Biogas is the most environmentally-friendly transport
fuel, says study
Biogas-fuelled vehicles are the most environmentally friendly, a comprehensive study has concluded.
The research considered both the vehicle and fuel lifecycles of family cars, vans up to 12 tons and buses, known as well-to-wheel and tank-to-wheel respectively. Biogas-fuelled vehicles came out top on all measures.
The report concluded, “With regard to light vehicles, light commercial vehicles and 12-ton heavy goods vehicles, the use of a combustion engine powered exclusively by bioNGV (bio-natural gas vehicles, biogas, biomethane) provides the best results in terms of GHG emissions, followed closely by rechargeable hybrids operating exclusively on electric power (a theoretical case given that it is difficult to apply under real conditions with only 50-70 km of battery life, particularly for long distances). Then come the electric vehicles.”
It continues “the hybridization of bioNGV engines further improves results, as it does for gasoline, diesel and NGV”.
The results for EVs, which tend to have large-capacity batteries, are negatively impacted by the significant amount of CO2 emitted during battery manufacturing, largely from the extraction and refining of the metals used (lithium, cobalt, nickel, etc.), and by the energy-intensive processes used in the manufacture and assembly of the cells.
The research was undertaken by IFP Energies Nouvelle. Established in 1944 as the French Institute of Petroleum its remit has expanded to become a partially state funded body, to “provide solutions to the challenges facing society in terms of energy and the climate, promoting the transition towards sustainable mobility”.
The report, entitled LCA Study of Vehicles Running on NGV and bioNGV, focuses on the potential of biomethane in France. It says biogas production capacity in France is between 1-1.5 TWh, which would allow approximately 100,000 to 150,000 vehicles to be supplied. “Methanation plants should therefore be significantly expanded to be able to ensure a massive roll-out of bioNGV/biomethane vehicles,” it says.
To allow for a faster transition to biogas-fuelled vehicles to report suggests using a mix of natural gas and biogas as fuel. This would allow a larger number of vehicles to be supplied, while maintaining a very favorable GHG balance, particularly in the case of engine hybridization.
The research pre-empts the intention of the European Commission to evaluate ‘the possibility of developing a common Union method for the evaluation of CO2 emissions throughout the lifecycle of these vehicles” in 2023.
Currently, the EU has agreed to reduce average CO2 emissions from new cars by 15% in 2025 and 37.5% in 2030.
Image Credit : PGO Automobiles