Powertrain Comparison

Powertrain Comparison
Evaluating the different Powertrain options: Petrol, Electric, Hydrogen and Hybrid technology

Each powertrain option offers pros and cons for the future of the automotive transport industry, but which one would help reach the zero emissions target by 2050?




Petrol & Diesel

·       Cheap to buy

·       Easy to refuel

·       Lots of different models to choose            from, including second hand

·       Can travel long distances before                refuelling

·       More powerful engines

·       Easy to get fixed (Skilled                                Mechanics)

·       High GHG Emissions

·       Noise pollution

·       More expensive to run and tax

·       Lose their value more quickly

·       More expensive to service

·       Fuel prices fluctuate & likely to                      increase as oil reserves dry up

·       Complex design

Electric Battery

·       Minimal pollution

·       Cheaper to run and tax

·       Quiet and easy to drive                                (automatic)

·       Charge them from a normal plug                at home or a public charging                      station

·       Government grants are available

·       New engineering sector focusing                on electronics

·       Good for short journeys

·       Fast acceleration

·       High power density

·       Renewable energy sources                          (charging)

·       Can be expensive to buy

·       Can take hours to charge

·       Less choice of models, especially                  second hand

·       Limited travelling range

·       Lack of charging infrastructure

·       Lithium-ion batteries unethically                  mined and if containing cobalt is                  highly toxic

·       Infrastructure costs and availability

·       Losing the skilled techniques of                    engine mechanics

·       Moving car when out of charge                    (turning wheels against motor)


·       Better fuel economy than a petrol              car

·       Instant electric power

·       Save money on fuel

·       Environmentally friendly

·       Quiet to drive

·       Does not require power from the              grid

·       Unable to use regenerative                            braking on long journeys/                              motorway driving

·       The electric battery is heavy

·       Generally, more expensive to buy

·       Maintenance can be expensive

·       They still produce fossil fuel                          emissions

Hydrogen fuel cell

·       Abundance  of hydrogen

·       Can be made from renewable                    energy

·       No vehicle emissions

·       Excellent fuel economy

·       Expensive technology

·       On board hydrogen storage

·       Very limited refuelling                                      infrastructure

·       Hydrogen is very expensive to                      transport

·       It is made with non-renewable                      sources

·       No infrastructure

Full analysis of all 4 powertrains. What I think should happen and why.

Analysing the 4 powertrain options above, the most positive solution for the future hints towards electric batteries however, it currently has noticeable drawbacks. If we directly compare the severity of the cons between petrol and electric batteries, petrol is toxic and a high pollutant whereas the EV’s main flaw is simply the cost of the vehicle and charging infrastructure. Since 2010, the price of an electric battery has dropped remarkably [1] and hence within the next 10+ years the price of the vehicle and its corresponding infrastructure will be considerably cheaper. Production and recycling of the lithium-ion battery is still a big issue but expectantly a renewable battery option will be developed in the near future to combat the polluting issues associated with lithium-ion.

A good steppingstone between petrol and electric cars is the hybrid model. The hybrid has both a combustion engine and an electric motor.  This will have significant effects on reducing CO2 emissions as the combustion engine will be switched off when travelling at low speed (through the city). The point of the hybrid car is to mainly use the electric function of the car and the petrol engine acts as a backup in case of range complications. The hybrid uses complex engineering to get the electric battery and combustion engine to work in harmony. The electric battery is recharged when in combustion engine mode and can be topped up in small amounts through regenerative braking, it does not need to be charged through the grid like EV’s.

Range anxiety plays a huge factor in people’s decisions when choosing a new or old electric car, and therefore the hybrid model could reduce this issue. I do believe these types of cars would be a good steppingstone, nonetheless they are not the answer and they will not solve our carbon emission crisis and therefore is not the best option. Hybrids have the positives of the electric battery, but they also bring the negatives of the battery and the emissions of the combustion engine and therefore, I would advise against the continuation of the hybrid model in future production.

Hydrogen is an abundant element and could be made from renewable energy sources however, the technology and transportation of the fuel is very expensive. It does not seem feasible to propose hydrogen vehicles as the way forward, as realistically to install charging infrastructure all across the country would be deemed impossible, because the cost to produce and transport the hydrogen is so inflated.