Life-Cycle Implications of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Technology for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Trucks

Andrew Kotz, Dong-Yeon Le, Amgad Elgowainy, Ram Vijayagopal, Jason Marcinkoski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus Citations


This study provides a comprehensive and up-to-date life-cycle comparison of hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks (FCETs) and their conventional diesel counterparts in terms of energy use and air emissions, based on the ensemble of well-established methods, high-fidelity vehicle dynamic simulations, and real-world vehicle test data. For the centralized steam methane reforming (SMR) pathway, hydrogen FCETs reduce life-cycle or well-to-wheel (WTW) petroleum energy use by more than 98% compared to their diesel counterparts. The reduction in WTW air emissions for gaseous hydrogen (G.H2) FCETs ranges from 20 to 45% for greenhouse gases, 37–65% for VOC, 49–77% for CO, 62–83% for NOx, 19–43% for PM10, and 27–44% for PM2.5, depending on vehicle weight classes and truck types. With the current U.S. average electricity generation mix, FCETs tend to create more WTW SOx emissions than their diesel counterparts, mainly because of the upstream emissions related to electricity use for hydrogen compression/liquefaction. Compared to G.H2, liquid hydrogen (L.H2) FCETs generally provide smaller WTW emissions reductions. For both G.H2 and L.H2 pathways for FCETs, because of electricity consumption for compression and liquefaction, spatio-temporal variations of electricity generation can affect the WTW results. FCETs retain the WTW emission reduction benefits, even when considering aggressive diesel engine efficiency improvement.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)217-229
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Power Sources
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-71762


  • Air emissions
  • Fuel economy
  • Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle
  • Life-cycle analysis
  • Medium- and heavy-duty trucks
  • Zero emission vehicle


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