Why BEVs outshine hydrogen in sustainable transport

As the European Union progresses towards its 2035 deadline for phasing out new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, the automotive industry faces a choice between battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Despite BEVs securing a foothold with 12.1% of all car registrations in 2022, the debate over the superior sustainable technology continues, particularly as leading manufacturers like Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai explore hydrogen's potential.
Sustainable transport infographic comparing efficiency rates of hydrogen and electric energy for vehicles. Displays well-to-tank and tank-to-wheel phases with steps for BEVs (energy, transportation/storage, E-engine) and hydrogen car (energy, electrolysis, compression, fuel cell, E-engine).
Source: Ayvens

Efficiency and Infrastructure

One of the most significant factors favouring BEVs is their efficiency. BEVs boast an overall efficiency rate of 70-90%, in stark contrast to the 25-35% of FCEVs. This disparity stems from the energy-intensive processes required to produce and transport hydrogen, which result in significant energy losses. Consequently, the cost of charging a BEV remains substantially lower than refuelling an FCEV, even as green hydrogen technology advances.

The development of infrastructure further underscores BEVs’ current advantage. Europe’s network of public charging stations has reached approximately 800.000, while hydrogen refuelling stations number only 245. Although the EU plans to bolster hydrogen infrastructure by 2030, BEVs’ existing network supports their immediate and widespread adoption.

Environmental Considerations

Both BEVs and FCEVs offer zero tailpipe emissions, but the sustainability of their energy sources differs markedly. BEVs currently derive around 40% of their electricity from renewable sources, a figure expected to rise with EU renewable energy targets. Conversely, 99,6% of hydrogen production relies on grey and brown methods, which are highly polluting. The transition to green hydrogen is vital for FCEVs to achieve comparable environmental benefits.

Hydrogen also presents unique challenges, such as leakage during production and transport, which can negate its environmental advantages. Studies indicate that a leakage rate above 9% could offset the benefits of green hydrogen due to prolonged methane presence in the atmosphere.

Market and Economic Factors

Market readiness is another area where BEVs excel. Over 200 BEV models are available in Europe, catering to a broad price range and demonstrating the technology’s maturity. In contrast, only two FCEV models are commercially available, both priced around €70,000. This limited availability and high cost hinder FCEVs’ competitiveness.

Cost competitiveness further tips in favour of BEVs. The total cost of ownership (TCO) for BEVs is already competitive with ICE vehicles in 14 European countries. FCEVs, dependent on substantial subsidies and facing high hydrogen costs, remain far from achieving this parity.

Future Prospects

While BEVs currently dominate the market, FCEVs could find a niche in medium and heavy commercial vehicles. However, demand is currently limited, as evidenced by the preference for BEV trucks in recent Dutch subsidy applications.

As the automotive industry continues to innovate, both technologies may see advancements that address their respective drawbacks. For now, BEVs offer a more practical and economical path towards sustainable road transport.


In the race towards sustainability, BEVs hold a clear edge over FCEVs, driven by superior efficiency, developed infrastructure, and market readiness. While hydrogen technology may evolve to play a more significant role, the immediate future of sustainable transport appears to be electric. For professionals navigating the transition to zero-emission fleets, BEVs represent a viable and strategic investment.

Source: Ayvens

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