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New UMTRI paper reviews major advantages and disadvantages of battery-electric and fuel-cell vehicles

1 February 2016

A new report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) reviews the major advantages and disadvantages associated with battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs). The team of Brandon Schoettle and Dr. Michael Sivak also incudes information for current gasoline-powered internal combustion engines as a baseline comparison.

In addition to reviewing the technical literature, the UMTRI researchers interviewed experts in the automotive and energy sectors regarding their views concerning these issues. Among their findings:

A note on fuel pricing and cost per mile
In their report, Schoettle and Sivak used a national average fuel price for electricity of $0.12/kWh (EPA is now using $0.13 as the average price), resulting in an average effective cost per mile for BEVs of $0.04
However, there is a great deal of variability in charging pricing, based on location, time of day, season, and type of charge (i.e., residential, commercial, office). For example, in the San Diego, California territory of SDG&E, optimal time of use residential EV charging rates range from $0.19/kWh to $0.46/kWh depending upon the season and time of day.
For commercial, standalone chargers, the rates can be higher. For example, in North County San Diego, a non-member charging at a Blink Level 2 station will pay $0.59/kWh—almost 5 times the average $0.12/kWh cited in the report. On the other hand, a Tesla driver charging at a SuperCharger station pays nothing.
For FCVs, Schoettle and Sivak note, the effective cost per mile is currently $0.09. For current gasoline-powered ICE vehicles at an average fuel economy of 23.3 mp and a fuel price of $2.35 per gallon, results in a cost of $0.10 per mile.
  • BEVs currently offer the most readily available alternative fuel source via the existing electric grid. Additionally, more BEV models are available to the public (relative to fuel-cell vehicles) and they offer the best fuel economy, resulting in the lowest cost to operate (per mile). BEVs also tend to produce the lowest amount of greenhouse gases (well-to-wheels) per mile.

    However, the driving ranges of these vehicles are currently the lowest of any vehicle type, while also requiring the longest time to refuel or recharge.

  • FCVs have significantly longer driving ranges and lower refueling times than comparable BEVs, and it is also possible for them to use the least amount of petroleum (well-to-wheels) per mile, depending on the type of hydrogen used.

    On the other hand, only a small number of vehicle models are available, and only in the most recent model years. Similarly, the hydrogen-refueling infrastructure is practically nonexistent outside of California.

  • There is a general consensus among the experts that expansion of the hydrogen infrastructure needs to precede the mass introduction of FCVs in order to raise consumer confidence in the availability of hydrogen fuel.

  • Both alternative fuels and vehicle types require additional training for emergency responders and mechanics, but also generally require lower overall maintenance than a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle.

  • Based on the average mix of renewable and non-renewable electric power sources in the US, the average well-to-wheels GHG emissions for BEVs is the lowest, at 214 g/mi. Depending on whether gaseous or liquid hydrogen is used, the corresponding values for FCVs range from 260 to 364 g/mi, respectively. Gasoline-powered vehicles produce the most GHGs per mile, ranging from 356 to 409 g/mi, depending on the specific type of ICE (direct versus traditional fuel injection, respectively).

As a comparison baseline for the refueling infrastructure, the UMTRI team noted that there are approximately 114,000 individual gasoline stations covering all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The cost of installing a gasoline station is typically in the range of $1 million to $2 million.

Expansion of the BEV charging network is relatively inexpensive—approximately $1000 for home-based charger installation, and ranging from approximately $10,000 to $100,000 for public stations. Hydrogen refueling stations currently have a relatively high cost for construction and installation, costing approximately $3 million to $5 million for a public station.

Relevant aspects of vehicle performance for battery-electric vehicles (BEV) and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCV). (Where appropriate, green = best, yellow = middle, and red = worst.) Source: Schoettle and Sivak. Click to enlarge.


February 1, 2016 in Electric (Battery), Fuel Cells, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (29)


Excellent write-up Mike. The link only goes to the abstract. Do you have a link to the full report?

The authors have apparently never spent any time with BEVs, and focused on the traditional "numbers," apparently without any thought given to the bigger, more relevant picture.

The usual "range" criticism is presented, without comment on how much range is actually needed by the vast majority of Americans (average daily miles = 29, and 80% drive less than 40 miles per day). More is not necessarily better, because "more" means more upfront cost, and more weight.

Time to refuel? Typical argument made by petrolheads against BEVs. But since "refueling" a BEV typically takes place at the owner's home, overnight, what is the relevance. And refueling time for an ICE car is claimed to be 5 minutes — that would be five minutes after you are parked next to the pump. No mention of the 30-minute round-trip detour to drive to the gas station.

Efficiency of BEVs is given in the archaic mile-per-gallon "e". There are no "gallons" with BEVs. The authors need to present BEV efficiency in terms that BEV drivers actually use.

Their category "Availability of qualified mechanics" is a joke, and proves the authors are stuck in the world of ICE. Electric vehicles do not have the inherent maintenance needs of ICE vehicles. BEVs also can be updated with over-the-air software enhancements.

And nowhere do the authors discuss the much better driving experience that BEVs bestow on their owners—a huge advantage over ICE vehicles, and perhaps the most importance distinction. Magnetic braking? Single-pedal speed control?

Sorry, there is no public access to the paper, and the authors specified not publishing the original. You can contact them, though. :-)

The report seems obvious.

No real surprises here.

The conclusions would be very different in our area because:

1) clean Hydro/Wind electricity is currently sold at the same very low flat rates 24/7 (CAN$0.028/kWh to CAN$0.065/kWh) everywhere on the grid. Large BEV/H2FCEV refill stations would qualify for the lowest CAN$0.028/kWh rate 24/7.

2) dirty gasoline price varies upward +$0.35/US gallon every weekend and the average price is often close to 2X USA's.

Pure extended range all weather BEVs equipped with 150+ KW battery pack at + CAN$200,000/each would be the cheapest to operate but very few could afford the initial purchase cost.

A fair; albeit, brief assessment. The battery is the issue for BEVs and is reflected in the limited range, heavy weight and high cost of the current state of the automotive art. And, BTW, Quick charging is only an issue. in most cases, in long distance travel.

These will be "No Issues." as the battery technology advances. Many believe without interference from the fossil fuels industry and their political hitmen, mostly Republican Congressmen and Governors, BEVs will dominate the roads by 2030. And, as an aside; electric power for commercial buildings and homes will be dominated by renewables and storage batteries at tht time.

The authors conveniently sidestep a lot of issues currently present with FCVs.

As ChrisL noted refueling time is WAY higher for fuel cell vehicles when we consider the very few H2 stations currently operational. They should have included the average trip time to the refueling station.

Moreover, since many of the currently operating H2 stations are reportedly not capable of fueling at 10K psi (only 5K psi), the range FCVs get is about half of their maximum. With that correction, their range is comparable to current EVs but they have the huge inconvenience of needing to go to the H2 station while EV users simply plug in at home (zero time going to a fueling station).

I would like to second (or third) what ChrisL wrote, and add something else. I'm willing to bet that the "average" for BEVs was taken over the model range (13 vehicle models available). I wonder what the average would be if taken over the fleet, weighed by numbers of each model sold. And does that "13 vehicle models available" include PHEVs?

So a paper which provides no access to its data and assumptions is supposed to be taken seriously?

A propaganda piece, which needs to go out with the trash, along with their credibility.

It appears the study uses $5.40 kg as the cost of hydrogen, far lower than the $13.50-$16.50 currently charged at stations in California.

If we generously use the lower of those two numbers, the actual cost per mile for FCVs is $0.225. Over two times the cost of gasoline.

Interesting study. I keep asking. Who goes on a 30 minute detour to get gas/diesel? I would think most rational folks get gas while they are passing along a route they would be on anyway. I drive a diesel which is even less available than gas and I never drive out of my way to fuel up.

I also keep hearing about average miles driven which is meaningless to someone who also requires the vehicle they own to occasionally go 200 - 400 miles a shot. Average does not help you in that situation. Persons, businesses, governments etc. spec out equipment based on the "PEAK" requirement, not the average requirement. Required power, required range, cargo capacity, passenger capacity etc. etc. are all specified based on the extreme usage case.

I will again reiterate, more range up to a lower limit of around 350 miles (5 - 6 hours driving and about the maximum endurance for 99% of folks) is an extremely desirable characteristic of an "AUTO" "MOBILE" (autonomy and mobility) in a country as large and with an infrastructure as extensive as the USA. It means one is flexible in their options on how to make their way around the country via road. They are flexible in how far they can travel at a time, where they decide to stop and the routes they choose to follow. Such flexibility is severely limited if one has to wait for at least 30 minutes before one is able to continue.

Hybrid automobiles have been demonstrated to use half the fuel of identical automobiles in city driving.

Most drivers are unconscious of the fuel being used whilst stopped, the fuel wasted in stopping and the fuel wasted in acceleration as well as the fuel wasted at high speed compared to low speed for the same distance; or they would know that hybrid automobiles can reduce fuel use greatly. Artemis Intelligent Power(now MHI) proved this in a standard vehicle that was tested and then converted to a hydraulic hybrid with their pump, motors and pressure accumulators which in production would cost far less than an electric hybrid and would weigh less and save more fuel. Artemis is cooperating with Ricardo in testing flywheel energy storage for more regeneration. Such hybrids could be modified with more efficient engines for even greater fuel savings.

Turbines have lower efficiency than piston engines but clean exhausts even with diesel, and there is no reason not to use them in most automobiles because the extra cost is low because of relatively low fuel use of private automobiles and the greatly increased efficiency of hydraulic hybrids.

Fuel cells fed with hydrogen are very expensive per kilowatt and must be supplemented with heavy batteries. The heavy batteries alone could handle average trips, and all electric automobiles should be fitted with a rescue generator that could use any fuel for even hundreds of miles because it is seldom used. The rescue generator should be built to operate on most automotive fuels including pure ethanol and methanol. Bladon turbines could be tiny but are too expensive for the limited use. Driving an average of 15 miles per hour should not take more than a kilowatt in most automobiles. Drivers who commute long distances every day should not have an electric vehicle except for local use because hydraulic hybrids reduce carbon release to one half with optimization.

One airline is considering electric wheel motors to make their planes into hydrogen hybrids to get to the take off point and save fuel with hydrogen fuel cells. The Russians tested a hydrogen fueled jet aircraft. Most passenger aircraft have an auxiliary power unit that could run the electric wheel motors. Jet fuel is quite cheap and can even be made cheaper from coal and the amount used to taxi is insufficient to justify hydrogen fuel cells compared to the amount used for take off. Water injection on takeoff as in the 707 would save lots of fuel compared to taxi fuel.

Hydraulic motors would make lighter weight aircraft taxi wheels and could assist far better than electric for braking. Much heat could be rejected away from the wheels. The speed could be synchronized to ground speed before touchdown for less tyre wear. ..HG..

@Sheldon, if the H2 infrastructure were there, you might be able to make the case that FCVs were more convenient for the occasional long distance travel. But on a daily basis, starting from home with full fuel in the morning is much more convenient.

One is more convenient daily. The other more convenient only occasionally. Except that the H2 fueling infrastructure does not exist, so it's not more convenient ever.

Not to mention that FCVs are 2x more expensive, H2 fuel is 7x more expensive and H2 fuel stations are 50x more expensive than EVs. That is far less convenient to the consumer.

I can understand why some businesses would be interested though. Cha-ching.

Posters promoting their 'pet' technology often exaggerate cost of competing technologies.

Extended range (350+ miles) FCVEs cost LESS (up to -50%) not MORE than equivalent extended range (350+ miles) BEVs.

Clean H2 inherently cost about +25% more than clean electricity for extended range ultra quick charge BEVs.

The lower FCEVs initial purchase cost will offset most of the higher operation cost, leaving quicker refills, better range and free cabin heat as worthwhile conveniences.

What an utterly meaningless report and a waste of time for obvious reasons.

^What is the actual cost of these different class vehicles on a levelized lifetime cost basis, including maintenance, fuel/electricity, and we dare say, insurance (for hazard)?

^How do weight, range, luxury, and other factors compare, vehicle to equivalent vehicle? Dollars to donuts I would guess your Prius is a very poor rival to compact and subcompact ICE.

^No consideration is made in economies of scale in production of cars, fueling infrastructure, or actual fuel.

^Natural gas is probably the only game in town for hydrogen, increased electricity supply for the near term, or even new US domestic refinery feedstock for gasoline. And what are the well-to-wheel costs per mile of each option? Investors would certainly want to know.

^And my lingering question is why no one seems to have proposed an FCV hybrid, with complementary batteries, low heat emission fuel cells, and innovations employed now in ICE vehicles, such as start-stop and electrified steering?

Harvey> Extended range (350+ miles) FCVEs cost LESS

Sure Harvey. Spec out an EV which does not exist and you can attach any price you'd like to it.

Toyota Mirai costs $57,500.
Chevrolet Bolt will cost $37,500

H2 costs ~ $13.50 pr kg, $16.50 some places
About $0.22 per mile
Electriciti costs $0.12 per kWh
About $0.04 per mile

Hydrogen is at least 5.5x more expensive than electric to operate.

Pretend all you'd like that H2 is less expensive. But when real people go to buy these things in the real world and have to pay the bill, the reality will be much different.

You can't compare a good weather limited rage (120 to 200 miles) slow charge BEV with an all weather very quick refill 350 miles FCEV.

To make your Bolt a 350+ miles all weather BEV would require three to four times more (larger) batteries, more suspension, larger wheels, larger tires, etc. It would become a TESLA S-140+ @ $140,000+ . It would stil need about 20+ miles for partial refills.

Harvey, you can't compare a nonexistant H2 infrastructure to a widespread electric charge network with 40,000 nodes.

The unfortunate reality is that if you had an FCV, you'd be going nowhere because there is absolutely nowhere to fuel up near where you live

Even here in Southern California - the epicenter of H2 infrastructure with all of 8 functioning stations - Toyota has pulled the Mirai off sale becuase that isn't good enough for real customers buying real cars to get to real jobs.

So sure, speculate all you'd like about what the future will be like. Your guess is as good as any.

But to anyone who's looking at the scoreboard in the real world, BEVs and PHEVs are winning 2,000 to 1. There's a reason for that.

Japan and Germany will soon have a thin (first generation) public H2 station network. Many other countries and areas will catch up by 2020 or so. REs and H2 stations are good matches.

H2 will eventually cost about 25% more than electricity used to (quick?) charge batteries.

Users will be compensated with:

1) much quicker refills (3 to 5 minutes instead of 20 to 40 minutes).

2) real all weather extended range (550+ Km)and free cabin heat.

3) lower initial equivalent vehicle purchase price.

The cabin heat is not free. The heat is a byproduct of the inefficiency of the system. When you don't need the heat, it's still there, and you still pay for it.

Even if the FCV were eventually cheaper than an electric, consumers will more than pay the difference in operating costs as I pointed out above.

With a hydrogen infrastructure that is estimated by the DOE to cost $500 billion to $1 trillion in the US alone, there will definitely be no free lunch for FCV drivers.

USA's H2 stations current exaggerated cost $500B to $1000B is a lot less than ongoing oil wars + GHG and pollution created by ICEVs and do not represent a real challenge.

Investing home (in H2 Networks) will be positive in the short, mid and long terms.

It would also be worthwhile for USA to spend another $500B to $1000B to accelerate installation of more REs and introduction of autonomous drive e-vehicles.

I agree, Harvey, that the US would be a lot better off investing less in the war machine and more in renewable energy industry.

But if it's not a market competitive solution, it's not a good investment. I get that you're bullish on hydrogen. But unless these pronouncements about H2's imminent success are backed up by facts, stats or links it's just daydreaming.

H2 station cost estimate is inflated you say? Where are the serious studies that say so and provide rigorous numbers that show otherwise?

Even Toyota says H2 stations cost $4 million each. According to

"There are 168,000 retail locations in the U.S. that sell fuel to the public."

Even if H2 stations could be made as cheap as gas stations - $1-2 million each, that's still $168 billion to 336 billion.

Even the most optimistic estimates put H2 fuel cost at 2x gasoline at scale.

The high cost of infrastructure ensures that it won't be cheap:

@ e-c-i-c:

Do you remember when we switched from CRT TVs to flat thin TVs? Most of us paid 3 to 5 times more for the first few years. However, for the last 3+ years, large flat TVs cost a lot less than equivalent size CRTs of 20 years ago, even in current dollars, the differential would be higher in 1995 dollars.

Similar price changes may happen for FCEVs and H2 stations and H2 price over the next 10 - 20 years or so. One Kg of clean H2 may cost less than one gal of gas in 2035/2040 or so. The $336B for an H2 station network in USA is rather cheap. It could cost less if combined with quick e-charging facilities and/or if progressively replace existing gas stations.

Fixing the mess we created (or trying to fix) in Libya, Irak, Syria, Afghanistan, etc will cost at least 10X that, if not much more.

Let us progressively build very quick e-charging facilities with combined H2 stations network starting in early 2016. A joint effort by utilities, H2 distributors, vehicle manufacturers, local, state and federal authorities could finance a few hundred stations every year for the next 10 to 20+ years.

Other countries would follow and the world would quickly become a better place to live.

We would be in agreement on H2 if the technology had the same scale and innovation advantages, but the problem is, it doesn't, which is why you see so many clean tech advocates panning the "hydrogen economy." No amount of wishful thinking is going to change the dismal economics of running an H2 dispensing station, which is why they are so scarce.

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