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Openness to technology – hydrogen vs. electric car: Harald Lesch is now in favor of the electric car

Technology openness – hydrogen vs. electric car
Harald Lesch is now in favor of the electric car

The fuel cell car loses a big fan: ZDF physicist Harald Lesch. In a Terra X article, he calculates the advantages of the electric car. This is mostly new for him.

The April 27, 2022 episode of Terra X (at youtube) has a zeitgeisty effect even without current references to the energy situation as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine: We answer the “most pressing and urgent questions about fully electric cars! Should the next purchase be an electric car? How much CO2 does an electric car cause when driving the current electricity mix in Germany?” the description says, for example. Nevertheless, these questions are by no means new.


Remarkable, however, are the answers that numerous experts and scientists have already given – but not Harald Lesch. The astrophysicist, natural philosopher and science journalist (Wikipedia) manages to explain them professionally and impressively as usual.



In the same program three years ago, the professor of astrophysics was still vehemently in favor of hydrogen propulsion, although most of the arguments that Lesch is now using were basically valid back then: Electric motors are much simpler than classic combustion engines and much more efficient. With e-cars, 73 percent went into the movement of the vehicle, with hydrogen drives using fuel cells it would only be 22 percent, with combustion engines just 13 percent. The e-car can drive five and a half kilometers with the energy that a combustion engine drive needs for one kilometer.


Auto-motor-und-sport readers know such numbers (with deviations) at least since a presentation by Maximilian Fichtner (see picture gallery) at the auto-motor-und-sport congress 2021 (Summary here). Fichtner is Professor of Solid State Chemistry and Director of the Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) and also explained most of the other questions and answers that Lesch deals with in his program – what is the CO2 balance of the electric car in operation and over the life cycle compared to the combustion engine or “is our energy system even prepared for 15 million e-cars?”



One should not take Lesch’s pivot as proof of the fickleness of science. Instead, one must also interpret the late consensus as a clear indication that science (in the sense of the majority of scientists) has actually identified the electric drive as the technology that gives individual mobility a future chance. The fact that major manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Mercedes have long since committed themselves to electric drives does not make this wrong. Or because the EU considers the CO2 emissions of e-cars to be zero, although electricity generation will continue to emit greenhouse gases for a long time to come.



Because “physically, the e-car is the best car. It is energy-efficient, therefore less harmful to the environment” – even with the current electricity mix, Lesch sums up. “But in Germany, the car country, of course we have to ask ourselves whether we really need that many cars,” he adds at the very end, alluding to the fact that there are still lower-CO2 transport concepts – train, bicycle or walking. This, too, is as little new as it is wrong, and it does not become wrong even through repetition.


opinion poll

No, the CO2 savings are not so high that it would be worth accepting the disadvantages in practice.

Yes, e-cars need less energy, emit less CO2 overall and the issue of range is irrelevant due to increasing energy densities and charging speeds of the batteries.

Conclusion

Of the Erlkär scientists from ZDF calculates the advantages of electric cars. The findings are not new, but finding them is not the job of a popular science show. The transparent explanation does. In this respect, this episode of Terra X is highly recommended. What’s still missing: An explanation from Harald Lesch, what made him despise the electric car for so long.

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