H2 mobility via fuel cell or IC engine: Alternatives for heavy-duty vehicles in Germany and India?
Freight transport accounts for 40 % of global road transport greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Renewable hydrogen is one option for decarbonizing heavy-duty road freight transport as vehicles benefit from high ranges and lower infrastructure requirements. To date, hydrogen is mainly associated with fuelcell electric trucks (FCEV) and busses but their diffusion is rather hesitant. Hence, there are efforts to use hydrogen in internal combustions engines (H2-ICE) with a conventional yet modified powertrain as an alternative to more research-intensive fuel cells. Market potential and cost patterns of a potential low-cost hydrogen engine with somewhat lower operating efficiency have not been addressed in research yet. Here, we evaluate market attractiveness for both technologies with a techno-economic assessment between 2020 and 2050 against conventional diesel for 40t tractor-trailer combinations. Germany and India serve as show cases to evaluate regional sensitivities of our total-cost of ownership (TCO) calculation. We obtained consistent and resilient cost projections from a meta-analysis of various papers and reports using statistical and learning rate techniques, and conducted additional expert interviews to access technical feasibility and realization. Our research shows that both technologies might be cost-competitive in the mid-2030s in Germany. However, the FCEV outperforms the H2-ICE as higher efficiency and thus lower operational costs outweigh higher acquisition cost at long-haul scenarios. In India, however, a higher proportion of acquisition costs, mainly driven by lower energy prices and lower mileage, boosts the economic benefits of H2-ICE and thus justifies further efforts. In conclusion, both technologies prove their ability to outperform diesel trucks. If mass-production for fuel cells and the associated massive cost reduction fails, an H2-ICE might become an interesting transition technology with short time-to-market.