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ECN publication
Electricity versus hydrogen for passenger cars under stringent climate change control
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Policy Studies 21-1-2014
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-W--14-002 Article (scientific)
Number of pages:

In this article we analyze how passenger car transportation in Europe may change this century under permanent high oil prices and stringent climate control policy. We focus on electricity and hydrogen as principal candidate energy carriers, because these two options are increasingly believed to become the long-term competitors in the transport sector. We complement a concise stylistic analysis with an in-depth investigation performed with the energy system optimization model TIAM-ECN, which we ran only for the European regions for this study. This bottom-up model, belonging to the TIMES family, has been adapted for the purpose of researching – amongst others – the transport sector. We particularly inspect the use of passenger cars and find that, if oil prices amount to 100–150 $/bl during the remainder of the century, the transport sector could be little affected in the sense that it may continue to rely predominantly on (liquid or gaseous) fossil fuels: our model suggests that it could be optimal to start replacing gasoline and diesel by natural gas around the middle of the century if sufficient oil and gas reserves are available within this price range. If the European Commission achieves implementing its ambitious carbon mitigation plan, however, a massive restructuring of the transport sector away from fossil fuels could take place, which in three decades would transform it to broadly rely on hydrogen as main energy carrier according to our model runs. Under a broad set of sensitivity scenarios with varying assumptions regarding our most important modeling parameters, we find that if battery costs are reduced by at least 60% in comparison to our reference cost decline path, the passenger car sector could predominantly run on electricity from around 2050.

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