Is Elon Musk wrong about hydrogen

Traffic transition with hydrogen instead of Tesla

Nicole Weinhold

The result of a study on electromobility carried out by the Institute for Strategy and Communication (ISK) and Cheil Germany is clear: Tesla and Elon Musk dominate the web when it comes to electromobility. For the study by ISK and Cheil, over 1.3 million posts and comments were examined on the German-language web between March 2018 and April 2019. The gap between the German automaker and Tesla is even greater than expected. The Californian manufacturer's cars not only dominate the streetscape, Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk also dominate the conversation on the Internet: When people talk about electromobility, they think about and talk about Tesla.

Tesla: 17 tons of CO2 for production and transport

In a 2017 study by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute (IVL) commissioned by the Swedish Ministry of Transport (Trafikverket) and the Swedish Energy Agency, experts calculated that the production of a lithium-ion battery already results in CO2 emissions of 150 to 200 kilograms can - per kilowatt hour (kWh) battery capacity. According to the experts' calculations, the production of the batteries for a Tesla Model S with a battery capacity of 86 kWh leads to CO2 emissions of around 17 tons. With a standard European vehicle with a combustion engine, a typical consumer can drive a full eight years before the car is as polluting as the battery production for a Tesla Model S. The balance of the Nissan Leaf, the world's best-selling electric car to date, falls due to its smaller dimensions Battery (around 24 kWh) better: there are up to five tons of CO2 there.

Battery vehicles alone are not enough to achieve the federal government's energy and environmental policy goals. The new VDI / VDE study “Fuel Cell and Battery Vehicles” shows that fuel cell-based electromobility not only makes a significant step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but is also much easier to implement.

Hydrogen can be produced, stored and transported from renewables

“Fuel cell vehicles are a necessary element for tomorrow's e-mobility. The fuel hydrogen can be flexibly produced, stored and transported from renewable energies ”, says Martin Pokojski, chairman of the VDI / VDE technical committee“ Hydrogen and Fuel Cells ”. He is co-author of the study, which evaluates the two technologies according to relevant technical, ecological and economic aspects. Instead of promoting just one technology, politics and business should rely on both systems.

The fuel cell shines with its range

Compared to battery vehicles (BEV), fuel cell vehicles (FCEV) score points with several advantages: They achieve long ranges considerably more easily and cost-effectively, their refueling times are comparable to today's standard for gasoline or diesel and significantly higher payloads are possible. "Another advantage of hydrogen technology is that it is easier to implement, since existing structures can be used and existing filling stations can be expanded accordingly," explains Dr. Andreas Schamel, co-author of the VDI / VDE study. Schamel continues: “The infrastructure investments are smaller for BEVs with a low market penetration than for FCEVs. But the picture changes with greater market penetration. Therefore, a mixture of both systems - BEV for the shorter distances and FCEV for long distances - could result in an optimal cost. "

Renewables for clean mobility

However, the desired reduction in CO2 emissions can only be achieved if the electricity for charging the battery and producing the hydrogen comes from renewable sources. Angelika Heinzel from the Center for Fuel Cell Technology in Duisburg and also co-author of the VDI / VDE study: “It is also relevant how the raw materials are obtained and the batteries and fuel cells manufactured. Careful analyzes of energy consumption and CO2 emissions over the entire life cycle and an increase in the recycling rate are also essential. Both technologies require raw materials that are not available in unlimited quantities. ”Last but not least, in order to remain competitive, Germany needs to set up production facilities for fuel cells and batteries as soon as possible. "For this, politics must create suitable framework conditions", Pokojski is certain.