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Comparative Analysis of Infrastructures: Electric Charging and Hydrogen Fueling

Electric drivetrains are key elements of low carbon energy-efficient transport based on renewable energy sources. Furthermore, a transportation system with zero local emissions will substantially improve people’s quality of life, especially in urban areas currently struggling with air quality issues. Both Battery and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles feature these important characteristics. However, large scale integration of these vehicle technologies requires new infrastructures.

The goal of the study is to perform a detailed design analysis of the required infrastructure for supplying battery and fuel cell electric vehicles in Germany at multiple scales. The underlying question concerns the investments, costs, efficiencies and emissions for an infrastructure capable of supplying between one hundred thousand to several million vehicles with hydrogen or electricity. At present, both technologies are in the initial stage of their market development and are posed to take advantage of the unavoidable surplus electricity that characterizes renewable dominated energy systems. In any case, an effective infrastructure is required to make this energy available. However, at present the design of an applicable infrastructure is unclear. To illuminate this topic, the approach of the infrastructure analysis is transparent and the results of the analysis support a facts-based discussion which can simply be adapted to the growing level of experiences.

Betrachtete TechnologiepfadeCopyright: H2MOBILITY and IEK-3, Forschungszentrum Jülich

Selected Results

The scenario analyses demonstrate that, for low market penetration levels of a few hundred thousand vehicles, the costs of infrastructure roll-out are essentially the same for both technology pathways. Hydrogen is found out to be more expensive during the transition period to electricity-based generation via electrolysis and geological storage, both of which are needed to access renewable hydrogen from surplus electricity. In the scenario for charging battery electric vehicles no seasonal storage option is considered and grid electricity for charging is generated in part by non-renewable energy sources. If vehicle penetration increases up to 20 million vehicles in the base case scenario, a battery charging infrastructure would cost around € 51 billion, making it more expensive than hydrogen infrastructure, which comes in at around € 40 billion. Additionally, securing supply based on renewable electricity requires a consideration of seasonal storage options.


Electric charging and hydrogen fueling are key to realize low carbon, clean and renewable energy based transportation concepts. A smart and complementary combination of the electric charging and the hydrogen refueling infrastructure can join the strengths of both and can avoid non-sustainable solutions with low systems relevance or efficiency.


The full report of the study can be downloaded here.

Additional Information


Dr.-Ing. Martin Robinius
Phone: +49 2461 61-3077