The war for the electric vehicle

There is a war being waged in the race to develop the dominant platform for electric vehicles.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCV’s) vs. battery electric vehicle’s (BEV’s).

On one hand, you have Tesla, which has staked its future on BEV’s.

On the other, you have a global consortium investing big to develop HFCV’s and the supply chain needed to support them.

The difference between the two platforms is often lost on most consumers. recently published this article by Feann Torr.

It’s a good read for those wanting to understand the dynamics behind this fast-evolving market.

Key points:

  • Legislation is encouraging EV uptake in many countries
  • Companies are investing heavily in both hydrogen fuel cell and battery research
  • Recent advances in battery technology may be enough to see BEV’s dominate in the long run
  • HFCV’s may play a strategic role in mitigating risks around resource and energy security
  • Both platforms have their challenges

How this race plays out is of great interest to ECT.

We previously announced the fundamental research and development of our COHgen brown coal-to-hydrogen technology that, if successful through the scale-up process, may provide a lower-emission solution for affordable, reliable hydrogen production.

COHgen stands for Catalytic Organic Hydrogen generation.

The COHgen process stems from discoveries made during our Matmor and Hydromor research.

We’re currently stepping through experimental activity to generate the new knowledge required to fully map the process parameters, with the aim of preparing a patent application in due course.

Meanwhile, here’s a bit of background to the HFCV vs. BEV battle.

Key Differences

In the mind of consumers, the biggest issue for BEV’s is range anxiety.

Using Tesla’s new Model 3 as a relatively affordable BEV benchmark – it has a range of about 500km from a 75kWh battery – we start to understand the challenge to simply ‘fill the tank’.

Charging at home using the most basic option takes a long time. Here in Australia, a 240 volt 10 amp (2.4kW) power socket will charge the Model 3 from empty to full in about 45 hours.

Stepping up your home charging by increasing the amps to 80 (19.2kW), would decrease the charge time to around 5 hours and 40 mins.

The fastest way to charge is at one of Tesla’s 120kW ‘supercharger’ stations. It will give you a little over ‘half a tank’ in around 30 minutes or a ‘full tank’ in about 1 hour 15 mins.

For most drivers, the ability to stop and quickly fill up on demand is essential, so it makes sense that industry research is focused on extending battery range and decreasing charge times.

Conversely, Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (HFCV’s) can refuel in a few minutes, but access to refuelling infrastructure is almost non-existent, and they are more expensive than BEV’s.

Each platform has it’s own logistics challenges as well.

HFCV’s need to make and safely store and distribute hydrogen, which is difficult and costly.

BEV’s need significant amounts of rare earth elements for battery manufacture, creating a potential raw material bottleneck. Extraction of rare earths impact the environment just like any other mining activity and their refining is highly polluting if done cheaply.

Fuel cost

While BEV’s don’t have a ‘fuel’ like petrol, diesel or hydrogen vehicles, they do require charging. The below article quotes $10 to charge a Tesla versus $60 to fill a hydrogen car.

The $10 figure seems a little off.

A Tesla Model 3 features a 75kWh battery and a range of 500km. Assuming a 69% efficient battery charging ratio, 108kWh are needed to ‘fill the tank’. Australia’s average retail electricity price according to the AEMC is around 30 cents per kWh. That’s around $32 for a full charge.

A large family car such as the Toyota Kluger would use about $70 worth of petrol over the same distance ($1.50 per litre & 9.3L/100km).

EV owners get a free ride

Depending on the fuel efficiency of the car, owners of petrol vehicles pay between 3 to 9 cents per kilometre via petrol excise to use the roads.

Whether HFCV or BEV, neither pay petrol excise, effectively giving their owners a free ride while reducing government revenue.

That gap will need to be filled. The only fair option is a user pays system based on vehicle size and distance travelled, which will inevitably require the introduction of some type of fee on EV owners.

BEV’s are technically more efficient, but HFCV’s make strategic sense in terms of energy and resource security

That’s right. If we compare the efficiency of each platform, batteries are more efficient than HFCV’s.

In the case of HFCV’s, 100kWh of electricity used to make hydrogen via electrolysis will deliver around 23kWh of ‘fuel’, taking you 154km.

BEV’s can take that same 100kWh and deliver about 69kWh of power, taking you 462km.

Assuming the ambition is a zero-CO2 footprint, this has huge implications for the number of wind turbines or solar panels required to move a nations fleet of vehicles.

Using rough figures; If Australia hypothetically switched its fleet of 13 million passenger vehicles to BEV’s tomorrow we’d need an additional ~4,950 wind turbines (3MW each) to make enough electricity to charge the batteries.

If we switched to HFCV’s instead of BEV’s, we’d need three times that many to make the hydrogen needed to move the fleet. Adding 15,000 wind turbines to split water to make hydrogen is a significant endeavour. So, it’s understandable that the Japanese are pursuing the relatively ‘compact’ approach of brown coal to hydrogen.

So, the march is on. Which platform will eventually win out? Or will both co-exist like diesel and petrol?

Will other factors, such as access to resources, influence the dominance of one platform over another? For example, Japan has no domestic rare earth sector and is spending $500 million on a pilot project to extract hydrogen from brown coal in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. If successful this will provide a reliable hydrogen source for decades to come.

Conversely, China is the largest miner of rare earth elements needed for batteries, making BEV’s a logical choice.

Companies like Tesla are focused on developing rare earth supply chains in South America.

Our view?

We anticipate increased research and development activity over the next decade.

Victoria’s Latrobe Valley will be a focal point for the HFCV camp, with industry seeking to reliably produce affordable hydrogen from this world-class resource.

If successful, COHgen could be an affordable route for the extraction of hydrogen from brown coal.

Read more…

Hydrogen v solid-state battery EVs –

Major cities around the world are banning diesel-powered vehicles to improve air quality. Petrol cars are requiring particulate filters. China has confirmed it will ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars in the near future and Europe continues to mandate stricter emissions regulations.

The combustion engine is being squeezed from every angle and the age of the electric vehicle (EV) is dawning.

Source: Hydrogen v solid-state battery EVs –