develop innovative insulation solutions that will help them to address challenges with safety, performance and efficiency in battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles. If you’d like to find out more about our solutions, get in touch

Elmelin at Cenex-LCV 2021

Elmelin at Cenex-LCV 2021

We’re thrilled to be attending this year’s Cenex-LCV 2021, taking place 22nd-23rd September at UTAC Millbrook Proving Ground.

The event is a showcase for the latest technologies around low-carbon vehicles, with a technology exhibition and a programme of seminars.

In line with our commitment to developing solutions to push for net-zero, we’ll be in attendance to talk about our range of mica-based battery insulation solutions for electric vehicles – including thermal barriers, compression pads and passive fire protection.

What is passive fire protection and where is it used?

What is passive fire protection and where is it used?

Passive fire protection, sometimes referred to as PFP, is a method of fire protection that seeks to slow the spread of a fire and smoke by containing it within the compartment of origin for a limited period of time. PFP is an integral part of building construction, heavily regulated by building codes. Passive fire protection measures usually involve the structural or mechanical inclusion of a fire resistant material around the compartment in question. It’s the opposite of active fire protection, which usually uses some sort of electrical component to detect and then suppress the fire.

Electric Vehicle Market Update 2021

Electric Vehicle Market Update 2021

Ostensibly, 2020 was a bit of an anomaly year for many global markets and industries. The global vehicle market was no exception – taking a hit of 15% compared to 2019. Despite this, the share of the market occupied by electric vehicles (EVs) increased, and is showing no signs of slowing.

With a full picture of the market in 2020 and a clearer view of a world post-pandemic, how does the EV market look so far in 2021 and beyond?

 

Rounding up 2020 in EVs

2020 was a landmark year for electric vehicle sales. As the overall vehicle market experienced a dip, the EV share of the market increased by 70% to a record 4.6%. In Europe, market share increased from 3.2% in 2019 to 10%, and overall EV sales more than doubled – putting Europe head and shoulders above the rest of the world in terms of market growth. This rapid growth is most likely down to policy – 2020 was a target year for the EU’s emission standards, limiting the amount of CO2 per kilometer for new cars. Also, many European governments increased subsidy schemes for EVs as part of stimulus packages bought in to counteract the effects of the pandemic. This uplift in the market was also reflected in demand for EV batteries – automotive lithium-ion battery production increased 33% in 2020 to 160 gigawatt-hours.

 

2021 so far

Year-to-date, the market shows no sign of slowing down its rapid growth. In the UK, 31,800 EVs were sold in the first 3 months of 2021, accounting for 7.5% of new car sales. As of June, new registrations of plug-in electric vehicles have increased 131% year-on-year. The number of diesel car registrations has dropped by 21.7%, and the market share of petrol vehicles has decreased from 60.1% to 48.6%. Globally, interest in buying EVs has increased from on average 40% in 2019 to 55% at the start of 2021.

 

Future outlook

In 2021, 18 of the 20 largest OEMs have announced plans to reconfigure their product lines and processes to shift to only selling electric vehicles within the next decade. These include Volvo and Ford, who have committed to only selling EVs by 2030, and Volkswagen, who have targeted 70% EV sales in Europe. This aligns with the plans of several countries to ban the sale of non-electric vehicles by as early as 2025. This gauntlet thrown down by some of the market’s major players has driven a projection of a significant 55-72 million global electric vehicle sales in 2025 – to put that growth into perspective, the current projection for 2021 is 16-22 million vehicles.

 

Challenges and opportunities

The continued growth of the EV market is dependent on continued development in the technology surrounding it. In 2020, the average range of a BEV showed the signs of a plateau – increasing just 2km from 336 to 338km compared to 2019, whereas the average range increased from 304km in 2018. The average range of a petrol vehicle is 482km, so further improvements are likely required in order to make purchasing an EV an attractive prospect for some consumers. That being said, the lithium-ion battery market is expected to increase from $41.1bn to $116.6 by 2030, as production picks up again post-COVID-19. This growth in the market would lead to declining costs, helping to bring down the costs of producing EVs, and therefore bringing down the cost to the consumer.

 

Elmelin are currently working with a number of automotive manufacturers to solve insulation challenges that help make electric and hybrid vehicles safer, more efficient and a more viable option for the mass market. If you’d like to find out more about our solutions for electric vehicles, get in touch.