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DOE analysis suggests rapid convergence of FCEV and BEV TCOs; FCEVs less expensive for majority of LDV fleet by 2040; mass compounding

In 2020, battery-electric vehicles will be a cheaper vehicle option than fuel cell electric vehicles for the majority of the light duty fleet (79-97%), according to a new study by a team at the US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO). However, the cost of the two powertrains will converge quickly, and by 2040, FCEVs will be less expensive than BEVs per mile in approximately 71-88% of the LDV fleet, according to the analysis. Additionally, FCEVs will offer notable cost advantages within larger vehicle size classes and for long distances.

Accordingly, the authors conclude in their paper, published in Transportation Reseach Part C, there will be a competitive market space for both FCEVs and BEVs to meet the different needs of light-duty vehicle consumers.

A common notion among automakers is that BEVs will compete among smaller vehicle size classes with shorter driving ranges, and that FCEVs will compete among larger vehicle size classes with longer daily ranges. A key factor that drives this assumed market segmentation is the difference in mass compounding.

For BEVs, as the capacity of the battery pack increases, an ever-greater fraction of that capacity is used to move the mass of the batteries rather than the mass of vehicle, passengers, and cargo. This results in a nonlinear relationship between vehicle purchase cost and vehicle range. For FCEVs, after adding the basic components of the powertrain—i.e., the compressed gaseous storage tank, fuel cell, balance of plant components, and small battery—an increase in vehicle range requires only slightly larger components, which has a relatively small impact on vehicle mass and cost. Differences in mass compounding between BEVs and FCEVs may also be visible across vehicle size classes as the ratios of mass, stored energy, and range change.

This paper advances the conceptual framework of mass compounding described above by examining costs of light-duty BEVs and FCEVs across a spectrum of vehicle driving ranges and size classes. Total cost of ownership (TCO)—including the time discounted vehicle purchase, operating, and maintenance cost—is estimated for FCEVs and BEVs for 77 market segments, defined by vehicle size class and vehicle effective range between refueling. Additionally, costs of range-related inconveniences are added to each vehicle segment. This segmentation helps elucidate the relative economic competitiveness of BEVs versus FCEVs into the future.

—Morrison et al.

Fraction of LDV fleet that is cost competitive for FCEVs (BEVs) as a function of days of inconvenience per year. Inconvenience penalty is assessed to vehicles that do not belong to a multi-vehicle household. Morrison et al. Click to enlarge.

The team used DOE’s Autonomie model to project vehicle component-level costs for FCEVs and BEV-50s through BEV-300s (50-mile to 300-mile range EVs at 50-mile increments) for the period from 2020-2040.

The paper assumes a 5-year lag between costs from Autonomie and real-world costs, given an assumed (and typical) 5-year lag time from initial vehicle R&D to the showroom.

The authors then performed 5 post hoc calculations on the Autonomie output:

  • Net present value of total cost of ownership (TCO) per mile for each vehicle range-size segment.

  • Linear scaling of Autonomie cost outputs for 5 generic vehicle classes for seven additional vehicle classes.
  • Translating the high-volume costs calculated by Autonomie to low volume costs—for the fuel cells, gaseous storage tanks and hydrogen production and delivery.

  • Interpolating costs of BEV-50 through BEV 300 assuming an exponential rate of cost increase, consistent with the mass compounding effect. Costs are adjusted to reflect real-world range.

  • Addition of an inconvenience penalty associated with vehicle range. BEV drivers are assumed to be inconvenienced when maximum daily mileage exceeds BEV range. FCEV drivers are assumed to be inconvenienced when daily range exceeds assumed refueling distance of 300 miles.

The TCO analysis did not include the time cost of refueling; vehicle performance; the capital cot of fuel infrastructure; or social costs.

Among their findings:

  • Both FCEVs and BEVs have market segments with sometimes substantial cost advantages over one another, especially in the early years. For example, a BEV-50 pickup truck in 2030 is more than $1.00 per mile cheaper than an equivalent FCEV.

  • The number of FCEV-competitive segments grow over time and the relative TCOs become more favorable for FCEVs and the fuel infrastructure is built up.

  • By 2040, for all vehicle classes except pickup trucks, all but the 50- and 100-mile range segments of the 77 range-size class segments are cheaper for FCEVs than BEVs.


  • Geoff Morrison, John Stevens, Fred Joseck (2018) “Relative economic competitiveness of light-duty battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicles” Transportation Research Part C doi: 10.1016/j.trc.2018.01.005


“The TCO analysis did not include the time cost of refueling; vehicle performance; the capital cost of fuel infrastructure; or social costs.”

Eliminate the capital cost of infrastructure and you may have a contender. Not a solved problem, though.

Thank you for posting the study’s battery costs, Davemart.



My understanding is in line for overhaul.
You are correct to say.
If they say the permeation for a given container is low to say 30 years that should be taken as given and correct. I understand that polymer coatings coatings have been used for some years.

I wrongly said that it autoignites at ambient temperatures that is totally off the mark.In fact it is said to require 530oC.(500-570 )in air or oxygen mix.

Flamable range 4-75% with air.

My confusion between flashpoint, vapor pressure and autoignition and how that affects storage of liquid hydrogen.
I hope to better understand how the lower pressure tanks that are being used relate to heat absorption and pressure rise or if it is even relevant.

The whole other side of developing a safe and reliable infrastructure for transport and storage leakage from conventional and non application (hydrogen) specific containment has been demonstrated possible.
There is a proliferation these days of hazardous' higher level technologies requiring comprehensive understanding and industry best practice.


This whole article is embarrassing. It's based on "research" done by a fuel cell group with assumptions like batteries weight is the main factor in efficiency AND that batteries never get any take 2015 tech and use that same Wh/kg in 25 years!

F'ing BRILLIANT! My dog just soiled himself when I read that out loud because it's so stupid.

Why are you guys wasting your time with these idiots. Why don't we debate how many angels dance on the head of a pin next?!?

Are they THIS desperate to keep their funding going? I'm embarrassed for them.


No, I'm not confusing H with He. H has one proton at its core and one orbiting electron. He has Two protons and two neutrons and two orbiting electrons. H2 is the molecular designation of hydrogen. Hydrogen as an atom or molecule is the smallest element known. Its atomic weight of one (1) is the standard of reference to all other elements. Due to its small size, Hydrogen will diffuse through any container no matter of what material such a container maybe comprised of. The only matter that can absolutely encapsulate Hydrogen is Graphene. The lattice dimension of Graphene is so small that not even Hydrogen pass through it. A Graphene liner inside a carbon composite would definitely confine Hydrogen. A minor remaining problem would be the seal of an injection and extraction valve.


@ Davemart:
I assume that the specifications you are referring to are as reliable as the diesel specifications of VW.



You are correct and I was wrong. From Wikipedia:

For these reasons and the small size of helium monatomic molecules, helium diffuses through solids at a rate three times that of air and around 65% that of hydrogen.[20]

I knew that helium was commonly used for leak detection but hydrogen also has less viscosity and will leak faster thru ao orifice.


This latest DOE analysis (study) is as good as any other similar study concerning the relative evolution of BEVs and FCEVs.

Another real question is how quickly will both technology develop (all weather performance and cost wise) in the next 22 years?

No doubt that sometime between 2030 and 2040, something close to affordable 5X ultra quick charge batteries, will be mass produced, making 150+ KW packs for all weather extended BEVs a reality.

However, the high cost of the required battery pack (150 x $165 = $24,750) may raise the cost of all weather extended range BEVs over the cost of equivalent range FCEVs?.

Secondly, ultra quick charging facilities, will require new much more costly facilities, to match the 5 minutes required for FCEVs. Such ultra quick charge facilities may cost even more than the average H2 distribution facilities.

To make FCEVs more competitive, the cost of H2 will have to drop as low as $2/Kg. This could happen by 2025-2030 or so. The performance and cost of FCs will easily match equivalent battery packs by 2030 or so.

Combo, batteries + FCs may be the best solution, for short and long range vehicles.

Roger Pham

You're obviously reading from a script and having zero experience with Hydrogen. When I was a kid, we used to play with Hydrogen balloon, since we couldn't afford Helium at the time. Hydrogen balloon behaved just like Helium balloon, and it takes days for the Hydrogen balloon to lose air when kept inside the house, the same time it took when the balloon was filled with air to gradually lose the air.
Wants further proofs? Hydrogen-filled airships were crossing the Atlantic ocean for over a decade before WW2.


@ Roger Pham
"You're obviously reading from a script and having zero experience with Hydrogen. When I was a kid, "
Have you progressed any further since...?
I'm proud to say that I had the opportunity to study 6 semesters of chemistry and 8 semesters of Physics even though I majored in electronics. My mental recesses have certainly dusted with time but I'm certainly far from being senile.
I suggest that you speak for yourself and don't hold others to be dumber than you are yourself.

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