This paper provides a preliminary life cycle assessment (LCA) of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell powered automobile.Life cycle of PEM fuel cell automobile not only includes operation of the vehicle on the road but also include production and distribution of both the vehicle and the fuel (e.g. hydrogen) during the vehicle’s entire lifetime. Assessment is based on the published data available in the literature. The two characteristics of the life cycle, which were assessed, are energy consumption and greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions.

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions considered in the present assessment areCO2 andCH4. In addition, conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) automobile is also assessed based on similar characteristics for comparison with PEM fuel cell automobile. It is found that the energy utilized to generate the hydrogen during fuel cycle for the PEM automobile is about 3.5 times higher than the energy utilized to generate the gasoline during its fuel cycle. However, the overall life cycle energy consumption of PEM fuel cell automobile is about 2.3 times less than that of ICE automobile.

Similarly, the GHGs emissions of PEMFC automobile are about 8.5 times higher than ICE automobile during the fuel cycle, but the overall life cycle GHGs emissions are about 2.6 times lower than ICE automobile.

The growing concerns about urban air quality, regional acidification and climate change are the driving forces for cleaner and more efficient use of energy. The technology,which receives considerable attention, is the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell, a potential replacement for the conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) in transportation applications. PEM fuel cell powered automobiles using hydrogen have many advantages, such as energy efficient and environmentally benign operation,compatible with renewable energy sources and carriers for future energy security, economic growth and sustainable development.

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