Frontiers in Energy

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 466–480 | Cite as

Abating transport GHG emissions by hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: Chances for the developing world

  • Han Hao
  • Zhexuan Mu
  • Zongwei Liu
  • Fuquan Zhao
Research Article


Fuel cell vehicles, as the most promising clean vehicle technology for the future, represent the major chances for the developing world to avoid high-carbon lock-in in the transportation sector. In this paper, by taking China as an example, the unique advantages for China to deploy fuel cell vehicles are reviewed. Subsequently, this paper analyzes the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 19 fuel cell vehicle utilization pathways by using the life cycle assessment approach. The results show that with the current grid mix in China, hydrogen from water electrolysis has the highest GHG emissions, at 3.10 kgCO2/km, while by-product hydrogen from the chlor-alkali industry has the lowest level, at 0.08 kgCO2/km. Regarding hydrogen storage and transportation, a combination of gas-hydrogen road transportation and single compression in the refueling station has the lowest GHG emissions. Regarding vehicle operation, GHG emissions from indirect methanol fuel cell are proved to be lower than those from direct hydrogen fuel cells. It is recommended that although fuel cell vehicles are promising for the developing world in reducing GHG emissions, the vehicle technology and hydrogen production issues should be well addressed to ensure the life-cycle low-carbon performance.


hydrogen fuel cell vehicle life cycle assessment energy consumption greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions China 


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 71403142, 71774100, and 71690241) and Young Elite Scientists Sponsorship Program by CAST (YESS20160140).


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Automotive Safety and Energy; China Automotive Energy Research CenterTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Automotive Safety and EnergyTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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