Published on October 25th, 2013 | by Cynthia Shahan


Elon Musk In München — “Fuel Cell Is So Bullshit” (VIDEOS)

October 25th, 2013 by  

Originally published on EV Obsession.

Oftentimes with filters, limits, or intellectual boundaries, they say there is a line to walk. With data based in certainty, expressively sharing one’s mind can be a good thing. If one has a proven understanding of a subject, all the better to speak one’s mind.

Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, has a lot of inside information and expertise on automobile technology, and I think we all know that he is not scared to speak his mind. At a recent event in Germany, Elon made several big announcements, calling Germany Tesla’s “top focus in the world” at the moment. At the event, he announced that German Model S’s will be optimized for the Autobahn — he is sending Tesla’s top engineering team to Germany to make this happen. They will do a custom tune-up of the car to allow people to drive faster. He made other interesting announcements as well (see below), but one of the hottest comments of the night came when he decided to say something about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, something Germany’s BMW is supposedly bullish about. About 29:20 seconds into the first video below, Musk says, “fuel cell is so bullshit.”

Going on, Musk notes that the companies behind fuel cell vehicles don’t really believe in the technology, that it’s just a marketing thing. He says that if you look at a fuel cell vehicle’s “best case” potential, regarding mass/volume needed per range and cost, it “doesn’t even equal the current state-of-the-art in lithium-ion batteries.” He also notes that putting up the hydrogen infrastructure necessary for these vehicles would be very difficult and that hydrogen is quite dangerous. “You know, it’s suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” he notes.

(Notably, someone working in a field related to fuel cells chimed in later and said that Elon was “absolutely right.”)

The full video is below if you want to watch it all. Elon Musk starts speaking about halfway through the video, so if you just want to watch him jump to that section here.

There’s some overlap here, but the following video gets the remainder of the conversation:

Naturally, Musk promoted the idea that EVs are the next evolution of the automobile, and that we need to quickly move away from burning hydrocarbons. This is a should have, would have, could have — this transition should have happened yesterday. Now, we all need to be either walking, biking, riding transit, or driving electric. We aren’t. But at least the likes of Elon Musk are now pushing this option forward.

Affordability is part of the equation, so it is nice to hear Musk say that work is going strong on the third-generation, lower-cost Tesla aimed for a larger portion of the population. This model will be unveiled in the next 12 to 18 months, Musk noted.

For some more hot points regarding Tesla’s focus on Germany, Musk noted:

  • Germany was the second-biggest Tesla Roadster market.
  • Germany will have the second-highest number of Superchargers in the world (behind the US), and the most per capita.
  • Germany is targeted to become Tesla’s 3rd-largest market, behind the US and China.
  • By the end of next year, Tesla intends to have about 80% of Germany within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of a Tesla service station.

Regarding Superchargers, Musk noted that they are fast enough that you can simply stop to get a bite to eat and charge your car in the meantime. Germany’s Supercharger network is supposed to be completely installed by the end of 2014. It is to consist of between 40 and 50 stations, set up such that no one should have to drive more than 200 kilometers (124 miles). Furthermore, the Supercharger stations will have 135 kWh chargers rather than the 120 kWh ones used in the US.

Another nice note was Musk addressing the highly publicized fire of a Tesla. You know, the one that drew an inordinate amount of publicity. (“Oh shit, That’s a Tesla.”) Musk educates with the facts. A Model S is 5 times less likely to catch fire than any gasoline car, he noted. A gasoline car has one fire every 20 million miles and the Model S has one fire every 100 million miles. Furthermore, the Model S got the highest safety rating of any car ever tested in North America.

Thank you to Elon for the facts (as you know them to be).

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About the Author

is a Mother, an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropology Studies, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

  • MorinMoss

    Model 3 unveiled in 12-18 months?? So even granting the latest date of that window, the revealed will be just about 1 year late.
    Tesla has to learn to stick the landing ( as does SpaceX 😀 )

  • jackie cox

    hydrogen fuel cell power vehicles are the future of automotive engineering and manufacturing—lithium ion batteries swell up, crash catch fire and burn

  • jackie cox

    elon is a criminal and would not be with us were it not for obama

  • Whackercarthy

    Why not just burn hydrogen to power an ICE and forget about fuel cells powering electric motor(s).

    • A Real Libertarian

      Because it’s even less efficient then fuel cells.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Honda claims that 60% of the energy in the hydrogen in the tank gets turned into kinetic energy.

      Typically an internal combustion engine vehicle might convert ~20% of the energy in its fuel to kinetic energy.

  • Lance Sjogren

    It seems to me the biggest problem with Hydrogen is where in the heck are you going to get it? Make it from natural gas? That hardly solves anything. Make it by electrolysis from water? Expensive and low efficiency.

    I will start getting excited about hydrogen fuel when someone explains where we are going to get the hydrogen.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s one of the problems the pro-hydrogen people don’t address. Using electricity to crack water is energy lossy.

      The other problem is the very costly infrastructure we’d have to build to provide hydrogen to every car on the road. We’d have to replace every gas station, fuel pump, refinery and all the distribution system. Zillion bucks.

    • Ben Helton

      You probably have never heard of the artificial leaf.

      Go ahead, keep your mind in a box, Keep being a nay-sayer. I’m sure your kind of attitude helped Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla move forward with their advancements as well.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Give us a rundown on the artificial leaf, Ben.

        How much would H2 cost were it generated with the leaves we have today?

  • Lance Sjogren

    Anyone who has done some rudimentary study of the issues related to hydrogen as a transportation fuel knows that it is a no go, at least in the forseeable future.

    That Musk knows this shows that he, as usual, has done his homework.

  • Darin Selby

    ‘So bullshit’ eh? Let’s talk exotic toxic chemicals, and what the Li-ion battery is made of. How about the INTENSE magnetic fields that radiates into the passenger compartment? Any ideas about the long-term effects of that? How about recycling the worn out batteries? Any deposit money-back incentives for the consumer? Here are some articles to look over:

    And the links go on and on. You can see for yourself that Musk has a vested interest in Li-ion batteries, hence his strong words about fuel cells. And I’m not saying that fuel cells are the answer either. They have their own exotic problems.

    My solution? First of all, get rid of the elitist, insane TESLA car (he totally exploited Nikola Tesla’s name) And equip the family unit with a decentralized SOLAR HYDROGEN vehicle. The hydrogen is produced on-site with a simple PEM electrolyzer.

    Easily swappable tanks pressurized to 200 psi feed a burner on an externally-heated Stirling cycle engine. The byproduct from this is heat in the car for the winter time, and pure drinking water from the exhaust.

    No intense magnetic fields createc or toxic batteries needed.

    Imagine this external heated Stirling engine powered by solar hydrogen.

    A much more sane approach to getting around is to slow down. Most people just use their vehicles for in town driving anyway.

    A SLOW LANE is necessary to make this work. But this concept is for the masses. Parking lanes would have to turn into slow lanes to make this happen in many places.

    Here is a DIY electrolyzer being built link instead of an exotic fuel cell.


    And, only a few thousand dollars ought to build a nice vehicle that could demonstrate how a simple 1hp Stirling engine
    could be used instead of their electric motor.

    Why? So that stored
    hydrogen gas could be used in a basic burner system. No exotic fuel
    cell gadgetry or toxic battery necessary .

    It may not be as efficient
    as a fuel cell, though it is more readily accessible for the masses to
    make and utilize. Though, as I mentioned earlier, the ‘Slow Lane’ has to
    be in place for this to work.

    Powered by solar panels at the homestead, the recent invention of a PEM electrolyzer system eliminates the need for any
    caustic KOH electrolyte (i.e. splash-it-in-your-eyes-go-blind) that is
    traditionally used with water-splitting electrolysis process!

    With that Sunnev-designed vehicle, I would use 16″ motor scooter aluminum MAG wheels. Because a 20″ BMX 130 psi bicycle tire will fit onto them. This way, the rolling resistance goes down to virtually nil. `

    The major energy suck in a vehicle comes from the amount of surface area that the tires contact the road X 4 TIRES. This resistance is what has to be overcome before the vehicle even starts to roll.

    Please, do share with me your thoughts.


  • MikeSmith866

    Ballard Power spent $12 B on R&D for fuel cells and ended up with something that could only be used in utility vehicles on short haul runs.

    And its true that hydrogen is both volatile and corrosive. A spark from sliding across your seat could set it off. It can’t be piped through standard pipelines because it will corrode the pipes.

  • Others

    3 years ago, many considered EV as impossible, now its very common. Many companies like GM, Toyota, Benz has fuel cell technology and they will launch it to reduce Tesla’s influence. So we cannot take anything so easily. Ideally all technologies should be used. Lets wait and see.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    It seems in 2015 the tax credits will drop from 7.5K to 5K and incentives for hydrogen vehicles will increase to 9K. Maybe Elon is hoping to change that by pointing out Hydrogen is not a financially viable solution unless you have an almost religious belief in it.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      This strategy could make sense. But in reality, hydrogen vehicles are dead end and it is very sad if EV subsidies are loosened. Toyota’s fuel cell car has similar range as Model S and it will cost about the same, but it lacks all the performance and premium handling of Model S.

      I hope that there will come soon higher gasoline taxes also in United States.

      Elon already trolled California High Speed Rail with Hyperloop idea so that people in practice would drive more and use free supercharger network. HSR is not in the economic interests of Tesla.

      • Corbin Holland

        “So that people in practice would drive more and use free supercharger network. HSR is not in the economic interest of Tesla”

        1. It’s not in the economic interest of more than a select group of people.
        Free supercharger. A net loss in order to attract customers to his
        product with the perk of not having to pay for the charge. If anything
        he would want people to use his superchargers less so he can build a
        more extensive infrastructure to promote the driving of EVs of all
        kinds. He does not gain anything when people charge their car there, he
        gains customers from the infrastructure being in place to charge your
        car quickly. People will certainly buy the best car on the market. How
        they charge it is up to them.
        3. If a person isn’t going to be riding the HSR, it doesn’t mean that they would be driving a Tesla.

        • Corbin Holland

          The man wants a cleaner future for all of us. That is why he didn’t just take his Paypal money and go start a family and live comfortably for the rest of his life. He risked it all for us!

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Also interesting he says the upgraded chargers are just the first stage. Seems he should introduce a road map. Maybe the charging centers will match the latest battery packs. So as more powerful battery packs are introduced the bigger the chargers will be to keep charging times down.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    It will be interesting to see how many solar panels are needed so that all these charging centers are powered 100% via the sun like he says they will.

    • Bob_Wallace

      In the US 13,000 annual driving miles would require roughly a 3kW solar system. In Germany a bit more unless the panels are installed in Italy, Greece or other sunnier place and the power added to the European grid.

      Then less than 1% of all US driving days are >70 miles so a very rough guess would be that it would take 1% of 3kW or 30 watts of panels per Tesla S.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        Elon is hoping to sell 300 model s’ per week, I have no idea what the final number will be though. I believe I heard him say the expected life of the model S is six years. So 100,000 vehicles in total? Considering a normal weekend hiking/skiing trip is 100 miles each way. And the 85kW gets less than 100 miles driven the way I drive in Germany. Things do not look good.

      • Adam

        I’d like to read more on that, Bob: what’s your source?

        • Bob_Wallace

          The drive data is from the below graph.

          While looking for the graph source I just found this page which looks pretty interesting. I saw/copied the graph from another source. This page looks to be written by the person who made the graph. More info on the page that I haven’t gone through yet.

          • Bob_Wallace

            After reading the paper I think this might be a better graph. I understood the earlier graph to be daily driving, but it’s trip distance and multiple trips are made on some days.

            Here’s Rob’s daily driving graph.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Why did somebody bring in a baby? Munich used to be a world renowned place where dogs were ok to bring along but kids were to be always left behind. Sad it is conforming to the McDonalds mentality of the world.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    It is curious that Elon made that comment, that fuel cells are good for the spacecrafts. But Dragon spacecraft does not use fuel cells but it uses batteries+solar panels. Also ISS uses batteries+solar panels to generate electricity.

    Space Shuttle and Apollo spacecrafts did use fuel cells, but these days are long gone. Because solar power is so much better in space.

    There was the most important tidbit missing that German superchargers will operate at 135 kW level. This is absolutely huge news and the greatest Tesla news in few months.

    • SirSparks

      I thought he said that Hydrogen was good for upper stage rockets, not that fuel cells are good for spacecraft ?

      • Jouni Valkonen

        you thought wrong.

  • Thank you!!!!! Ive been saying fuel cells are bullshit for a loooooong time now. I think Elon has been reading my posts. Or maybe he just did some simple google searches on past and current fuel cell technologies and the challenges that faced them. Either way, fuel cells are a loser for transportation because of cost. It will never be able to compete with electricity, not by a long shot.

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