Methanol, gasoline and hydrogen are the primary fuel options under consideration for fuel cell vehicles (FCV). The ideal fuel would eliminate local air pollution, substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and oil imports, cost no more than current transportation fuels per mile driven, and require little investment in new infrastructure. In addition, the fuel used for future fuel cell vehicles should be suitable for near-term hybrid electric vehicles using internal combustion engines, to avoid the need for introducing more than one new motor fuel in the 21st century.
All three primary FCV fuels have limitations: gasoline is the most difficult to reform to produce hydrogen and produces the least improvement in the environment and yields the least oil import reductions. Methanol is cleaner, easier to reform onboard the FCV, eliminates oil imports, but requires some new infrastructure. Hydrogen provides the best environmental and oil import improvements, but requires the largest infrastructure investment. This paper will provide a comprehensive comparison of FCV fuels and their societal impact on local air pollution, greenhouse gases and oil imports. In addition, we will estimate the likely infrastructure costs for each fuel, and compare their societal impact if used as a fuel for hybrid electric vehicles.