Well-to-wheels emissions, costs, and feedstock potentials for light-duty hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in China in 2017 and 2030

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Hydrogen has the potential to contribute to a clean, secure, and affordable energy future. It can provide distributed energy storage for intermittent renewable energy resources and support hydrogen-based transportation. This study reports well-to-wheels greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria air pollutant emissions and levelized cost of driving (LCD) for light-duty fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) in China in 2017 and 2030, powered with hydrogen from renewable and conventional sources. All FCV pathways, except electrolysis using grid electricity or liquefied hydrogen pathways, have GHG, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOX), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions lower than, or comparable to, gasoline vehicles. Electricity sources strongly influence the environmental impacts for electrolysis-based hydrogen pathways. For FCV GHG, NOX, PM2.5, and SO2 emissions to be lower than gasoline vehicles, the share of coal-fired electricity used in hydrogen production must be less than 50%, 58%, 20%, and 34%, respectively; the share of coal in electricity generation in China was ~65% in 2017 and is projected to be ~50% in 2030. A case study shows that additional electricity is required to supplement wind curtailment to achieve higher hydrogen production volumes thus lowering production cost. Assuming decreased costs for both hydrogen production and FCVs in 2030, the LCD for wind-electrolysis FCV pathway (~$0.31/km) could approach that for gasoline (~$0.29/km) and battery electric vehicles (~$0.30/km). Wind and solar curtailment were 27.7 TWh and 5.5 TWh in 2018 and could be used to produce hydrogen for 4.9 million FCVs.

Research Areas: 
Hydrogen energy
Fuel cell vehicle
Greenhouse gas
Criteria air pollutant
Wind curtailment
Levelized cost of driving
Hydrogen feedstock reserve
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Date Published: 
March 2021
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Full Citation: 
He, Xiaoyi, Fan Wang, Timothy J. Wallington, Wei Shen, Marc W. Melaina, Hyung Chul Kim, Robert De Kleine, Ting Lin, Shaojun Zhang, Gregory A. Keoleian, Xi Lu, Yu Wu. (2021) “Well-to-wheels emissions, costs, and feedstock potentials for light-duty hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in China in 2017 and 2030” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 137(110477): 1-16.
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