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Felicity Bradstock

Felicity Bradstock

Felicity Bradstock is a freelance writer specialising in Energy and Finance. She has a Master’s in International Development from the University of Birmingham, UK.

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The Futuristic Vehicles That Could Compete With EVs

  • While electric vehicles currently dominate the green transport market, they are by no means the only clean transport technology being developed.
  • EV sales made up roughly 10 percent of global car sales in 2021, and they are expected to increase their market share in the coming decade.
  • From cars powered by solar to cars that run on biofuel and hydrogen, there are plenty of competitors aiming for commercially viable cars by 2030.

Despite leading the green transport market, electric vehicles (EVs) may not be the only option available in the future. Several climate-friendly alternatives to electric battery vehicles are being researched and designed, although most are getting little public attention. So, will the green car of the future be electric, or will other technologies catch up to offer other market leaders? 

The sale of EVs doubled in 2021, compared to the previous year, reaching 6.6 million. This meant that around 10 percent of global car sales were electric. The International Energy Agency predicts that EVs will contribute over 30 percent of vehicle sales by 2030, with uptake rates increasing alongside the implementation of climate policies around the globe. But as EV sales continue to rise, we may well see other green vehicles arrive on the market, as automakers compete to create the most innovative carbon-neutral vehicles. 

Some less-polluting diesel and petrol alternatives being used to fuel vehicles include natural gas, BioNGV or Biomethane, hydrogen, biofuel, steam, nitrogen, and solar power. Most of these car-powering methods are in their infancy, but with greater investment in research and development, they could soon catch up with the electric battery competition.

Just this week, Dutch startup Lightyear launched the prototype of its new Lightyear 0 solar car. The car is made up of 5m2 of solar panels and is expected to reach distances of around 70km from solar power alone. At €250,000, it has a long way to go before becoming commercially viable, but it shows promise. The CEO of Lightyear, Lex Hoefsloot, explained: “It shows that it is possible, it serves as a technology demonstrator. But our goal is to be able to reach a mass market in three years, with a car at €30,000”.

The company believes that the vehicle can go for weeks or even months without a charge thanks to its solar power capturing panels, which recharge the battery as it runs or while parked. Lightyear says that the car will go for longer without a charge in sunny climates, but can still be used in cloudy conditions. The technology has come a long way in the last few years, showing the endless possibilities for new renewable technologies. Hoefloot stated “People were saying it wasn’t possible, mostly because of the limited amount of solar power you could get on a car”, but the startup appears to have proved them wrong. 

A more well-established power source is gas, with compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles running similarly to petrol- and diesel-powered cars through spark-ignition internal combustion engines. While gas vehicles still produce carbon emissions, they are considered much less polluting than traditionally fuelled cars. But, at present, only around 1 percent of U.S. fueling stations offer CNG, since few automakers are currently producing natural gas vehicles as they invest in zero-emissions alternatives.

The most competitive alternative to electric batteries at present is the hydrogen fuel cell. According to a 2021 analysis, the hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) market is expected to be worth around $46.89 billion by 2028, achieving a CAGR of 68.52 percent. This marks a significant increase from the $1.17 billion market value in 2020. BMW, Daimler, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Renault, Toyota, and Volvo are among some of the major automakers offering FCEVs in competition with EV makers.

With investment in hydrogen technology, particularly in carbon-neutral green hydrogen, increasing significantly in the last few years, automakers are pumping billions into making the FCEV market competitive with the well-established EV market. While FCEVs are criticized for being less efficient than EVs, as only 55 percent of the hydrogen energy created through electrolysis is usable, hydrogen is highly competitive with electric batteries in several ways. For example, fuel cells are quick to recharge, allowing users to pump hydrogen fuel much in the same way they would petrol or diesel. This means they are much faster to charge than batteries that have to be connected to the electric supply for around an hour. As fuel cells are used to store hydrogen fuel, FCEVs typically also have a much longer range than traditional EVs. 

However, FCEVs face several challenges such as the much better-established EV infrastructure already in place in several countries around the world. For the FCEV market to be successful, companies and governments must invest heavily in the construction of hydrogen fueling stations over the next decade. In addition, the cost of green hydrogen remains high, meaning that FCEVs are more expensive to power than EVs are present. Although innovations in hydrogen production are expected to lead to a reduction in prices in the coming years. 

While electric-battery-powered vehicles remain the most popular ‘green vehicle’ at present, several other technologies are quickly catching up, as automakers look to produce the most competitive renewable-energy-run vehicles. Ultimately, greater investment in technologies such as solar, natural gas, and hydrogen could see the face of the green vehicle market change substantially over the next decade.


By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Dennis Smith on July 04 2022 said:
    It is disappointing that some people still think that hydrogen is a viable energy for transportation. While hydrogen price might be going down, so does batteries. Hydtrogen is very difficult medium to handle while electricity is everywhere and is easy to store.
  • John Galt on July 06 2022 said:
    @Dennis Smith "It is disappointing that some people still think that hydrogen is a viable energy for transportation"

    So true. For the same amount of energy it takes to make hydrogen, we can make other more useful hydrocarbon synthetic, clean burning, carbon neutral substitutes for gas and diesel.

    Also hilarious that they mentioned steam for cars - bring back the Stanley Steamer!
  • independence01776 d on July 06 2022 said:
    The problem for alternative fuels fossil fuels are many:
    1) They add great complication to the vehicle power train, with hundreds of moving parts, no exhaust system, etc. Therefore lots of service compared to an BEV.
    2) With a global population of 8 billion all wanting to drive vehicles, demand for fuel with limited supply will continue to push prices higher and higher
    3) The alternative: Batteries means a simple powertrain with few moving parts.
    3a) This allows for design freedom in the vehicle which adds to the safety, room for people and storage, etc. They are also more convenient as you can charge them anywhere there is an outlet (home).
    4) And the kicker, though prices are high right now due to limited supply and lots of demand, that will change as the market catches up to demand. In the not too distant future, the simplicity of ICE vehicles will lower the cost significantly and that is the nail in the coffin for ICE vehicles, not matter what the source of fuel maybe.
  • Digger 7 on July 07 2022 said:
    Sorry guys, pound for pound batteries are lousy storage devices. This is the problem with EV.
  • Bill Tomlinson on July 29 2022 said:
    Felicity Bradstock states that "fuel cells are quick to recharge, allowing users to pump hydrogen fuel much in the same way they would petrol or diesel".

    She does not explain how to deal with the problem that hydrogen is a "hard cryogen". Please could she do so?

Leave a comment

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