Abstract Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are increasingly prevalent in the transportation sector due to growing concerns about climate change, urban air pollution and oil dependence. This theoretical study reports the results of well-to-wheel (WTW) analyses for BEVs and FCEVs in different energy resource and technology pathways in China in terms of fossil energy use, total energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The energy types include coal, natural gas, renewable energy and nuclear energy resources. Special attention is given to the effects of vehicle heating loads on the WTW performances of BEVs and FCEVs. Energy use and GHG emissions reductions from BEVs and FCEVs in different pathways are examined and compared to those of gasoline-based internal engine vehicles (ICEVs). When considering the cabin heating load in vehicles, FCEVs using natural gas as the energy source outperformed all the BEVs in terms of total energy use and GHG emissions. FCEVs adopting new energy-based pathways can achieve the same WTW efficiencies as BEVs, and these efficiencies may be even higher if the hydrogen used by FCEVs is produced by the pathways of solar-solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) systems, solar-thermochemical systems or nuclear-SOEC systems.

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