Since electric cars first hit the mainstream in 2008, the market has been dominated by battery-powered models. Advances in rechargeable battery manufacture, coupled with an urgent environmental need for an alternative to petrol-powered cars, saw these vehicles surge in popularity very quickly – but in recent years, competition has been provided by fuel cell electric vehicles, with 2019 proving to be the most successful year yet for this new technology.
Fuel cell electric vehicles use a combination of hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, which can be used to power the car. Designed with efficiency and the environment in mind, fuel cell electric vehicles offer a reliable, safe form of transport with no harmful tailpipe emissions – the only waste product is water.
With environmental concerns a key element of the car manufacturer industry, if you’re in the market for a car then you may choose an electric vehicle – but which type should you go for? Battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so it is useful to compare the two.
While advances are being made all the time, the issue of ‘range’ – how far a car can drive before it requires recharging – is worth considering. Depending on your budget, a BEV could provide you with anything from 150-375 miles before recharging, which can take up to an hour. An FCEV, on the other hand, offers a range of over 400 miles and, crucially, takes only five minutes to refuel – saving you a long wait if you need to refuel during a long journey.
Although electric cars are not strictly zero-emission due to their manufacturing processes, they perform significantly better in this regard than petrol cars. It is difficult to separate BEVs from FCEVs when it comes to emissions – they emit a similar amount of CO2 in terms of the battery manufacturing process and the car’s emissions.
Due to their relative infancy, FCEVs are more expensive to buy and run than BEVs, with no budget range at the moment. This is sure to change in the future with the industry constantly evolving to attract more buyers, but as of right now an FCEV will cost significantly more than a BEV, which can be bought for as little as £18,420.
FCEVs have garnered particular praise for their suitability for larger vehicles such as haulage trucks and buses. Their short refuelling times and low weight are plus points in an industry where timing is everything – the less time spent waiting for refuelling, the quicker vehicles can arrive at their destination, improving efficiency and potentially saving money.
Transport industry experts agree that hydrogen-based vehicles are likely to be prevalent in the future, although it is worth remembering that there are limited refuelling stations at the moment – so journeys need to be planned accordingly.
The increasing emphasis on eco-friendly vehicles, with governments enforcing emission reduction targets, should ensure that the industry continues to grow year on year. Studies have shown that by 2025 the UK industry is likely to grow to over 50 megawatts (one megawatt is equivalent to the energy produced by ten automobile engines), while the worldwide market could exceed $7bn.
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