Argonne National Lab Releases Cradle-To-Grave Analysis On US Light Vehicles, Including BEVs

JUN 13 2016 BY MARK KANE 82

Argonne National Lab recently released a comprehensive report on the GHG emissions of cars: “Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of US Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2015) and Future (2025–2030) Technologies”.

Findings on all-electric cars (with estimated 90 and 210 miles range) and hydrogen fuel cell cars, says these vehicles can lower GHG emissions to some 50 g CO2/mile, provided the electricity will be 100% renewable of course (solar/wind).

However, the authors of the report believe that most of the advance technologies with the greatest potential are also the most costly…while at the same time, that even conventional gasoline/diesel cars can go below 150 g CO2/mile (although volume application of such a result is unlikely).

“Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of US Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2015) and Future (2025–2030) Technologies” Argonne National Lab Report

“Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of US Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2015) and Future (2025–2030) Technologies” Argonne National Lab Report

“Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of US Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2015) and Future (2025–2030) Technologies” Argonne National Lab Report

“Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of US Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2015) and Future (2025–2030) Technologies” Argonne National Lab Report

The following observations are drawn from this report:


• Large GHG reductions for LDVs are challenging and require consideration of the entire lifecycle, including vehicle manufacture, fuel production, and vehicle operation.

• High-volume production is critical to the viability of advanced technologies.
• Incremental costs of advanced technologies in FUTURE TECHNOLOGY, HIGH VOLUME cases are significantly reduced, reflecting estimated R&D outcomes.
• Low-carbon fuels can have significantly higher costs than conventional fuels.
• Vehicle cost is the major (60–90%) and fuel cost the minor (10–40%) component of LCD when projected at volume. Treatment of residual vehicle cost is an important consideration. Many alternative vehicles and/or fuels cost significantly more than conventional gasoline vehicles for the CURRENT TECHNOLOGY case, even when costs are projected for high-volume production.

Cost of carbon abatement:
• For the CURRENT TECHNOLOGY, HIGH VOLUME case, carbon abatement costs are generally on the order of $100s per tonne CO2 to $1,000s per tonne CO2 for alternative vehicle-fuel pathways compared to a conventional gasoline vehicle baseline.
• FUTURE TECHNOLOGY, HIGH VOLUME carbon abatement costs are generally expected to be in the range $100–$1,000/tonne CO2.

Technology feasibility:
• Significant technical barriers still exist for the introduction of some alternative fuels. Further, market transition barriers – such as low-volume costs, fuel or make/model availability, and vehicle/fuel/infrastructure compatibility – may play a role as well.

• AEO 2015 data for prices of crude oil, gasoline, and diesel fuel used in the CURRENT TECHNOLOGY case differ from subject data reported for early 2016. Because these data are different and because they are among several factors considered in this analysis, the calculated CURRENT TECHNOLOGY LCD for gasoline and diesel and the CURRENT TECHNOLOGY cost of avoided GHG emissions for the other alternative pathways relative to gasoline would be different if 2016 prices were used. One of the consequences of using AEO 2015 data for the CURRENT TECHNOLOGY cases is that the prices of crude oil, gasoline, and diesel fuel used in this report are 40–50% higher than actual market prices for those products in the first quarter of 2016 (the time this report was written). This report examines current fuel costs in greater detail in Section 9.4 and Appendix F.
• This study evaluated GHG emissions and cost of individual pathways and assumed common vehicle platforms for comparison. The cost estimates in this study are subject to uncertainties due to their projection at both high- and low-volume production for the CURRENT TECHNOLOGY case and their dependence also on technology advancement for the FUTURE TECHNOLOGY case. Furthermore, market scenario analysis should build on this pathway analysis to explore the realistic potential of the mix of different pathways to achieve GHG emission targets in different regions.
• Key GHG emission

source: Argonne National Laboratory via Green Car Congress

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82 Comments on "Argonne National Lab Releases Cradle-To-Grave Analysis On US Light Vehicles, Including BEVs"

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In the first graph where the horizontal black line is “Current Tech,” an H2 FCEV has significantly lower cradle-to-grave CO2 emissions per mile than a 210 mile BEV. That’s got to be an eye opener to some commenters on InsideEVs.

Those graphs make assumptions that don’t relate to my circumstance. I get most of my electricity (over 60%) from my roofs 32 solar panels.


@sven, The current-tech footprint of an emerging technology is only of anecdotal importance.

The key question, is the expected footprint as that tech mature and attains mainstream volumes.

The report does a good job of outlining this path.

That aside, I agree the report presents relatively good news for FCEVs. This is good news for all, b/c FCEVs will likely be indispensable in some niches such as large continental-travel trucks, bulldozers, etc.

Please note, however that the relatively good news are that theoretically, FCEVs can be roughly on par with BEVs in terms of footprint.

On the ground, BEVs are light-years ahead in volume, production know-how, infrastructure, actual implementation of those target low-footprint technologies (i.e., wind/solar energy), vehicle cost, etc.

And so, FCEVs will likely find the niches they are ultimately better for both practically and environmentally.

“…theoretically, FCEVs can be roughly on par with BEVs in terms of footprint.”

But only using unrealistically optimistic assumptions for FCEVs, and ignoring the economic realities.

This study will be cited heavily by physics-denier FCEV promoters, to promote their pro-fool-cell B.S. In fact, sven is already doing exactly that.

Don’t let the math and serious studies to shake your beliefs. Be true cultie, just ignore them and believe! Repeat after me:
Musk is going to save the world!
Musk is genius!
Musk is always right!
Musk saves as from evil Big Oil conspiracy!

The news for FCEVS is pretty good, but only at first glance.

I see an issue with their assessment of the Steam reformation with carbon capture. That CCS part is highly unlikely to happen in the medium-term, even long-term us unclear. The technology is not there and it is risky.

Also with steam reformation, FCEVs would look pretty bad I would imagine and that is their shortcoming that they don’t mention that part. But I will dig into the report, maybe there’s more details fo be found on that…

Hardly. Barely significant and that is with using the very expensive electrolysis to derive Hydrogen. Also very little hydrogen is made that way. The best is bev from wind and solar which stomps hydrogen, under 50 GHG which is much better than the more usual methods of extracting hydrogen, well over 100 GHG. Now that is significant over twice as much.

Also if you consider this line, from the article, to be of any import, then FCV is clearly not even in the running:
“High-volume production is critical to the viability of advanced technologies.”

Not to rain on your parade, but in this case you are all wet.

Oops. “Significant” was an artifact from my comment pre-editing that should have been removed, but wasn’t. Originally, my comment compared the H2 FCV (300 mile range) with the estimated CO2 emissions of a 300-mile BEV (not on the graph) based on the increase in lifetime emissions between a BEV90 and BEV210. I forgot to remove “significant” when editing my comment to change the comparison to a BEV210 from a BEV300. My apologies.

What makes you think that the report is using only “very expensive electrolysis to derive Hydrogen” for its HFCV CO2 figures? The graph shows that when using wind and solar electricity to make H2 (green and white line) CO2 emissions fall to only 50 grams per mile, the same as a BEV90 and slightly more than BEV210.

Yes, and that is why I think the whole report is at best questionable and at worst a complete load of baloney. How on Earth can an H2 FCV be on level pegging with an EV? This suggests there is no energy (and hence CO2) involved in making, compressing and transporting H2 compared with charging an EV either directly from PV or wind turbine (for example) or even indirectly via electrical storage! Clearly ridiculous.

Several other studies (unfortunately I have no English source) found FCEVs much less competitive, but they only compared current tech and did not adjust (read: speculate) about technological development.


just looking at the graphs PHEV with pyrolysis, advanced combined cycle and carbon capture gets us the lowest cost and the lowest GHG.

I wonder if Big Oil will use this info in the future to lobby against long range BEVs.

I see you have already started using it to promote your physics-denier pro-FCEV propaganda.

Dude, I agree on the problems of FCEVs. But boy, take it down a nudge.

Only because you don’t like the results of this study (neither do I) does not give you the right to insult people.

As with all studies, one has to check the assumptions and inputs first before making conclusions. One of the big inputs into BEVs is the assumption the CO2 emissions during battery production. That’s also one of the easy ones to solve, as using renewables only for battery cell and pack construction will bring that down dramatically. Hence the planned use of renewables for the Gigafactory.

Also, there have been a slew of battery production estimates that use the EU electricity grid as the assumed energy input. The actuality is very different.

Similarly, using electrolysis for H2 vehicles is a non-starter, as the energy input required is massive, even if the GHG output is then small.

Tech01x said:

“As with all studies, one has to check the assumptions and inputs first before making conclusions.”

That’s very relevant here. The saying “Garbage in, garbage out” doesn’t apply just to computer data processing. It seems to be very applicable to this theoretical study which clearly ignores a lot of real-world considerations.

Dodaj they factored reusability of battery pack into stationary storage solution?

But otherwise its sound assumption. As You really only have Tesla in that rage which is top Luxury segment, all include.

No comparable FC cars exist As of yet.

Bolt/Model 3 will move the needle below that of FC cars.

sven — You do realize that those numbers are based upon 2014 US national grid mix, which doesn’t reflect reality at all? You don’t actually believe that EV owners across the US are charging at grid average, do you? 1) EV ownership is much, much higher in cleaner grid zones, like California and Washington, and much, much lower in the dirty midwest grids. So right there alone, 2014 national grid averages simply don’t reflect reality on the ground for actual current technology EV owners. 2) EV owners already own solar and net charge on solar at multiple orders of magnitude higher numbers than grid average. Again reality is much cleaner than theoretical grid average numbers used in that graph. 3) EV’s keep getting greener as electricity generation gets greener. Either as their regional grid gets greener, or as the individual car owner’s choice of electricity source gets greener. So that number won’t actually play out over time either, it is just a snapshot of today’s theoretical US grid average as if the grid will not improve at all over the next 15 years. I would contrast that to the current “fleet” of fuel cells on the road today, but there… Read more »

Well it is easy to see why, they are considering SMR with CCS (carbon capture) and biomass gassification which doesn’t exist in the real world.

They neglected to put SMR without CCS and also electrolysis from the conventional grid (they had those in the previous grid model).

Those two would push up the average drastically.

And as others mentioned, the 2014 grid has little to do with today’s grid given the 2015 EPA rules that shut down many coal plants.

Yeah, using theoretical models for the cost of carbon capture is what “clean coal” advocates do.

Reality check: There’s no such thing as “clean coal”. It may be theoretically possible, but it ain’t economically feasible. If it was practical, they’d already be doing it… which they’re not.

And it seems pretty obvious the same for this study’s comparison of BEVs to FCEVs, when it comes to the cost of avoiding pollution. Claiming that FCEVs are cheaper to operate than BEVs is like claiming 1 + 1 = 3. It doesn’t matter how hard you argue… that’s simply and obviously wrong.

Yes, this CCS part is really a puzzling choice for the report.

Especially given that AFAIK there are as of today no CCS operations anywhere.

And then neglecting SMR without CCS is kind saying “stick where the sun don’t shine”.

Weird also that there is no mentioning of nuclear electricity, which despite my not liking it, is a reality for many countries for the next 20-30 years. Why was not neglected?

There are many issues with this report that warrant digging a little deeper.

It’s certainly an eye-opener that a respected institution like Argonne National Lab has obviously used faulty premises in their analysis.

I suspect they ignored the cost of constructing fueling/charging stations. The per-car cost for FCEVs is enormous… see my post below.

It shows it as marginally, not significantly, better. And it’s stated that the assumption is 100% renewable energy.

Fool cells’ problem is not that the theoretical footprint is large, but that they are highly inefficient. As you know it would take three times as much renewable to power h2 cars as BEVs, all else equal.

The world won’t be running on renewable for a very long time, so at least for this century, every Wh of renewable that is used to make h2 could and should have been used instead to charge a battery, offsetting three times as much CO2.

Of course there’s all the cost variables as well, which IMO are unlikely to ever favor FC, but fundamentally h2 is just crazy inefficient for any large post in the energy budget. Maybe some day fusion will make efficiency irrelevant, but until that day, it is in fact the most important parameter.

Mark (Kane),

What does ‘ACC’ that appears in so many places in the charts, stand for?


And thanks for bringing this important work! I like their focus on target/mature footprints rather than the current ones, which are not that important.

definition of terms in the pdf

ACC is advanced combined cycle

So, I guess they mean electricity only from advanced combined cycle natural-gas-fired power plants, rather than a typical (or regional) mix of grid energy providers.

Sounds all rather theoretical to me. Why didn’t they use real-world numbers for the mix of grid energy providers? It’s not like that data is hard to find.

When you’re talking about how each solution *can* perform, eventually and at volume, it’s obviously not just a matter of “getting the data”.

Not to be confused with Adaptive Cruise Control which also boasts the ACC moniker, albeit not on this study.

And when Googling “ACC electricity”, I learned that on forums for automotive electrical engineering, it means “accessory”. Not much help there!

Many of the definitions used by Argonne on its GREET2014 page:

Clicking on graphs makes them readable size. Below is the graph for GHG (CO2) emissions:

* can be found on its GREET2014 page:

I can’t find “poplar”

Poplar is the name of a family of tree species. In the study above Poplar was the biomass used to make hydrogen from biomass gasification.

It’s hard to tell, but in the table of the first graph Poplar is pea green, not dark grey. In the first graph it is the pea green line under H2 FCEV, which says gasification.

Yes, the charts are opaque in several ways. Too many undefined TLAs, and colors that are easily confused with each other.

Not to mention this seems to be too abstract to have much use, and apparently ignores some very important factors when comparing BEVs to FCEVs.

There is simply no way any realistic analysis could conclude that avoiding pollution with BEVs is more expensive than with FCEVs. Something is obviously very off.

Wow I had no idea that we were supposed to be pursuing pyrolysis. Who woulda thunk.

also startling that carbon capture is low cost.

Startling that a study from a respected institution like Argonne would use a theoretical model for carbon capture that doesn’t reflect economic reality.

Looks like they’re using the same theoretical economic model for carbon capture as the “clean coal” advocates. That model is, to put it politely, simply not realistic. To put it bluntly, it’s B.S.

Let’s compare a future BEV with a future ICEV somewhere between 205 and 2030.
Due to the regulations for ICEV in place at that time, ICE have become really complex and costly. But the cost of batteries is down to $25-$50/kWh. That makes the sticker price for BE cars lower than the sticker price for ICE cars.
Now for the CO2 produced in mining, steel making, transport and manufacturing etc. for ICE and BE electric cars. I can’t think of a technological reason why the production of BE cars should be filthier than the production of ICE cars. The technologies are evolving too fast and moving in opposite directions.
And the CO2 cost of recycling the cars after 2040? Most likely a lot lower for BE cars.

If we are nice to ICE cars and give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the CO2 cost for cradle and grave are the same, than the avoiding CO2 of must occur while using the car.

When the sticker price is lower and the cost of energy is lower for the BEV, Than the cost of avoiding CO2 emissions is negative.

I bet the sponsors of this “research” did not like that outcome.

The sponsor of this “research” is the U.S. government’s Department of Energy, specifically the Argonne National Laboratory.

When supposedly independent national institutions produce reports at odds with common sense and recent developments, a closer look often reveals cross connections between persons in the institute and outside stakeholders. I do not know anything about ArgonneNL or the people that work there, but this report is not worth the electrons that display it at my terminal.

Perhaps, you’re biased.

Argonne National Lab has been doing battery research for the past 40 years, invented the Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC) battery chemistry, was in integral part of the Manhattan Project to make the world’s first Nuclear bomb, designed and built the world’s first power producing nuclear reactors, designed the nuclear reactors used by the U.S. Navy, maintains one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, etc.

The Argonne National Lab is also known for its GREET analysis, the world’s most comprehensive well-to-wheels CO2 analysis, which is updated annually and is used by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to set policy on reducing CO2 emissions and other emissions such as NOx, SOx, VOC, CO, and particulate matter.

Sven, I am biased. But I don’t write reports.

It is the ANL’s bias that irks me.
Their numbers don’t add up in the real world.

Sven, a last nitpick and then I stop pestering you.

Look at the second graph: Cost of avoided GHGs, Current Tech.
The blue bars for the PHEV35 and the PHEV10.

We know the real world situation. The benefit of CO2 avoided outweighs the cost of the extra batteries. That is the reason Volt owners have asked GM for larger batteries. They have to buy less gasoline.

The PHEV35 bar should be shorter than the PHEV10 bar.

I am sure that the scientists at ANL are brilliant and honest (no snark intended), but the bias in their assumptions produces numbers that just don’t add up.

Maarten, put your pants back on. A report like that makes a ton of assumptions, and typically makes everyone with a vested interest unhappy. Furthermore, does anybody think that “pyrolysis”, or “fermentation”, whatever these technologies entail, will economically compete with wind and solar? I bet no one. You need to read between the lines. This is a good case for BEV tech, even if it throws a bone to others.

You can download the entire 210-page report by clicking the source link at the end of the article:

The report explains the methodology used and shows their inputs, formulas, and calculations.

sven said:

“Perhaps, you’re biased.”

When a “study” makes a claim as obviously false as claiming 1 + 1 = 3, then it’s not being “biased” to state the fact — not opinion, but fact — that there is something seriously wrong with either the premises or the reasoning. In this case, I suspect they’ve used premises which have little if anything to do with economic realities in the real world.

Maybe it’s just coincidence that this study can be, and will be, used to support the lie that FCEVs are better for the environment than BEVs.

And maybe it’s no coincidence at all. Maybe it’s yet another indication of Big Oil’s ability to use its money and its lobbying power to fund junk science supporting their propaganda.


Thanks for the download link. Sorry to disappoint you, but…

The driving force behind this paper is a PPP (Public Private Partnership).
The private partners are three car companies (GM, Ford, FCA) and five oil companies. (Chevron, Exxon Mobile, SHELL, BP, Phillips).

See page xvii.

Every human is by definition biased, so are scientists (I am one). That does not necessarily invalidate the research. They need to make their assumptions as realistic as possible and make them transparent. I will dig into the report for that.

However, there are some obvious things at first glance that look questionable:
– including Carbon capture and storage: this is a “solution” that does not exist. I can’t get it out of my brain as to why they included it.
– not showing SMR without CCS: this is the de-facto standard production way of hydrogen today. Why was that exluded from the “current day tech” analysis?
– BEVs with 90mi range are IMHO performing too well.
– E85 and gasoline HEVs with pyrolisis still perform better than some H2 scenarios (which is correct with present tech, not necessarily with future tech, though)
– total neglect of other local emissions like NOx, soot, other VOC and particulate matter etc.

I think some questions need to be asked to this report and I am not sure if I will find the answers very convincing.

But, overall, I applaud the effort.

I do not know anything about ArgonneNL or the people that work there, but this report is not worth the electrons that display it at my terminal.

Right. Despite the sterling reputation of Argonne National Labs, this appears to be yet another study using cherry-picked assumptions, and ignoring “inconvenient facts”, to favor Big Oil propaganda.

Sad to see Argonne allow itself to be used in this manner.

looks like they assumed 125$/kwh for battery costs:

The cost assumptions in this C2G report are aligned with the goals of U.S. DRIVE battery R&D, which intends to develop the technologies that will reduce battery costs to $125/kWh.
section 6.4.1

So EVs powered by solar and wind is the best way to go. No surprise there.

Looking at the future FCEV I see a number of missing assumptions. And let’s again look at a timeframe of 2025-2030.

Technologies evolve at different speeds. We have had some time to gauge the relative speeds. Fuel cells are evolving quite slow (if not abandoned) and batteries are picking up speed.

Most countries will have a CO2 tax.

Fuel cell technology will not be very different from the current technology in 15 years. Not much opportunity to redesign production with a lower CO2 footprint.
Battery production on the other hand, will be nothing like we see today. New anode and cathode technologies with new materials and a production process that evolved under the pressure of the carbon tax.

This makes the production of FCEV more CO2 intensive than the production of BEV.
The sticker price of a FCEV will be a lot higher than the sticker price of a BEV. Even when using PV and electrolysis producing H2, the energy used, and thus the costs, is two or three times higher than for a BEV.

More CO2 produced in the cradle phase, more energy used in the use phase, how can this be on par with a BEV?

I also personally believe that it ignores the market pressures that will change FCEV’s if they ever make it to market.

When FCEV owners figure out they have an electric battery, they will want to plug it in. Just like Hybrid owners kept calling on Hybrid companies to all them to plug in once they were given limited EV mode operation.

FCEV owners will also demand higher performance, which will likely come from larger traction batteries.

After a while, from the first graph, even a simple 35 mile ICE PHEV will be on par with FCEV’s.

If that is all we end up with after a decade and a half of dumping money into a brand new fuel infrastructure, what is the point?

And a little while after I posted my last post, this shows up on insideev’s:

All FCEV’s will become PFCEV’s.

Right on Nix.I don’t know the CARB effects of this, but it would be the way to go if the manufacturer could get the credits. It actually would give customers a better working vehicle. The only problem is that the hydrogen station’s usage would go down thus making it hard to build out the infrastructure. No way that I would buy one that did not have a plug.

Looking at the best case results for EVs and FCEVs raises an important point: if you use two to three times as much renewable energy, emissions don’t really go up. Is the logical conclusion that we should adopt FCEVs regardless of the fact that we’ll have to deploy two to three times as many solar panels and wind turbines?

I don’t think the term “logical conclusion” is relevant to this study… or maybe it should be called a “study”, as it seems to have rather little relevance to the real world.

When a “study” uses premises as obviously fallacious as this one does… well, it’s another case of “Garbage in, garbage out”.

Hm, I think that they would have to factor in the production CO2 of the extra 200% of renewable capacity, and also its costs to make the FCEV calculation correct. I’m not sure they did.

However, beyond the installation, essentially wind, solar and wave energy is CO2 free, so initially there is 200% more CO2 for setting up energy generation, than in the pure EV case.

And, of course, building 200% more capacity would have rather wrecking economic effects on the price competitiveness of the electrolysed H2.

So, no, I think this is not a very sound analysis that they did there. But to really know more, we’d have to actually read the damn thing, I guess.

Hydrogen cars appear to do well in this study only because they have an electric drive train like the battery electric cars.

It has been stated that hydrogen made from natural gas is roughly equivalent in cost to gasoline. That was when gasoline was close to $4 dollars a gallon. I can only imagine what hydrogen will end up costing using electrolysis from wind and solar. It will be even more. This study doesn’t have any graphs on that !

Battery electric cars are already significantly cheaper to run than FCEV and are likely to get even cheaper relative to H2.

Everybody already knew that point of use emissions for BEV and FCEV are zero. This study evades the issues of affordability and practicality because it basically focuses on CO2 emissions, global warming and all that jazz…..

I also doubt that this study factored in the multitude of greenhouse gasses that will be expelled into the atmosphere while building this non-existent proposed hydrogen infrastructure that will cost Trillions and which the taxpayer will no doubt be expected to fund for the benefit of the oil companies.

It would be amusing to list all the sources of pollution this “study” obviously ignored to reach the false conclusion that it’s cheaper to reduce pollution using FCEVs than with BEVs.

They must, for example, be assuming:

1. The H2 is generated by electrolysis using 100% clean energy, unlike 95% of commercially produced H2, which is reformed natural gas

2. The generated H2 goes to a fueling station immediately adjacent via a short pipeline… unlike in the real world, where most of it has to be transported via diesel-burning tanker truck to the fueling station.

3. The fueling station, with its high-pressure pumps needed to keep the H2 at full dispensing pressure, is also run using 100% renewable energy.

Needless to say (unless you’re a physics-denying “fool cell” car promoter), the assumptions used here are unlikely to represent anything happening in the real world.

Really sad to see junk science coming from Argonne. I had a much higher opinion of that lab until I took a good look at this “study”.

Put a simple economy-wide rising price on carbon (just collect it where it’s already counted, all the way upstream, at the port or the hole in the ground), then the accountants will figure everything else out. Nature will take its course.

While sven managed to make this into a fuel cell debate, I think the REAL eye opener is how well PHEV’s did in these graphs. I’m all for pure BEV’s, but comparing the numbers with PHEV’s, the PHEV’s with even moderate 35 mile ranges do surprisingly well, with significant improvements in emissions, at the lowest cost per unit of cleaner emissions. PHEV’s are a gateway drug to BEV’s, and along the way save a whole lot of emissions while getting more price conscious drivers into driving on electricity. And they also have the advantage of crushing FCEV’s in their own game. FCEV advocates say they are better than EV’s because of range and quick fill. Well, PHEV’s have even more range, and fill even quicker for road trips, while still being able to be plugged in at home so you don’t need a filling station for daily driving. Fuel cell advocates talk about FCEV’s only releasing water out the tailpipe in heavy pollution city centers. Well, PHEV’s don’t even release water in city centers when operating in EV mode. When the ICE is on, PHEV’s are more likely to be operating outside of city centers. And every single PHEV company… Read more »

Excellent observation.

The problem is that this “study” so obviously uses unrealistic assumptions for its premises that we can’t rely on any of its conclusions as evidence for anything in the real world.

“Garbage in, garbage out” applies here.

Very well spotted! I had the exact same thoughts after reading the diagrams and was wondering why nobody saw it. Well you did 🙂

I think with more cars like the Volt2 with decent 80-100km range and a small efficient petrol engine for the few long-distances serves pretty well until long-distance EVs become affordable to poor scientists like myself 😉
But then the price difference is already declining rapidly and maybe the window for PHEVs is closing already with the next generation of cars that launch until 2022 or so. But if I had to decide today, I’d want a Volt2 estate/wagon.

What must be noticed is that they didn’t dare to include the PHEV-80 E85 because that one would likely come out best on all accounts.

The folks wisdom is that ethanol is hygroscopic and as such isn’t considered good option for longer storage that would be the case of plugin hybrids. It may be different with latest tech, I don’t know.

The study says it all even it makes ignorant fanboys and culties unhappy. Even corn sourced ethanol, not to mention sugarcane, allows significantly higher greenhouse gas reduction for the same amount of money invested, using current tech.

That observation holds, but the question is whether or not the cheapest CO2 reduction/money is good enough to save the planet. Otherwise the economically cheaper solution must be avoided at all costs, because the costs of wrecking the planet for good are immeasurably high.

This study is so full of undefined TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) that I get very little meaning out of it.

What means “ACC electricity”? I did ask Mr. Google, and Mr. Wikipedia. Still no clue.

What about LDV? Just as a wild guess: Perhaps “Long Distance Vehicle”?

And I doubt “LCD” means “Liquid Crystal Display” in this context.

The acronyms are listed in the report on page xiii.

ACC – advanced combined cycle
LDV – light-duty vehicles
LCD – levelized cost of driving

Thank you, sven.

How dumb. All such studies and science works have acronym definitions at the very beginning of the paper. Just open the PDF.

They’re rating the cost of avoiding pollution as greater with BEVs than with FCEVs?!?!

Wow! Before this, I had a lot of respect for Argonne National Lab.

They’re obviously ignoring the enormous cost of building (and maintaining) H2 fueling stations. At ~$3 million for ~50 vehicles, assuming a weekly fill-up, that’s $8571 per car just to build the fueling station! I dunno what the maintenance cost is, but it must be substantial.

As compared to, say, a typical gasoline station: 1100 cars per day, a construction cost of maybe $500,000-$750,000, assuming a weekly fill-up, that’s only $65-$97 per car. And with very simple tech used to store and dispense gasoline, the maintenance cost must be very low.

For BEVs, the same analysis doesn’t work, because 90-95% of charging is done at home or at work; no publicly accessible infrastructure required for 90-95% of a BEV’s miles.


“…H2 fueling stations. At ~$3 million for filling ~50 vehicles per day

PP, you don’t include any time frame in your investment cost.
Neither maintenance or environment cost.
I would say it’s wrong anyhow.
But I get the point.
I’m stun by this study and there’s is some explanation for everything that is missing.
Still, if having the environment advantage of reducing the average gas consumption with PHEV is an obvious one and those is already partly electrified. The question is why would you lose this edge if you go all the way full electric doesn’t seems to add up.
There’s something missing in this study.

I remember a report on the costs of H2 stations on InsideEV recently. It was pretty much exactly what PP states above. An additional issue is that the currently available H2 stations are not filling up a car that much quicker than charging an EV would be. They can need 15 minutes for building up the pressure, since the local tanks are not as high-pressure as the tank in the car. And then 15 min buildup plus the fuelling time of about 5 min is not really any better when compared to 20 min EV charging time, provided you’ll be able to charge similar range in that time, of course, which EVs still have to manage with e.g. 350kW DCFC. Also, this 50 cars restriction per day means that you can arrive at an H2 station and not be able to fill up because it#s past its daily limit. Then you’d be stranded. Unlikely for the initial time FCEVs are around, but those issues really need to be addressed before FCEVs are even only as convenient as EVs, never mind cheaper to run (very much unlikely given current already high prices) or green enough (cheap H2 comes from dirty steam… Read more »

I’d like to thank everyone for your input on this post; very civilized.

I have a really tough time coming to terms with the apparent conclusions of this study. In my simple world, there are really four distinct periods of energy consumption in a car, from cradle to grave… (1) extracting/producing raw materials, (2) vehicle manufacturing, (3) vehicle use and (4) vehicle recycling. Assume for a moment that we have evolved to a world where we have an unlimited (or adequate) supply of clean electricity. What processes in the four stages would generate carbon? Mining could in theory be done with electric equipment. Smelting iron ore would presumably require coal heat, although I wonder if we could find a way to use solar energy in a similar way to the molten salt installations… Aluminum is prepared with electricity, but generates CO2 (could it be captured?). So the raw materials would be approximately on par across the various types of cars. I don’t see a particular car type being significantly more costly to build in the carbon sense. And once the materials are made, why would there be a need to generate significant carbon if we had clean electricity in the factories? Jumping to recycling – aluminum is virtually 100% recyclable, without CO2 generation.… Read more »
Powering FCVs and EVs on 100% renewable energy reveals their assumptions about CO2 released during vehicle production. According to Argonne, these are 50g / mile for both types of vehicles. The BEV210 is even slightly lower that the FCV as far as emissions during vehicle production is concerned. So how in the world does it have higher present-day CO2 emissions than a FCV? There is no way this is possible. Fuel cell cars get 55 – 65 MPGe while electric cars get TWICE these fuel economy numbers. Argonne’s figures don’t even pass the sniff test. What we need to keep in mind is that Argonne is heavily involved in cutting-edge research and moonshot-type efforts. EVs already have all the tech they need to take over the market. While Argonne has contributed a lot to battery tech in the past, EVs are at a stage where they don’t need any more of these technological breakthroughs that Argonne is famous for to succeed. It’s all about fine-tuning manufacturing processes and supply chains now. Meanwhile, FCVs need several breakthroughs in hydrogen production, storage, fuel cell operation, etc. to be competitive. Therefore, an institution dedicated to making breakthrough technological discoveries would have a strong… Read more »

The elephant in the room of this study is the least obvious assumption: that individual car traffic will be the transportation model of the future.

The lowest CO2 and cheapest reduction of CO2 emissions is still to massively expand public transport. It is reliable, not clogged up in traffic jams, reduces CO2 emissions per passenger mile the strongest of all and undoubtedly has a bigger impact on saving the planet than any significant investment into clean car tech.

Of course that works only in urban environs, but luckily (or not) about 75% of the population lives/will live in cities by 2050. So this is where we can save the most.

Why is this not being used as a reference point in the study?

This is the most hilarious comment section I have ever seen.

It’s got everything: tinfoil hat Big-Oil conspiracy theorists, armchair scientists impugning ANL’s credibility from the comfort of their mothers’ basements, psychics who are able to divine and demolish the complicated, close-packed technical reasoning and computation of a 200+ page report from a few charts…

Pure gold!

I forgot the Tesla fanboys, hanging by their teeth, like terriers, from Elon’s jock.