When 12 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles Make A Revolution

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Somehow, some way, fuel cell electric vehicles are inching their way into the market. In the latest development, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced the first phase in the delivery of 12 Toyota Mirai FCEVs along with the rollout of new hydrogen fueling stations, all in support of the mayor’s ambitious plan to establish an “Ultra Low Emission Zone” in the city by 2020. Twelve doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but put it in the context of several other fuel cell initiatives for the UK and European Union, and you’ve got the beginnings of yet another potential mobility revolution.

London FCEVs Toyota

FCEVs — An Urban Solution

No Ultra Low Emission Zone for you, “clean diesel” vehicles!

With clean diesel exposed as a marketing ploy — as recently revealed, many diesel autos models are dirtier than advertised, though none came close to the apparently criminal behavior of Volkswagen — we’re guessing that London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone will be populated primarily by walkers, cyclists, and battery EVs (BEVs), at least for starters. While a number of automakers appear committed to FCEVs, they have a lot of catching up to do compared to BEVs.

On the other hand, all things being equal (which they’re not — yet — but that’s another story) fuel cells have one potential advantage over battery EVs in crowded environments. That edge is already becoming apparent as the need to establish “charging etiquette” is beginning to emerge in the BEV field. The trouble starts when people keep their EV parked at a charging station long after the battery is charged.

There are solutions for the charging etiquette problem (including, some day, automatic charge-and-park), but in the meantime, the edge would go to vehicles that refuel quickly while the driver stands by.


The London FCEV Experiment

Toyota has already identified London as a “key city” for marketing its FCEVs, and when Mayor Johnson announced the new London FCEV initiative earlier this week, his media office called the 12 new vehicles as part and parcel of a larger plan to “pioneer the use of the cleanest, greenest technology for the future of transport and infrastructure in the capital.”

The 12 new FCEVs will come to the city in stages over the next few months, with the first four going to Transport for London as maintenance vehicles. The other eight are going to the private companies as showcase vehicles, one of which is hydrogen production specialist ITM Power.

Along with announcing the 2020 goal for the forthcoming Ultra Low Emission Zone — apparently the first in the world — the Mayor also used the occasion to remind folks that the city’s transportation agency, Transport for London, is an early FCEV adopter, having launched the largest fuel cell bus fleet in the UK back in 2010.

The city’s organized FCEV effort dates back to 2002 with the establishment of the stakeholder group Hydrogen London, and the aforementioned bus fleet still numbers only eight. Another two fuel cell buses are on the way next year, so things have been moving along at a very slow clip.

That could change after this year. City planners anticipate that establishment of the Ultra Low Emission Zone will kickstart the interest in FCEVs, and they are already banking on a sharp increase in the number of hydrogen fueling stations by the end of next year through the EU’s HyFIVE initiative. In addition to Toyota, automaker Hyundai is also eyeballing the London market.

Renewable Hydrogen in the USA

If ITM Power rings a bell, that’s because its on the CleanTechnica radar for its focus on renewable hydrogen. Last month, the company rolled out a plan to install hydrogen fuel stations along the M1, including a wind-powered hydrogen station with storage in South Yorkshire.

Renewable hydrogen also appears to be edging into the US market, at least for stationary fuel cells to replace diesel generators.

Last month, we took note of a renewable hydrogen project in Hawaii, using solar-derived hydrogen produced at a nearby US Air Force base. The project is aimed at demonstrating how fuel cells can replace diesel at seaports, as part of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Ports Initiative to improve air quality at, you guessed it, ports.

EPA has big plans for the Hawaii project. If all goes well, the agency expects stationary fuel cells to replace diesel generators at ports throughout the US and around the globe, too.

Meanwhile, FCEVs are also getting a workout in Hawaii. Back in 2012 the Army nailed down a fleet of GM FCEVs, and plans are in the works for more FCEVs as well as renewable hydrogen production using geothermal energy.

Last year, the Energy Department followed up with a $20 million round of funding for advanced hydrogen fuel stations and renewable hydrogen, so stay tuned.

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Image (screenshot): Hydrogen tank via Toyota.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3144 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey

70 thoughts on “When 12 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles Make A Revolution

  • If you park your car at a petrol pump and leave it there after refilling, I presume that your car will be towed after several minutes. Will the same solution be used for EV recharging ?

    • I don’t think anyone knows how that will play out.

      There’s a very good chance that the Tesla EVs will drive themselves out of the charging bay and to a nearby parking spot. Then message their driver where to look.

      • Perhaps that was the primary impetus for the robot power snake Elon unveiled a while back?

        • That’s what got me thinkin’….

      • I bet all the auto drive cars will end up being EV. And there is no reason not to have auto plug/unplug so that cars can move once charged.

      • So basically…. autonomous driving is a must for a BEV paradigm? Vehicles will need to be able to drive themselves in and out of parking spots, that way every single parking spot in the world won’t need a socket? Only half of them will.

        • Autonomous driving will likely become universal regardless of propulsion system.

          • Agree that it’s inevitable at this point. Having said that, autonomous driving, automatic charging (a la the Tesla power snake thing) and fast charging will definitely change how we EV. Also, the car won’t need to text you, it will find you when you head to the parking lot 🙂 “I don’t care where you parked, come get me!” hah 😛

          • Better.

            Valet service.

    • The solution is a plug at every parking space…wasn’t that hard.

      • That would be an expensive overbuild of infrastructure that isn’t needed.

        • Not like 1.8 million per hydrogen, explosive terror target, hydrogen station.

          • I’m talking about real solutions not FCEV infrastructure.

    • There should be an app for that.
      Person on the charger should be notified, and a random pick of the next car should be made, with notification.

    • Very soon, EVs will have a 200+ mile range so over 95% of people will charge at home or at their office complex parking space.
      But for on the road chargers, your phone can notify you that your car is charged and if you don’t move it within 10 minutes or so, you will be charged a fee.
      These are easy non-issues, but building an entirely new hydrogen production infrastructure is a seriously costly distraction.

      • Hydrogen infrastructure will gradually be built to replace worn-out petroleum infrastructure. The money destined for replacing worn out oil wells, oil pipelines, oil refineries, oil tankers, and gas stations will instead be used to build new H2 plants, H2 tube trailers, and H2 dispensing stations. Read my lips: “No New Taxes” necessary for the gradual transition to H2 economy.

        • There’s no sensical rationale for doing that.

          The money destined for extending the life of the petroleum industry will simply dry up as the industry fails.

          Investment money will move to more promising industries. To a large extent wind and solar will get the investment money that has been going into oil.

          • Good point, Bob. However, in order for the investment into solar and wind to continue, there will need to be created a PROFITABLE market for the excess solar and wind energy that will happen with increasing investment into solar and wind.
            Using solar and wind energy to make hydrogen to substitute for natural gas will not be profitable, due to the low cost of natural gas.
            However, if the ultra-high-purity H2 from solar and wind will be used to replace petroleum, then it will be profitable, because petroleum fetches much higher prices per unit of energy than natural gas.

          • No, Roger. Some amount of wind and solar potential can be ignored and wind and solar will still be profitable. That already happens. Let me see if I can explain it to you.

            Let’s say a grid pays 5c/kWh for natural gas, the fuel. And let’s say that they can buy wind at 4c/kWh. It makes sense to buy wind when it’s available and save a penny.

            Now, let’s say that they do the math and decide that they could buy some more wind but only use 90% of what is produced, the rest would be wasted but they’d have to pay the 100% price. That means that each kWh they use would cost them 4.4c/kWh. Still cheaper than gas by over a half penny and 10% of the wind was curtailed.

            Using these numbers 19% of the wind can be tossed away.

            As wind drops closer to 3c/kWh and solar moves toward 2c/kWh it will make sense to “overbuild” wind and solar even with no other market on which the surplus could be sold.

            As EVs take over transportation the value of petroleum will drop. There may be some sort of use for H2 in ocean shipping but that isn’t clear at this time. H2 is just too bulky.

            As for H2 being cost competitive with oil, I”d have to see some numbers. I’d want to make sure the H2 price was for ‘clean’ H2 and not reformed methane.

            Your last paragraph is simply incorrect. And increasing numbers of EV waiting to be charged will suck up any extra as we move to longer range and price sensitive charging.

        • Roger how many times does this need to be explained to you?
          A worn out gas station will not be replaced with an H2 because of the amount of money needed and because of the number of ICEV’s out weight HFCV’s by 100,000+ to every 1 HFCV.
          It is still cheaper to redo an old gas station than to build a new H2 station.

          • I remember seeing the Adam Sandler movie (I think it was the airplane movie on one trip). In this movie his girlfriend is in an accident and after that she loses all her memories each time she sleeps. Each day she has to relearn what she learned the day before.

            I’m starting to think of it as the “H2 FCEV advocate affliction”. There are a few “Roger’s” around who turn up and post the same tired old disproven talking points over and over.

            It’s like they can’t recall the reason the talking point is bogus even though they’ve been told before.

          • That movie was 50 first dates.

          • How many times does it need to be explained to you that the future will be solar, wind, battery, and hydrogen? Fossil fuel will be a dead-end…why any smart businessman would want to invest in a dead-end technology?

          • So gas stations will not wear out till everything is electric or hydrogen?
            Get real Roger.
            How can you say hydrogen is a fuel of the future when there is so very few vehicles out there?

          • You’ve just stated a strong case for financial support for early H2 stations by the government, in order to create a minimum H2 infrastructure for the sale of FCEV to take off. It’s like sowing the seed for our future energy security and energy independence.

          • No, Roger. There’s no case of any sort for H2 FCEVs except in your dreams.

          • Your bosses at Toyota should foot the bill not the California tax payers.
            There also has to be HFCV’s in supply for any real demand for an infrastructure.

            How did my comment say the government should give it financial support?

            There you go avoiding the real point, again.

        • They do not bother replacing worn out oil and gas infrastructure now so why would they replace it with hydrogen infrastructure?
          Even “read my lips” HW Bush was wrong (he ended up raising taxes).
          Hydrogen is DOA (or will always be “just 10 more years” away from being viable)

    • As the BEV range increases we may get to a point that “destination chargers” may become more important than “Superchargers”. Tesla already is creating a network in conjunction with name-brand motels to have up to 80A 240V charging stations. These could fully charge a 400 mi./charge BEV overnight (~18 kW x 10 hrs. x 3 mi./kWh = 540 mi.). Thus, at most for any sane driver just one 30 minute charge at a Supercharger would be necessary for a 400 mi/charge Tesla to travel about 600 miles in a day (400 miles from overnight + one 30 min. charge for an additional 72 kWh). I am assuming that when the Model 3 comes out with 200+ mi/chg. range that the Model S will have to have its range greatly extended to maintain its price point. After that it is just a matter of competition catching up and driving the price down.

      • Agreed. During the day rapid/Superchargers can be shared by many cars, each charging for 20 to 30 minutes.

        At destination we’re going to need one outlet for parked car. And if we move to high range EVs it’s going to take something more than a simple 120 vac outlet to charge.

  • If Boris Johnstone thinks hydrogen is a clean renewable fuel, than he must be as thick as he acts.

      • Boris has already ordered 51 single-decker buses, the entire fleet of that type. The great majority of London buses are double-deckers, a type only used in Britain SFIK, and EV models had to be developed specially. I don’t think you can ask for faster rollout.

        • Double Deckers are also used in other countries/cities

    • His greatest concern is pollution at point of use i.e. central London.

      • And using hydrogen is just moving the pollution elsewhere , pure EVs is the logical solution to inner city pollution, I like Boris, but if he was really clued up he would put a massive windfarm where he wants to build a new airport.

      • No doubt he will be comfortable with his ‘clean fuel’ being produced in the North of England.

  • “. . though none came close to the apparently criminal behaviour of Volkswagen.” We don’t know this. VW were caught red-handed and admitted their wrongdoing. Other diesel carmakers are assisting government investigators in their inquiries. Wait for the results before giving them a clean sheet.

    • Regardless of the results from other manufacturers, criminal behavior of Volkswagen is accurate.

  • FCEV cars? Meh. Little better than thorium reactors. Now I’d cheer on fuel cell ships, 18-wheeler trucks, bulldozers and battle tanks if there were any. Tina, please go looking!

    • Question: what happens in battle when a hydrogen fuel cell gets hit, I would presume it would be worse than a battery getting hit?

      • I get where you’re going with this, but I’m wondering if it’s any worse than getting “hit” with 500 gallons of diesel and explosive ordinance on board or even battery packs with explosive ordinance on board or no fuel source at all and explosive ordinance on board 🙂

    • JCB is now a major stakeholder in ITM power. There’s a lot being cooked in the back of the house that the guests of the show have yet to see. The show has just begun.

    • Hi James,
      just what problems could we expect from the adoption of thorium reactors, you have me intrigued.

      • There are no working Thorium rector design prototypes anywhere in the world.

        That’s one.

        No one knows how to build one. No one knows how much it will cost.

        There’s two more.

        Let’s take Hinckley C as an example – it’s taken about 10 years to get to the stage where any concrete is poured. Then it’s going to take *at least* another 10 years to build the thing and it isn’t going to be ramped up to the max output for at least a year or two after completion.

        And it’s going to cost £x billion to build, £y billion in subsidies and £z billion in decommissioning and waste storage costs, where x, y and z are very large numbers.

        And this is for a Uranium reactor, which we’ve been building for about 70 years.

        Now people tell me that Thorium reactors are “the solution” – where’s the working Thorium reactor that demonstrates this?

        Nuclear fission is dead – it’s an expensive extra that really, we don’t need. Fusion, on the other hand, if can be shown to work is worth the effort. But, even if it works tomorrow, it would be 2050 before a working reactor is built and operating.

        • Thank you for your interesting reply. I don’t have very much knowledge in this area so I welcome your input. There certainly seems to be a lot of interest in thorium fission reactors at the moment and while it is true (I think) that there are no working thorium reactors around at present there was the original one at Oak Ridge that went critical in 65 and ran for four years and Norway was supposed to be running trials in existing uranium fission reactors but using thorium starting in 2012 (not sure what happened to that though). China has the brains, the cash and the motivation (it is very keen to close down much of its coal fired generating plant) to follow through on this if it proves viable. It all seems so simple on the surface but I take your point, there are always problems unforeseen. I could never understand why fusion research has been pursued with the massive international budgets that it has when it has never looked like it had the slightest chance of commercial success to me (the huge temperatures and pressures needed to initiate fusion and the apparent impossibility of maintaining and containing the plasma for a useful period plus the fact that even research fusion plants never looked like breaking even on energy consumed vs energy generated).
          A lot of activity but whether that ever results in thorium reactors has still to be determined but I certainly expect China to at least build a research reactor though no telling if it will ever go further than that.

          • Thorium reactors. They sure have some fans.

            There’s a video that’s been on the web for a long time. I think a number of people have seen it and bought into it’s claim that thorium reactors are the future. I really don’t think they understand what they are advocating.

            I’ve tried over and over to get advocates to explain to me how thorium reactors would make nuclear cheap enough to compete with wind and solar.

            The first answer – “Well, they use thorium”. Thorium is a fuel, nothing more. According to the World Nuclear Institute the average fuel cost at a nuclear power plant in 2013 was 0.79 cents / kWh.


            The cost of new nuclear would run somewhere above 13 cents/kWh. That’s subsidized. Unsubsidized wind is now about 4c/kWh, unsubsidized solar is about 6c/kWh. If thorium was free it wouldn’t pull the cost of nuclear into competition. 13+ – 0.79 > 12. The competition is at 4 and 6 and falling.

            A thorium reactor still needs a reactor, a steam turbine, some way to move heat from the reactor to turbine, and some way to cool down the water coming out of the turbine. Still got to build that great big plant.

            Their next reason is the go to for all the nuclear advocates – “It’s the regulations!”.

            So you ask them exactly what regulations are they talking about, which ones could be eliminated while maintaining plant safety, and how much would be saved. They have no answer. Often I’m told to “Go look it up”.

            As far as I have been able to determine there are a number of people who believe in nuclear, in thorium reactors, in molten salt reactors, in small modular reactors who simply believe. It’s sort of a religious thing with them. They have faith and they do not question.

            Same thing that we see with the H2 FCEV guys who keep pushing the idea even though the numbers simply do not work for them. We see it with people who believe in really small wind turbines and vertical axis wind turbines. Interesting ideas that all work but just don’t well enough/cheaply enough to be players.

          • Thank you for your detailed comment.

          • Dear Mr. Wallace,

            I thought you might be interested in this link to a talk on small scale fusion using gaseous boron. Energy to start each fusion cycle being delivered in one micro second pulses at the rate of 300 per second from large capacitor banks.

            This may not be your preferred approach but I think you will find the physics fascinating (well I did). Still very early days with plenty of engineering challenges that may yet prove to be insurmountable but sometimes it’s worth throwing a couple of million dollars at a new approach over three years to see just how viable something might turn out to be.


          • I’ll take a look at that tomorrow. About bedtime. Thanks.

            My preferred approach is the fastest to bring online, least expensive and overall safest.

            I think the fusion research very interesting but we don’t know if and when it might be practical. We may never control fusion. I think we have to proceed as if fusion will never be available. If we figure it out sometime we can add it to the mix.

            But, but…. Let’s say researchers figure out how to control fusion in the next few days, how do we use it to make electricity?

            We make heat, boil water, spin a turbine? What would that be any less expensive than building a fission or coal plant? Both of which are too expensive to be competitive.

          • Oh, and call me Bob. That would be welcomed after some of the things I’ve been called lately. ;o)

          • OK Bob,
            this approach produces two intense beams, one of electrons and the other travelling in the opposite direction as an ionised gas (I forget which gas, probably hydrogen, H+) so ( at least in principal) very easy to create a current from that, in fact it virtually is a current already.

          • Thanks. Found this –


            Provides a fairly clear explanation of how to create electricity directly from a fusion reaction. I don’t get a feel for how it would actually scale up. On a commercial level there would be a lot of energy undergoing conversion.

            It might be that someday fusion could be a lower cost electricity provider. But using the heat engine/steam turbine route is likely to be as unaffordable as coal and fission.

          • Thanks Bob,
            the efficiency of the lab test was impressive at 85%. Obviously different technique though since your link deals with a mixed stream of electrons and ions whereas my link produced two separate beams, one of electrons and another of positive ions travelling in opposite direction.
            I’d love to see fusion get somewhere but I have to say I am a bit sceptical that it will ever prove economic even if it can be made to produce more energy than it consumes for a commercially viable period.
            Best regards.

  • haha! i guessed after reading two lines that the author of this article is Tina Casey and then stopped reading. Good choice it was. 😀

    • So, you read the first line which gave her name?

      That’s good guessing!

    • If David or Charles Koch wrote this article nobody would listen so they pay other people to spread their propaganda.

      • So what you are saying Charlie and
        David Koch secretly are funding Cleantechnica and writers like Tina
        are simply being dupe into doing their bidding. Next, I suppose we
        will see Zach
        at Tea Party gathering to overturn Obama Care.

      • Look, there’s information in the article. If you don’t want to know things that are happening then don’t read.

        There’s no advocacy in the article as far as I can see.

        And don’t be accusing authors of improper motives unless you have proof. That sort of stuff does not fly here.

        • Not advocacy, but certainly gullibility. The article starts out with the admission that “clean diesel” was nothing but a marketing ploy… But she has no concern that hydrogen is following the same book.

  • The Toyota Edsel. Go Toyota! Lose Money!

    GM coming up strong breathing down your neck.

    Someone at Toyota needs to be Fired.

    Hydrogen Summary of Failure

    Hydrogen stations make excellent explosive terrorist targets.

    Hydrogen stations are very expensive, cost per station: $1 Million, who is going to be forced to pay for this?

    Hydrogen stations not pumping at the 10,000 psi required, you’re only getting Half Charges!

    Difficult to make hydrogen and store it.

    Hydrogen isn’t a source of energy, you can’t mine it, you can convert something else to hydrogen, like methane, but then you lose energy in the process.

    Hydrogen from water( in a global drought? ), is extremely inefficient.

    Hydrogen from methane gives you No Help with global warming, it actually makes things worse. As methane wells typically leak like sieves

    Hydrogen must be supercooled and compressed to 10,000 psi to store sufficient energy, which requires lots of energy.

    Burning it as a fuel is less than 50% efficient.

    The energy to do all this could be used to directly run an EV from a battery, and get you Twice as far.

    Hydrogen likes to leak.

    Hydrogen has a general problem of metal embrittlement, so you need special tanks.

    – Hydrogen tanks only certified for 15 years???

    Hydrogen leaks as an invisible gas.

    Hydrogen is extremely flammable with an invisible flame.

    Right now hydrogen is a loser vs. current batteries, not to speak of the battery chemistry in the coming solid state batteries.

    Chevy Volt gets better MPG, at a Lower Price, and allows you to use cheap solar energy for your fuel, and hydrogen does not. We will not run out of gas during the EV conversion process.

    Platinum in the fuel cell = expensive.

    Hydrogen time refueling vs. solar.

    Solar: You plug in at your home, Time 60 seconds.

    Hydrogen: You drive 20 minutes, or to California, to the station 10 minute refuel, 20 minutes back home: 50 minutes lost.

    Hydrogen Cars were built on the premise that we’d need a “Bridge Fuel” to EV’s, however battery tech has advanced so rapidly that there is no need for a bridge, especially one as wasteful and expensive as this.

    EV’s running on Solar helps pay off your Solar investment 20%-40% faster = More PROFITS to YOU.

  • 200 mile cars that almost NEVER need daytime charge will help alleviate this chargepoint congestion pressure.

  • The words, “clean diesel is a marketing ploy” appear in an article about fuel cell vehicles? Hilarious!

  • I knew from the headline, this was another Tina Casey fan fiction.

    The article starts out with the admission that “clean diesel” was nothing but a marketing ploy… But she has no concern that hydrogen is following the same book.

  • Is there a conflict of interest disclosure that should have been made at the top of the article?

    It is becoming common knowledge that fuel cells are dead as far as transportation applications go:
    – The hydrogen would always originate from fossil fuels (steam reformed natural gas) as it will always be cheaper than any claimed “hydro-electric, renewable” sources
    – Hydrogen fuel cells are woefully inefficient and cannot ever match battery storage
    efficiency because of their inherent heat and mechanical losses
    – Hydrogen fuels were a unqualified failure in the Canadian Ballard / BC Transit $10 million dollar+ failure and nothing has significantly changed since then. The 10 buses were either converted back to diesel or scrapped in 2014
    – Hydrogen cannot be stopped from degrading metal – brittlement failures. The Mirai fuel tanks have a re certification (replace) date of 14 years after the first drive date
    – The inherent hydrogen infrastructure problems of transportation, compression to 10,000 psi, dispensing costs and safe storage are all insurmountable
    – Hydrogen venting in a fire would produce 80 foot flames out from their pressure relief valves.

    Hydrogen for ground transportation is DOA

    • What conflict?

  • FCEV buses would not need superchargers. A 50 kW stack with 24 kWh of batteries would keep it running all day long.

    • Possibly. But it would make more financial sense to stick with the diesel buses.

      • With 50 kilowatts of average power that’s going to be one slow bus. But if the batteries had a high enough power output, or were replaced with ultracapacitors, it could work if its route involved a lot of stopping and starting which would let its energy storage top up.

        But, the biggest problem is, you know… money.

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