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China recently signaled its intention to ban the production and sale of combustion engine cars. The goal? To join the global growing movement towards the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles.

The world’s largest car market would follow suit along with other model students (Norway, Germany, France, the UK, Holland and India). All have recently announced they would prohibit the production of diesel and gasoline cars in their markets by 2040. This is enormous news for the auto industry that will undoubtedly have major repercussions on the global car market and, of course, on our daily lives!

According to a recent poll commissioned by the British classified ad website CarGurus, some 35 per cent of respondents would be ‘’happy to buy an electric car’’, with more than half ‘’open to driving a hybrid model.’’  That being said, one particular aspect of the survey stuck out, and that is the confusion that consumers feel about the current car transition. What will happen to gas stations? When will fossil-fuel cars officially be banned? How far can 100% electric cars go?

Powering up alternatives

At present, there are two alternatives to traditional fuel cars : battery and fuel cell vehicles. Both address current environmental challenges by boasting zero pollutant emission when in use, making them part of the strategy for achieving global emissions goals, such as the European Union’s aim to reduce CO2 by 40% by 2030.

But what do we really know about these emerging energy sources?

Fuel Cells vs Batteries: a head-to-head comparison 

Fuel cells Batteries
Current status ·       5,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are on the road today (300 in Europe)

·       300 hydrogen fuelling stations (100 in Europe)

·       1.5 million battery electric vehicles are on the road (500,000 in Europe)

·       Canada currently has more than 4,500 public charging stations, while the United States has more than 15,000.

·       112,547 public charge points in Europe alone, 7,431 of which are quick-charging

Pros ·       High cost of technology due to low production volume set to reduce as volume increases

·       Better adapted for more range as fuel lasts for  500 km or longer

·       Filling time of two to three minutes

·       Capacity at pump: 20 vehicles per hour

·       Improvements to existing technology are already happening

·       Considered hugely efficient overall

·       Among the best technology options for cars in the city

Cons ·       Equipping vehicles with fuel cells is only beginning and mass production logistics need defining (cost, storage, distribution)

·       Electric cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells don’t produce greenhouse-enhancing carbon dioxide, but producing and transporting hydrogen does.

·       A limited number of hydrogen stations exist to power the fleet

·       They are more expensive than batteries and use 2.3 times more electrical energy per km than electric cars

·       Recharging an electric vehicle can take 15 minutes or more

·       A charge lasts 150 to 500 km

·       The capacity at the charging point is currently only four vehicles per hour

·       Electric vehicles emit no NO2 but do produce smallparticleairpollution. 

Multi-tiered strategies

With the wide range of users, cities and needs around the world, a quick-fix, blanket solution to our mass mobility issues is impossible. Achieving near-future mobility targets for sustainability therefore requires a collaborative and hybrid approach.

Hybrid technologies

·       Hybrid vehicles using both battery and fuel cells are ideal for the near future as they reduce cost and improve efficiency, especially for long-distance driving.

·       They could help penetrate the general consumer market.
User-first mentalities 

·       Usage constraints can truly be taken into account if users are at the centre of this mobility transformation.

·       The choice between hybrid, fuel cells or batteries depends on whether they are used for consumer or commercial purposes, and whether a vehicle is shared or private. Make platforms flexible.
Infrastructure as a common project 

·       Industry players must work together to achieve cost reductions for battery and fuel cell hybrid technologies.

·       Create a grid: invest in common recharging and refilling infrastructure between cities.

Care to know more about the development of clean alternatives to fossil fuels? This article is excerpted from the Movin’On 2017 Minutes.