Wind power generates renewable energy. This also supplies electric cars, among other things, and therefore forms an alternative drive system to the combustion engine.

Alternative Drives in the Fleet: A Sustainable Revolution on Our Roads

Electric mobility, hydrogen, or liquefied gas—alternative drives are becoming increasingly relevant in the face of climate change and the finite nature of fossil resources. Currently, there are various technologies at different stages of development. Not all propulsion systems are fully matured, and many of them are still quite expensive at the moment. In this blog post, we take a closer look at the various alternative drives, their state of development, and future prospects.

What are alternative drives?

Alternative drives refer to technologies and fuels that are often more environmentally friendly compared to conventional internal combustion engines, such as gasoline or diesel engines. They can contribute to reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and minimizing negative environmental impacts.

For alternative drives to be a true alternative to internal combustion engines, their production and components must also come from sustainable or renewable sources. Only in this way can harmful emissions be curbed, advancing sustainable mobility.

Overview of Alternative Drives


The most well-known alternative drive is the electric motor. The concept is not new, as the first electrically powered vehicles were already on the road in the 19th century. Energy is stored in lithium-ion batteries and converted into kinetic energy by electric motors. Electric vehicles operate emissions-free and make a significant contribution to reducing environmentally harmful greenhouse gases. While most electric vehicles offer a range of around 500 km, there are already efforts to develop models with a range 1000 km open_in_new .


  • Highest efficiency among all alternative drive systems
  • Low operating costs
  • First registrations until 2025 are exempt from vehicle tax for 10 years
  • Ranges and charging infrastructure are continually expanding


  • Higher acquisition costs than a vehicle with an internal combustion engine
  • Battery production is resource-intensive
E-vehicles are emission-free and are therefore an alternative drive system
Electric cars have the advantage that they are emission-free and therefore contribute to the reduction of environmentally harmful greenhouse gases.

Hybrid drive

Hybrid vehicles combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor. The electric motor is used for short distances and in city traffic, while the internal combustion engine ensures long ranges on highways or during extended journeys. However, hybrid cars are not emission-free as they still rely on fossil fuels.


  • Mature technology
  • Greater ranges than purely electric vehicles
  • Lower emissions of CO2


  • Continued dependence on fossil fuels
  • Battery takes up space in the trunk

Hydrogen propulsion

Hydrogen vehicles use fuel cells to generate electrical energy from hydrogen, which then powers the electric motor. Fuel cell vehicles emit only heat and water, placing them in the category of Zero Emission Vehicles. Unfortunately, fossil fuels are used and greenhouse gas emissions are produced during the production of hydrogen.

The greatest potential for hydrogen propulsion is seen in commercial vehicles. With the expansion of 63 new hydrogen stations open_in_new at intervals of 200 km, this drive is gaining new momentum, particularly for long-haul trucks in continuous operation.


  • Fast refueling and high ranges of up to 1,000 kilometers
  • No emission of harmful pollutants


  • High costs for vehicles and hydrogen
  • Production of hydrogen is expensive and energy-intensive
  • Very limited model selection
  • Low availability of hydrogen refueling stations


These are derived from renewable resources such as vegetable oil or grains and can be used in conventional internal combustion engines. Biodiesel, bioethanol, and biomethane can also be produced from algae, with a much higher yield compared to vegetable oil. Since algae are cultivated in tanks, no arable land is required. However, the production process is highly complex and therefore too expensive to become a competitive fuel in the market.


  • Lower prices than gasoline or diesel
  • Can be used in internal combustion engines


  • Competes with food cultivation
  • Cultivation and fertilization of plants cause CO2 emissions
  • Production is energy-intensive
The production of biodiesel from rapeseed oil, for example, is sharply criticized because the land used for cultivation competes with food crops.
Vegetable oil, for example obtained from rapeseed blossom, provides the basis for the production of biodiesel.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

This is a propane-butane mixture that is produced as a by-product during natural gas and petroleum extraction. The combustion of autogas releases about 80% fewer nitrogen oxides and thus fewer pollutants. While many older vehicle models can still be converted, this option is rarely available for new vehicles.


  • Lower prices than gasoline or diesel
  • Good availability at German gas stations
  • Lower emissions of CO2


  • Not all vehicles can be converted
  • Additional tank takes up space in the vehicle
  • Overall environmental impact of LPG production is controversial

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

Natural gas – not to be confused with the previously mentioned autogas – consists mainly of methane and has a very low energy density. Therefore, it needs to be compressed to 200 bars to refuel vehicles. Vehicles running on natural gas emit less harmful CO2. Nevertheless, climate-damaging emissions arise during the production, transportation, and combustion of CNG.


  • Lower prices than for gasoline or diesel
  • Lower emissions of CO2.


  • Vehicle conversion is complicated and expensive
  • Additional tank takes up space in the vehicle
  • Limited availability at German gas stations.


E-Fuels are synthetically produced fuels that use water and carbon dioxide in their production. They are considered low in carbon as the carbon released during their combustion was previously extracted from the atmosphere. However, researchers do not see a future open_in_new for the widespread use of E-Fuels in cars and trucks. One reason is that it would require a massive expansion of the energy infrastructure, and the global production of renewable electricity would need to nearly double.


  • Lower CO2 emissions
  • Can be blended with conventional fuels


  • Lower efficiency
  • Expensive in production and transportation

Outlook on the Future of Alternative Drives

By no later than the combustion engine phase-out in 2035 open_in_new , the future of alternative drives in the fleet promises a transformative development in sustainable mobility. A key focus will be on the continued improvement and proliferation of electric vehicles.

Advancements in battery technology open_in_new will lead to increased range, shorter charging times, and lower acquisition costs, further enhancing the practicality of electric vehicles. Additionally, innovative solutions such as wireless charging and bidirectional charging show great promise. Wireless charging allows electric vehicles to automatically recharge while parked, making the charging process even more convenient for users. Bidirectional charging enables electric vehicles not only to draw energy from the power grid but also to feed excess energy back into the grid, contributing to the stability of the power network.

Another promising area is the advancement of hydrogen technologies open_in_new , becoming more efficient and affordable. Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles could play a crucial role in the future, especially in heavy-duty transport and public transit.

The essentials of alternative drives at a glance

Alternative drives are indispensable for our future to mitigate the greenhouse effect and minimize our dependence on fossil resources.

Electromobility remains the most crucial alternative drive to drive forward the shift in mobility. Developments in battery technology are leading to increased range, shorter charging times, and lower acquisition costs.

Also, hydrogen technology is on the rise, and with the expansion of the refueling network, it becomes an intriguing alternative, especially for heavy commercial vehicles.

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