In Drenthe, Groningen and South Holland buses run on hydrogen in a while and tests have already been done with hydrogen buses in some timetables. They are not the only buses in the Netherlands that do not emit emissions, because there are already more than five hundred electric buses on the roads. Which of the two is the future?
NU.nl asked Auke Hoekstra, mobility researcher at Eindhoven University of Technology. His answer in a nutshell: electric.
The most important reason ultimately lies in the costs per kilometer. Both hydrogen transport and electric transport will be more efficient in the future than combustion engines on diesel and gasoline. But Hoekstra calculates that electric vehicles in that area ultimately score about three times better than hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Producing enough green hydrogen to run 100 kilometers costs around three times as much electricity as would be needed to run a comparable electric car directly on that power.
In the current energy mix with electricity that is partly generated by coal and gas-fired power stations, electric cars already emit considerably less CO2 than a comparable petrol or diesel car. But since you need three times as much electricity for hydrogen, it is not a good idea at present to make hydrogen with normal electricity.
An alternative is chemical production: from natural gas. The emissions that this causes are less than from fossil vehicles but more than from electric vehicles, says Hoekstra. In the long term, the CO2 released during the production of hydrogen could even be stored underground, but the future of this technology is still uncertain, says Hoekstra. According to Hoekstra, if only sustainable energy is used, hydrogen and electricity are both very climate-friendly transport options.
Burning hydrogen is a waste, using it for energy storage is better
Even if hydrogen is made entirely from renewable energy, however, the researcher doubts whether we should want large-scale transport on hydrogen. According to him, we can better use that hydrogen for the storage of green electricity - one of the future challenges for the electricity grid, if this is to a large extent fed by a varying supply of energy from sun and wind. For example, a 'winter supply' is needed to buffer the reduced production of solar energy.
"I continue to think it is a shame to burn hydrogen in canisters while we can use that hydrogen as incredibly well as seasonal storage. On the other hand, batteries in vehicles can be given a double function, because when the vehicles are standing still they can be used very well for just a few save energy from sun and wind for an hour. "
Is there no role at all for hydrogen transport? "That is looking at coffee grounds, but I now estimate it at most 10 percent," says Hoekstra. For example, for transport over long distances with buses or trucks or to replace diesel trains that only run a few times a day.
See also: Cabinet and provinces invest in fifty hydrogen buses for public transport
Many misunderstandings about batteries of electric cars
Hoekstra says that there are quite a few misunderstandings about electric transport. For example, last weekend on Twitter he reacted critically to a message in Trouw . In that newspaper article, under the heading "Two million plug cars?" That does not work ' on the basis of a new report from Leiden University that the ambitions for electric cars cannot be achieved due to scarcity of important raw materials that are required for batteries. NU.nl also adopted the conclusions of that article.
Hoekstra talked to the authors of the report and, according to him, they all agree that winning the required resources has political challenges and environmental risks, but that scaling up is possible. Hoekstra points out that the extraction of the required minerals goes up with the increasing demand for electric cars - and that total availability is not a bottleneck.
"The production of metals such as lithium is increasing rapidly, cobalt is being phased out for the most part and we can abandon so-called rare earth metals that are used in engines if they really become scarce." Trouw has now adapted the online version of the article.
More misunderstandings about electric driving
According to Hoekstra, there are more misunderstandings about electric cars. "The most important thing that I hear is that you do not recoup the CO2 emissions from the production of, for example, the battery while driving. People forget in such a way that the production process becomes more efficient and the power cleaner. An electric public transport bus has the production emissions earned back in two to three months. If you compare that with other means of transport, that's extremely good. "
According to Hoekstra, a big unanswered question is whether it will be good if we all have our own electric car. "If we go from one to five billion cars in the world and those are all huge SUVs, then I think we are going to inflict irreparable and unnecessary environmental damage. Electric transport is much better than fossil transport, but there too applies: everything in moderation ".