Electric or hydrogen car: features and differences

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21st October 2019 M. Team

Are electric or hydrogen cars better?

Maybe, this is a premature question, because it is very difficult to find charging stations that are active and available to the public, especially those for hydrogen supply.

In addition, the prices of hydrogen cars still have very high purchase prices.

Recharging can have a really big cost.

But we can clarify why, at this time, an electric car is cheaper than a hydrogen car. The study “Automotive Industry 2035 – Forecasts for the Future”, done by the analysts of Horváth&Partners and published by Volkswagen, analyzes the scenario of the next years in sustainable mobility.

The first point analyzed is the cost of administration: generally an electric car costs less than a traditional car if we look at the cost of living, first of all the energy supply (considering a combination of public and domestic recharges). In addition, maintenance is also reduced, many components subject to wear or need periodic maintenance (such as oil and filters) are not present. According to the model and the prices of electricity in different countries, the study shows that with electric propulsion every year we save between 400 and 600 euros of energy, and between 200 and 400 euros of maintenance.


Initial costs are a different issue, but this is partly justified because the electric car market will experience two phases:

  • The first will last until 2023/2025 and will be characterized by the efforts of the manufacturers to increase the number of cars with zero emissions, an option generated mainly by the rigorous standards of CO2 emissions, for which high investments will be necessary.
  • The second will arrive in 2035 in which electric cars will be increasingly convenient, and those with combustion engines will be more expensive for at least two reasons: the adoption of Euro 7 standards and the imposition of CO2, which will make fossil fuels even more expensive. Therefore, the price difference will decrease.


In terms of performance and costs, electric cars are more efficient than hydrogen cars: in fact, currently traveling 100 km in Europe costs 9 to 12 euros with a hydrogen car and 2 to 7 euros with an electric car. According to the study, the advantage of hydrogen is undeniable in specific contexts, such as buses and trucks, which make long distances.


It is here where the first steps are being taken, because the numbers involved are limited and it is easier to adapt the charging stations to the requests. The advantages of hydrogen? Autonomy and charging speed (4-5 minutes). The disadvantages? Currently high purchase costs.


In this comparison, it also considers the ecological sustainability aspect of both solutions: at present, the electricity used to produce electric cars does not always come from renewable sources, so we can’t talk about cars with neutral carbon. Several reports made by VW have concluded that currently an electric car produces less CO2 than one with a combustion engine only after 100,000 km. But this number will change in the coming years, due to the use of more renewable energy.


Energy efficiency should also be considered in the ecological sustainability report: the study showed that a hydrogen car has an general efficiency of 25-35%, compared to 70-80% of an electric car. The reasons are: 45% is lost due to the production of hydrogen through electrolysis, and of the remaining energy, another 55% goes to the transformation of hydrogen into electricity within the fuel cells. On the other hand, the energy to move electric cars generates the loss of approximately 8% during transport from the source to the batteries, and another 18% in their conversion to be used by the motor.