U-M Report: Battery-electric Vehicles Offer Better Fuel Economy Over Fuel-cell Vehicles

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Battery-electric vehicles offer the most readily available fuel source and offer better fuel economy when compared to fuel-cell vehicles, although fuel-cell vehicles have significantly longer driving ranges, says a new report by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor.

Brandon Schoettle, a project manager in U-M Transportation Research Institute and the lead author of the study, along with Michael Sivak, compared battery-electric vehicles (a type of electric vehicle that uses chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs) to fuel-cell vehicles (which use a fuel cell to power its electric motor). The researchers also compared the vehicles to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

“What we found was comparing battery electric and fuel cell (vehicles) to gasoline (vehicles) was that battery electric offer the most readily available fuel source by the public grid, and charging stations tend to be cheaper so access for fuel for those tends to be better,” Schoettle says. “But, of course, (battery-electric vehicles) have the driving range and recharging times issues that still hinder their acceptance.”

Schoettle says fuel-cell vehicles have much longer driving ranges, and operate similarly to a traditional vehicle. He says refueling times can also be as low as gasoline-powered vehicles depending on the pressure of the hydrogen system.

“That leads to the problem with fuel cells is that unless you live basically in Los Angeles or a few areas around San Francisco, there’s no such thing as a hydrogen fuel station you can go to,” Schoettle says. “That infrastructure is necessary to get the mass rollout of those types of vehicles.”

He says the fuel economy for fuel-cell vehicles is nearly 59 miles per gallon equivalent, while battery-electric vehicles get more than 150 miles per gallon equivalent. The current average fuel economy for gasoline-powered vehicles is 23 miles per gallon.

For more information on the study, called The Relative Merits of Battery-Electric Vehicles and Fuel-Cell Vehicles, the abstract is available here.

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