Long-term trends: Battery electric versus hydrogen

Scania EV

The shift towards sustainable transport systems is growing, with progress being made in electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells as alternatives to carbon fuels.

Heavy Transport

The major obstacle with heavy transport has been low battery range and lengthy charging times for electric vehicles (EV), leaving hydrogen fuel cells as the obvious choice.

Now, Sweden’s Scania AB, one of the world’s largest truck and bus manufacturers, is shifting emphasis to EV. Citing progress in battery technology — energy storage capacity per kg, charging times, charging cycles and economics per kg — Scania expects electrified vehicles to account for around 10 percent of their total vehicle sales volumes in Europe by 2025. And as high as 50 percent by 2030.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

“Scania has invested in hydrogen technologies and is currently the only heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer with vehicles in operations with customers. The engineers have gained valuable insights from these early tests and efforts will continue. However, going forward the use of hydrogen for such applications will be limited since three times as much renewable electricity is needed to power a hydrogen truck compared to a battery electric truck. A great deal of energy is namely lost in the production, distribution, and conversion back to electricity.

Repair and maintenance also need to be considered. The cost for a hydrogen vehicle will be higher than for a battery electric vehicle as its systems are more complex, such as an extensive air- and cooling system. Furthermore, hydrogen is a volatile gas which requires more maintenance to ensure safety.” (Scania, January 19, 2021)

The Volkswagen AG-owned heavy vehicle manufacturer does, however, note that stationary fuel cells will still play an important part in electric charging systems. Especially in areas with abundant renewable energy, and in rural areas off the main electricity grid.


Electric vehicle technology has progressed much faster than hydrogen fuel cells and is the clear leader in the race for sustainable transport systems.