Wood, E., Wang, L., Gonder, J., and Ulsh, M., "Overcoming the Range Limitation of Medium-Duty Battery Electric Vehicles through the use of Hydrogen Fuel-Cells," SAE Int. J. Commer. Veh. 6(2):563-574, 2013, doi:10.4271/2013-01-2471.
Battery electric vehicles possess great potential for decreasing lifecycle costs in medium-duty applications, a market segment currently dominated by internal combustion technology. Characterized by frequent repetition of similar routes and daily return to a central depot, medium-duty vocations are well positioned to leverage the low operating costs of battery electric vehicles. Unfortunately, the range limitation of commercially available battery electric vehicles acts as a barrier to widespread adoption. This paper describes the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and industry partners to analyze the use of small hydrogen fuel-cell stacks to extend the range of battery electric vehicles as a means of improving utility, and presumably, increasing market adoption. This analysis employs real-world vocational data and near-term economic assumptions to (1) identify optimal component configurations for minimizing lifecycle costs, (2) benchmark economic performance relative to both battery electric and conventional powertrains, and (3) understand how the optimal design and its competitiveness change with respect to duty cycle and economic climate. It is found that small fuel-cell power units provide extended range at significantly lower capital and lifecycle costs than additional battery capacity alone. And while fuel-cell range-extended vehicles are not deemed economically competitive with conventional vehicles given present-day economic conditions, this paper identifies potential future scenarios where cost equivalency is achieved.