In der Studie errechnete Gesamtbetriebskosten eines durchschnittlichen Mittelklasse-Pkws im Jahr 2030 für verschiedene Antriebsoptionen mit Ottokraftstoff, Strom bzw. Wasserstoff. Alle Angaben ohne Steuern. Foto: Forschungszentrum Jülich / Stefan Kraus; Icons:

Study tip from the Jülich Research Centre: Electric cars will soon be cheaper than combustion engines

As early as 2025, an average battery-electric mid-range car will be cheaper than one with a combustion engine. This is the conclusion of an analysis by scientists at the Jülich Research Center. Using specially developed models, the researchers investigated what costs can be expected in the transport sector in the future and what scenarios this could lead to for achieving climate protection goals. Batteries and fuel cells will therefore dominate in the future – according to researchers at the Institute for Energy and Climate Research (IEK-3), so-called e-fuels will only play a very minor role in road traffic.

After 2035, no new petrol or diesel cars will be allowed to be registered in the EU. An exception to the combustion engine ban is new cars that run on e-fuels. The EU states decided this in March of this year. A general ban on combustion engines is therefore off the table and the question arises: Which drive systems will prevail in the passenger car sector in the future?

“Our analyses show that in the next few years, electromobility will become the cheaper alternative in the vast majority of cases and that this trend will continue to intensify in the long term,” explains Detlef Stolten, Director of the Jülich Institute for Techno-Economic Systems Analysis. “The reasons for this are the positive technical and economic development of electromobility, as well as the simultaneous increase in fuel costs for combustion engines,” says Stolten.

Above all, advantages in terms of maintenance effort and efficiency mean that the battery-electric variant will have lower total costs over its lifetime from the middle of this decade, according to calculations by the researchers at IEK-3. The manufacturing costs of the electrified drives, on the other hand, will still be higher than those of a conventional combustion engine car in 2025.

This development applies not only to cars, but also to buses and tractor units. “Whether the battery or fuel cell is worthwhile depends on the respective application and the development of electricity and hydrogen costs. One thing is clear, however: the combustion engine will be the most expensive option in all cases examined,” says Thomas Grube, head of the traffic technology and future mobility team.

E-fuels for cars are hardly economical without subsidies

Vehicles with combustion engines can be operated in a climate-neutral manner if they run on synthetic fuels. In terms of energy efficiency, and thus in terms of operating costs, however, combustion engines perform poorly compared to electric cars if the fuel production of the e-fuels is taken into account.

To power a vehicle with e-fuels, around five times more renewable electricity is needed than if the electricity is stored directly in a vehicle battery or used to produce hydrogen,” explains Thomas Grube. In such an overall calculation, the battery car will need around 15 kWh of renewable electricity per 100 km driven in 2045, the fuel cell car 28 kWh and the combustion engine with e-fuels 72 kWh. In addition, local pollutant emissions such as nitrogen oxides and particles are to be expected from combustion engines in the long term.

“The differences in efficiency will also be reflected in the costs. In addition, feasibility must also be taken into account, whereby the high energy expenditure for the production of e-fuels increases the need for the expansion of renewable energies by a factor of 4 to 5 compared to battery-powered cars,” explains Detlef Stolten.

Existing fleet relies on synthetic fuels

According to the study, the pure consumption costs (excluding taxes and duties) of cars with batteries and fuel cells will be comparable to those today in 2045. Car drivers who use e-fuels, on the other hand, would have to expect costs that are 60 to 90 percent higher – even though the existing supply infrastructure for liquid fuels is cheaper than that for electricity and hydrogen and global e-fuel production is assumed in locations with plenty of wind and sun.

Nevertheless, there will still be a demand for these synthetically produced fuels in the future, albeit at a much lower level. After 2035, existing cars with combustion engines and plug-in hybrid drives will still be on German roads. In order to bring these into line with the goal of greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045, they will increasingly have to be powered by e-fuels. However, the amount of e-fuels required will be many times lower than today’s demand for gasoline and diesel. The foreseeable increase in the proportion of electric vehicles means that demand for traditional refinery products and combustion engine drives will fall – while demand for electricity and hydrogen will grow strongly.

Development of the German car fleet until 2045

In addition to the analyses of vehicle costs, the researchers at IEK-3 have determined scenarios for the development of the transport sector, including new registrations and vehicle stocks, in line with the national greenhouse gas reduction targets. To this end, the researchers have developed a model that optimizes the costs of the entire system. The input data for the model includes the results of the detailed vehicle cost analysis. In addition, driving profiles are simulated based on mobility data in order to map user behavior.

The results on the development of the vehicle fleet show a clear picture. In the passenger car sector, electromobility will prevail in new registrations. The battery will dominate until the end of this decade. From the 2030s, the fuel cell will also gain significant market share due to cost reductions in the drive train and hydrogen production. In the commercial vehicle sector, the market ramp-up of electrified drives will begin somewhat later. Nevertheless, according to the Jülich researchers at IEK-3, the future here also belongs to electromobility – although the ratio between battery and fuel cell in larger and heavier vehicles is likely to shift more towards the hydrogen-powered fuel cell.

This article was published in the current eMove360° magazine in german language. Download it for free or order the print version in the shop.

08.07.2024   |  

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