Efficiency Compared: Battery-Electric 73%, Hydrogen 22%, ICE 13%

OCT 2 2017 BY MARK KANE 18

Transport & Environment (which bills itself as Europe’s leading NGO campaigning for cleaner transport) has released an interesting graphical comparison of the energy efficiency of three types of power-trains (from production through use): all-electric, hydrogen fuel cell and conventional internal combustion engine.

Toyota Fuel Cell Mirai gets a refueling

In this case, renewable electricity was considered for charging BEVs and the production of hydrogen (or fuel for ICE), but still it’s hard to call FCVs environmentally optimum if they ultimately still waste 78% of the net energy (three times that of the BEV).

The overall reults are:

  • BEVs: 73%
  • FCVs: 22%
  • ICEs: 13%

The advantage of all-electric cars in this scenario is obvious, so much so that it is rapidly becoming the ultimate solution for the world, with many countries now looking at hard sunset dates for the sale of ICE-only passenger vehicles.

And the great thing about BEVs beside offering the best energy efficiency, is that the energy itself can be produced cleanly, without hardly any emissions at all..

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18 Comments on "Efficiency Compared: Battery-Electric 73%, Hydrogen 22%, ICE 13%"

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That third column is not for petrol ICE. Maybe for liquid fuel (methane? hydrogen?) used in a conventional piston engine? Not sure what it is.

Indeed.. I was a bit confused on the 3rd column too because it starts out with “100% renewable” so how is that possible with fossil fules? Sure, it’s possible to synthetically create gasoline, it’s just not done because it isn’t cost effective. So who knows.

It’s referring to the Fischer Tropsch process to synthesize hydrocarbon fuel from H2 and CO. That’s what the FT means in the description. See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fischer%E2%80%93Tropsch_process

I think the 100% renewable energy is for the following:

The author appears to assume that CO2 in the air is converted to fossil fuel (gasoline or diesel). This conversion requires energy.

They are using renewable energy (wind, solar, etc.) to enable the separation of hydrogen from water. The hydrogen is then combined with CO2 from the air, and fossil fuel is produced by producing chains of carbon with hydrogen. Both of these steps require (renewable) energy.

They’re assuming 100% renewable electricity. This means, they need some energy storage. What did they assume? If it’s some sort of battery, the losses are problably higher than Inversion AC/DC + Battery charge efficiency + Inversion DC/AC (which is only mentioned for tank to wheel). But that’s not the case.
And what’s with the energy losses that are used for preliminary air conditioning? I think most people with EVs are using preliminary air conditioning, so they’re using additional energy not mentioned here in case of direct charging but is mentioned like for heating when using power 2 liquid (-> engine efficency).

The charging efficiency of EV can also vary quite much.
E.g. Renault Zoe 41kWh (see pricelist, time for 0->100% SOC):
– 4.5h@11kW (3-phase) -> 49.5kWh -> 17% losses.
25h@2.3kW (1-phase) -> 57.5kWh -> 29% losses.
But that diagram says only 5+5=10%?!
Compared with each other: >16% more energy needed for 1-phase! But many people are saying 1-phase AC is enough… 🙁

So that diagram is quite strange… 🙁


Your observation about “preliminary air conditioning” or heating if you wish to add is totally irrelevant.

Simply because people will do that with LICE or H² or whatever they drive, so the loses will be there for any energy stock.

Here, people remotely start their LICE to heat, cool or melt snow for all their window, because they are so lazy to scrap some ice or sweat a little bit.

Many time I park next to a car that was sitting idling with nobody aboard and the A/C or the heater on full blast at a shopping store parking lot.
I went in buy everything I need and came back half an hour later to see this car still running.
Once I came back about an hour later while an old woman arrive next to me to get in her “fresh car”
Pretty dam stupid if you ask me, because many time the weather wasn’t even so hot or cold.
Whatever, how many time do you see someone parking in a lot discussing with buddy around and the damn car still running.
Wrong behavior can’t factor efficiency in anyway.
You don’t have an argument notting.

A lot of people are self centered idiots, sadly.

Read the article -> It’s about Europe! Most ICE cars here don’t have a preliminary air conditioning! In best case they have an accessory pre-heating. But that’s not very common, maybe except outside northern europe.
So most people currently enter a cold car and the heat from the engine while it’s running (which comes up you want it or not) is used for heating.


That hydrogen column is wrong. H2 to electricity conversion has improved significantly and is much higher.. in the upper 70% efficiency range. Also, I’m guessing their electrolysis efficiency doesn’t account for the incoming new technologies that allow for solar panels to run at the voltage required for electrolysysvto occur, thereby reducing losses further.

So, since you know so much more about “existing” technology and their efficiency, why not put your own well construct and verified graph?

Not saying you’re wrong, but do you have a source for “upper 70% efficiency” for hydrogen fuel cells? The best I’ve seen was around 60%, claimed by an asian car manufacturer earlier this year. Either Honda or Hyundai, I forget… they sound too much alike for a faint memory.

(Which is still higher than what the graph claims, for what it’s worth. It would improve hydrogen from 22% to 27%.)

How efficient are coal fired power plants compared to nuclear power plants?

Please post a link to the original study by T & E. I cannot find that by google search or on their site.

Because they know it’s a bias report. Hydrogen technology is a lot more efficient than most people know of.

Making the electricity is 40% efficient.

This is a rather misleading article as it is important to consider that the battery electric vehicle itself is much less efficient than both the fuel cell electric and conventional vehicles. This is because of the weight of the batteries that need to be transported. For example, a Tesla S with an 85kWh battery pack has a range of 253–272 mi(EPA)and weighs 540kg. If you also take into account the energy used to produce the vehicles, in particular, the batteries, the BEV becomes the least efficient of the 3. We need to stop comparing apples and oranges. BEVs are a good fit with certain consumer needs but not with others (range & charging issues)and in the near term they serve a purpose. As FCEV technology matures, they will be used where longer journeys and faster fuelling is important. In the longer term, when a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is established, they will be ubiquitous for many reasons including, cost, environmental sustainability and the avoidance of massive investment in the electricity grid.

I’m thinking the same thing. It’s a pretty convincing chart because it only goes as far as power to the engine. What would it look like if it included the drag of the additional mass of the energy storage system? GM and Toyota are saying fuel cell has advantage for long-distance transportation.

The weight issue may be important in a conventional ICE car – far less in a BEV due to regenerative braking. More energy to accelerate to speed – which gets returned to the battery with regenerative braking. And whilst battery weight is obviously far less in a FCEV than BEV, there is the weight impact not only of the fuel cell itself, but the tank itself for the hydrogen.

The latest reports I read (eg Nikola and Honda) seem to imply that planned automotive hydrogen filling stations will not have hydrogen delivered to them by tanker, but will manufacture on site via electrolysis. So all else (car/miles etc) equal, then due to hydrogen production/conversion being relatively inefficient compared to battery storage, the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure will require a lot MORE (approx. 3x) investment in the electricity grid!