Tesla Motors founder & CEO Elon Musk has called hydrogen cars “so bullshit.” Dr Joe Romm, author of The Hype About Hydrogen, has argued that they will have very little impact in the coming few decades. I’ve got an article coming that displays the simple fact that hydrogen-powered transportation is still far more expensive than battery-electric transportation… and there’s really no reason to believe that will change any time soon, if ever.
Nonetheless, hydrogen cars have been hyped for decades and are still being hyped today, even more so in the past week or two as Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai announce concept hydrogen cars that they may bring to market. A couple of leaders within the automotive industry decided to respond by slamming the nascent technology.
Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of both Renault and Nissan, told Bloomberg, “I would be very curious and interested to see competitors who say they are going to mass market the car in 2015. Where is the infrastructure? Who’s going to build it?” Watch the video here:
Meanwhile, a Volkswagen (VW Group) executive was a bit harsher. Rudolf Krebs noted essentially the same thing Musk had also pointed out, “The most efficient way to convert energy to mobility is electricity, that’s true.” Here’s more from AutoblogGreen‘s transcription:
“Hydrogen mobility only makes sense if you use green energy,” he said, but when you start from there, you need to convert it first into hydrogen “with low efficiencies” where “you lose about 40 percent of the initial energy,” he said. Then, you have to compress the hydrogen to 700 bar and store it in the vehicle, which costs more energy. “And then you have to convert the hydrogen back to electricity in a fuel cell with another efficiency loss,” Krebs said, “so that in the end, from your original 100 percent of electric energy, you end up with 30 to 40 percent.”
All of these conversion losses tell Krebs that, “The best hydrogen vehicle is a plug-in hydrogen vehicle.” This means an EV with a commuter-sized battery pack for daily use with a fuel cell range extender that you use, “only if you are in an emergency or you really want to go long distance. In terms of energy saving, this is the only way to have a sensible hydrogen vehicle.”
VW is, of course working on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, so we asked Krebs how these vehicles will be received if the math remains against H2. Right now, Krebs told AutoblogGreen, many people claim the future of mobility is hydrogen. But, people who studies physics or thermodynamics disagree because they say they want to optimize efficiency. “What we have to do is explain that hydrogen might be one solution,” he said. “If the technology has further developed and we do see a light at the end of the infrastructure tunnel, we can decide later on. For the time being, to switch from electric to hydrogen is much too early.”
As Sebastion Blanco of AutoblogGreen notes, “The long-running joke is that, ‘hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and it always will be.'”