Battery vs. fuel cell – which type of drive will win the race?

Alternative drive technologies herald a new era of the automotive future. Battery-powered electric vehicles are currently the focus of car manufacturers, but the fuel cell should not be ignored either. One thing is certain: the future is electric. But which technology is more promising and will prevail?

Basically, fuel cell cars are also electric vehicles, with the difference that the electricity is not drawn from a battery, but is generated directly on board via a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.

Is the fuel cell a serious alternative to the battery?

  • In terms of refuelling time, the fuel cell is way ahead of the rest. Filling up a hydrogen car takes just under 3 minutes, the battery-powered car cannot keep up with that. Depending on the charging station, this can take between one hour and up to 14 hours.
  • The range problem is also unknown to the fuel cell, a hydrogen tank lasts up to 600 kilometers. Battery electric vehicles have to make up for this, on average, the range of a battery is 400 kilometres. Only in a few models does the range come close to that of the fuel cell.
  • And fuel cell technology also scored better in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. According to a study by the Fraunhofer ISE, with a mileage of 150,000 kilometres, even in the worst-case scenario the greenhouse gas footprint of the fuel cell vehicle is lower than that of comparable battery vehicles. The study also showed that battery and fuel cell vehicles complement each other ideally. Fuel cell vehicles are more climate-friendly for long ranges and battery vehicles for short ranges.

Water vapour as the only emission, fast refuelling and long range – sounds like the perfect drive technology of the future, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately not completely, because in terms of cost, battery electric cars are clearly ahead:

  • Hydrogen vehicles are much more expensive than their competitor, the battery. Series production of battery systems is much further ahead than that of fuel cells, and expensive platinum also drives up costs enormously.
  • Also in terms of efficiency, the ratio of the energy produced to the energy used, the battery clearly wins. Their efficiency is around 65 percent, whereas the efficiency of the fuel cell is only around 25 percent.

Transformation of the automotive industry

The automotive industry is undergoing transformation. Car manufacturers are resolutely driving the development of electromobility and, if it is up to them, the battery will clearly determine the future of transport. The major OEMs are converting their production facilities or converting entire plants into pure electric car factories.

And automotive suppliers are also following suit, with more and more of them focusing on the production of battery systems for electric vehicles.

KUKA is also already working on standardized manufacturing and assembly solutions for efficient battery pack and battery module production. KUKA also supplies production and assembly lines for fuel cells or their components.

Will the fuel cell be a serious competitor to the battery in the near future?

That must be denied, but it should not be given up. Because one thing is clear: the future road scene will definitely be determined by both types of drive. Only to what extent is still unclear.

It remains exciting, what do you think? Discuss with us and leave a comment.

You want to know more? On the KUKA Blog you will find many interesting articles on the subject of e-mobility:
For example, what does an expert in new energy technologies think, how will the cars of tomorrow be powered? Dr. Joachim Döhner talks about the challenges of new drives, how electromobility is shaking up traditional markets and what today’s electric cars have in common with vehicles of the past.

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