COMPARISON OF E-MOBILITY TO THE USE OF OTHER FUELS
Other possible fuels are biofuels, such as biodiesel or ethanol, or hydrogen. The latter can be used as a fuel in cars fitted with fuel cells and it is a technology in development.
The main difficulty with biofuels is that they require raw materials from agriculture or forestry for their production. In 2016 six per cent of all grain in the world was used for biofuels and these fuels fueled transportation to a small extent.
The use of oil is so large, however, that even if all grain produced on the planet would be used for the production of biofuels the total amount produced would still only amount to 15 per cent of total oil use and no grain would be left to eat. Estimates indicate that if all agricultural land would be used for crops to produce biofuels the total volume produced would only amount to 25 per cent of oil use. If global forests would be used to make methanol all cellulose would only suffice for a few years’ production. The conclusion is that biofuels can never become a large-scale replacement for petrol and diesel. Even if the use of biofuels can be increased a little further the development of electric mobility has the potential to fuel all transportation and it makes sense to push this development forward as rapidly as possible.
Hydrogen fuel cells have improved in terms of energy efficiency, but electric battery vehicles are still more than twice as efficient as fuel cells. If all car transportation would be taken over by electric cars there would be a need for electricity equivalent to the production from some 500 nuclear plants. In case hydrogen would be used the energy equivalent of 1000 nuclear plants would be necessary. The number of nuclear plants in operation at present is 440.
In case all heavy transportation by truck and bus would be run using electricity the equivalent energy of another 500 nuclear plants would be necessary and if the heavy vehicles should be fuelled by hydrogen 1000 nuclear plants would be necessary.
The conclusion is that hydrogen can never become the fuel of the future. The cars are several times more expensive compared to battery electric cars, the cost of hydrogen amounts to four times the cost of electricity. There is no infrastructure in place for hydrogen production and distribution, but there is large-scale production and distribution systems for electricity that can power electric vehicles. In case global vehicle fleets should be converted to hydrogen fuel cells on a large scale there would be a need to radically expand power production and distribution, but also to build a very large number of new large-scale facilities for hydrogen production and distribution.
The investments necessary for the transformation of transportation to electric transportation will be very large, but the investments necessary to go for hydrogen fuel cells will be two or three times as large, as there is no large-scale production and distribution of hydrogen for fuel purposes and since the power demand will be more than twice as high. A significant share of the electricity supply for electric vehicles can be covered through savings of power in existing applications and through the use of power that is currently lost during off-peak periods during the day and week.