September 28 2022 12:37 PM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Electric vs. hydrogen cars

Electric vs. hydrogen cars
(Photo: Envato Elements)
Electric vs. hydrogen cars

Hamzeh S. Al-Alayani

The writer is a board member of a Jordanian public-sector government investments management company and a regular commentator on regional energy and industrial matters.

Mobility is going to change at an accelerated pace in the coming decades. Zero-emission vehicles are monopolizing the market where potential competition between the energy model to power them, electric and hydrogen, comes in. اضافة اعلان

Both have advantages and disadvantages, distinctive features, and different development processes. Perhaps in a few years, they will replace the diesel/supercar dichotomy of the last few decades, and consumers will have to decide between electric and hydrogen cars.

Demand for cars is an essential sign of changing consumer behavior. The Jordanian Free Zones Investors Association data shows that 7,050 electric cars were imported to Jordan in the first half of this year, compared with 3,700 in 2021, representing a 200 percent increase. They still make up less than 2 percent of the 1.5 million cars in the country of 10 million people, but are expected to grow fast as gasoline car clearance decreased by 15 percent and hybrid cars recorded the highest clearance drop by 50 percent.

EV producers have been enjoying tax exemptions and other benefits, while consumers have been enjoying subsidized prices. In France, the government’s “Advenir” program funds the creation of charge points on the road for EVs, adding to the overall feeling of support. In the US, the Biden administration has stated its ambitious goal of having half of the new car sales electric by 2030. However, the current grid does not support EV charging expansion.

US consultancy institution Brattle Group concludes that $75–$125 billion will need to be invested across the electric power sector supply chain by 2030. The investment will add 60–95 TWh of annual electricity demand and 10–20 GW of peak load, requiring 12–18 GW of renewable generation capacity to serve 20 million EVs, including adding 1–2 million public chargers. While this creates a significant opportunity for the electricity industry to increase sales and infrastructure investments, it also creates new challenges.

The sourcing of lithium batteries, for instance, can result in serious environmental damage and produce as much as 16 tons of carbon emissions. In addition, because less than 5 percent of EV batteries are currently recycled, there is substantial risk of environmental contamination related to spent battery disposal.

According to recent estimates, by 2030, the number of EV batteries requiring removal will roughly equal the number currently produced annually.
Hydrogen still has niches where its main strengths — lightness and quick refueling — provide a clear advantage. But while it is possible to fit personal driving lifestyles around strategic battery charging stops, this is not ideal for commercial or long-distance public transport vehicles like trains or coaches, which rely on fast refueling to reduce wait times across long distances.
Nevertheless, not all EV technologies are created equal. While most EV promotions and sales involve battery-powered EVs, ongoing innovations with hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicles (FCEV) make them an increasingly attractive option for some consumers.

FCEV offers greater ranges and faster refueling times. The Hyundai Nexo, for example, can manage 414 miles and only takes five minutes to fill up, as opposed to the hours it can take to recharge an EV. However, FCEV still tends to be expensive to buy as there are yet to be any models at the budget end of the market.

FCEV in Jordan is practically nonexistent. It seems that electric vehicles have the edge over hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The reason is that hydrogen is not as developed as a technology. However, given time and further development, hydrogen could catch up even as electric vehicles advance. This paradigm will require investment in infrastructure to support hydrogen fuel cell drivers.

The European Commission wants to install at least one hydrogen refueling station every 150 kilometers of road in the TEN-T network of European connections by 2030. It can also be expanded to develop other sectors, such as maritime transport, rail, and aviation. A clear way forward is being forged, and many are coming on board to decarbonize all road transport by 2040.

Given this investment and future innovations to bring down the costs associated with hydrogen cars, there is every chance that they could challenge electric vehicles as the future of clean transport.

Hydrogen still has niches where its main strengths — lightness and quick refueling — provide a clear advantage. But while it is possible to fit personal driving lifestyles around strategic battery charging stops, this is not ideal for commercial or long-distance public transport vehicles like trains or coaches, which rely on fast refueling to reduce wait times across long distances.

A pathway draws upon the resources and capabilities of government and private sector partners to push for global leadership in clean hydrogen technologies. The regulatory framework will clearly define policies, regulations, standards, and certifications for the emerging hydrogen industry to be globally competitive.


Hamzeh S. Al-Alayani is a board member of a Jordanian public-sector government investments management company and a regular commentator on regional energy and industrial matters.


Read more Opinion and Analysis
Jordan News