Clean Transport

Published on June 10th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan

146

Why Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Are Not Competitive — From A Hydrogen Fuel Cell Expert

June 10th, 2016 by  

One of our wonderful regular commenters, “neroden,” recently dropped a very interesting link into the comments of an article about Hyundai’s apparent shift in focus to battery-electric cars. As he prefaced it:

There’s actually a long list of problems with fuel cell cars.

From someone who actually built fuel cell cars: http://ssj3gohan.tweakblogs.net/blog/11470/why-fuel-cell-cars-dont-work-part-1

It is a long piece, and it’s only Part 1! Admittedly, it would be nice if the author updated it to match the current market — it was published in February 2015 and is dated in a couple of parts. But the key points are the same nonetheless, and they aren’t changing. These key points are laid out in bullet points at the beginning of Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3:

First of all, HFC cars are perceived to be a good bridge between fossil fuels and full electric because:

  • You can still fill up like you do with a gasoline or diesel powered car
  • The mileage you can get out of hydrogen is perceived to be more adequate than what you get from batteries
  • Hydrogen fuel cells are thought not to wear out as quickly as batteries (or conversely, batteries are thought to wear out very quickly)
  • Hydrogen as a fuel is perceived to be a relatively small infrastructural change from gasoline and diesel
  • Hydrogen is perceived as a cleaner solution than gasoline, diesel or natural gas

In reality,

  • You cannot fill up like you do with gasoline or diesel. It is actually pretty ridiculous how hard it is to fill up a HFC powered car
  • You won’t even go 100 miles on current tech hydrogen tanks that are still safe to carry around in a car
  • Fuel cells wear out crazy fast and are hard to regenerate
  • Hydrogen as a fuel is incredibly hard to make and distribute with acceptably low losses

Additionally,

  • Hydrogen fuel cells have bad theoretical and practical efficiency
  • Hydrogen storage is inefficient, energetically, volumetrically and with respect to weight
  • HFCs require a shit ton of supporting systems, making them much more complicated and prone to failure than combustion or electric engines
  • There is no infrastructure for distributing or even making hydrogen in large quantities. There won’t be for at least 20 or 30 years, even if we start building it like crazy today.
  • Hydrogen is actually pretty hard to make. It has a horrible well-to-wheel efficiency as a result.
  • Easy ways to get large quantities of hydrogen are not ‘cleaner’ than gasoline.
  • Efficient HFCs have very slow response times, meaning you again need additional systems to store energy for accelerating
  • Even though a HFC-powered car is essentially an electric car, you get none of the benefits like filling it up with your own power source, using it as a smart grid buffer, regenerating energy during braking, etc.
  • Battery electric cars will always be better in every way given the speed of technological developments past, present and future
Toyota Mirai CleanTechnica

Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car, by Kyle Field for CleanTechnica.


 

I’ve written my own debunking of the legitimacy of hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Physicist Joe Romm, PhD, who oversaw oversaw $1 billion in R&D, demonstration, and deployment of low-carbon technology in 1997 as acting assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy under President Bill Clinton, has written several articles and an entire book on why hydrogen cars are overly hyped, not competitive with battery-electric carsincredibly dumb, and (obviously) not a winning strategy.

The author of the piece above was involved in the first international hydrogen racing championship, and as you can see if you read his articles, knows a lot about the technology.

Elon Musk, another vocal HFCV critic, is a physicist by training and was interested since college, at least, in advancing sustainable transport. He specifically went the route of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) rather than HFCVs because of inherent, huge advantages for BEVs. As he has noted, the theoretical limit for HFCVs isn’t even as good as current-tech BEVs…. As he stated last year:

  • Hydrogen fuel cell cars “are extremely silly.”
  • “Hydrogen is an incredibly dumb” fuel.
  • “Fuel cell is so bullshit, it’s a load of rubbish. The only reason they do fuel cell is because… they don’t really believe it, it’s something that they can… it is like a marketing thing.”
  • “There’s no need for us to have this debate. I’ve said my peace on this, it will be super obvious as time goes by.”

EV expert Julian Cox wrote an article for us a couple years ago on why hydrogen cars are simply not green. The article got a lot of attention and was referenced widely (including by Joe Romm and some mainstream media outlets), but the message doesn’t seem to have broken through to many people in the “green” and “cleantech” community. Furthermore, hydrogen fuel cell cars continue to get subsidies from governments … which is both a waste of money and counterproductive. Sure, keep investing a little bit in R&D, but don’t take away from the cash that should go toward battery-electric vehicles in order to quickly decarbonise transportation and help stop global warming.

IEA-summary-of-progress-update

Anyone peddling HFCVs at this point is either not connecting key dots or knows what the situation actually is and is simply engaging in corrupt, unethical behavior.

I hope this will be my last piece on hydrogen fuel cell cars. I hope….


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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.



  • Bob_Wallace

    Marty, you’re grasping for straws.

    We need to build no HVDC transmission in order to charge EVs. We already have the ability to charge more than 80% of all US cars and light trucks were they to turn into EVs overnight.

    The facts are not in your favor, Marty. Why don’t you take a little time and question why you are so strongly advocating for a technology which as severe and likely fatal flaws?

  • Bob_Wallace

    “Now 6 European companies have announced a consortium that will build 400 hydrogen refueling stations across Germany by 2023. The group consists of Air Liquide, Linde, Daimler, OMV, Shell and Total.”

    Daimler and five companies in the business of selling fuel.

    “The cross-sector joint venture will be known as H2 MOBILITY Deutschland. according to Electric Car Reports. It is based in Berlin and is already working hard on Stage One of the plan — the construction of 100 filling stations over the next few years.”

    That’s 100 H2 stations of the next few years. Not 400 H2 stations now.

    You might reflect on the 100 H2 stations that were to be built in California. 9 have been built and 18 have been funded. There seems to be significant problems getting companies interested in getting into the hydrogen business. They just aren’t seeing a future.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Your first article describes how the Japanese government believes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the future. Then it describes the cost problem of a hydrogen based transportation system and how EV battery prices are rapidly dropping.

    Your second article describes how the Japanese government is using taxpayer money to subsidize both FCEVs and hydrogen filling station construction. Their hope is that by doing so they can bring the price of both FCEVs and hydrogen stations down in price.

    The article contains some untrue claims such as –

    ” hydrogen cars have two big leads over their battery-powered competition: they fuel up much faster—about three minutes as compared to several hours for most EVs—and the Mirai’s range of 312 miles beats even the Tesla. ”

    You can fully charge a Tesla at a Supercharger in 75 minutes. And that time will shorten as Tesla increases the ‘size of the pipe’. The Tesla 85P has a 320 mile range.

    It talks about EVs not being fully ‘clean’ until the grid is carbon free. But talks about carbon free FCEVs using hydrogen made from that same grid. Obviously we get to a carbon free grid faster with EVs than with FCEVs because EVs need less than one third as much electricity.

    Or put another way, as long as the grid is not carbon free FCEVs will have a carbon footprint three times that of EVs.

    Just look at this quote –

    “Given Japan’s current energy sources, building up a clean-powered hydrogen supply chain looks less daunting than decarbonizing the electric grid.”

    Whoever wrote this article simply didn’t pay attention to what they were writing.

    What the article does not discuss is the cost of hydrogen and why the cost of operating FCEVs make them an evolutionary dead end.

    Sorry, Marty, you don’t further your argument with these two articles. You just underline the flaws in your thinking.

  • anderlan

    “Even though a HFC-powered car is essentially an electric car, you get none of the benefits like filling it up with your own power source, using it as a smart grid buffer, ***regenerating energy during braking***, etc.”

    I’m as anti-fool-cell as the next guy, but seriously, what does this mean? FCEVs are designed like hybrids. I’m sure a majority of braking energy is saved to their battery buffer in most designs. You just said they require a large battery bank to ensure good acceleration.

  • deejay

    Very interesting. But why do some of the leading car makers still stick with fuel cells?

    • Ivor O’Connor

      Could be a few things.

      Tesla is using something like half the LiON batteries in the world. And are now making their own. Not an easy option for established auto companies.

      Tesla does not receive $2,500 extra per car but FCEV manufacturers do.

      Hydrogen uses more fossil fuels to make and run than do gasoline cars. So hydrogen is being pushed heavily by the oil industry. Possibly some money is being transferred too?

      • deejay

        But hydrogen does not use any fossil fuels when made 100 % with RE, right? I heard that some countries invest a lot in hydrogen storage infrastructure because they can´t use all the excess energy of their offshore wind mills.

        • Ivor O’Connor

          Yes. It’s possible to make hydrogen with 100% RE. Currently almost all is being made with fossil fuels. Northern Germany has been experimenting with RE for hydrogen for a while now. However it’s much more cost effective to sell the excess energy to other countries and build HVDC lines to southern Germany. Both of which they have also been doing.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Wind turbines. We aren’t grinding corn offshore.

          There will not be “excess” energy in any appreciable amount. EVs will gladly suck up any electricity that is priced below the typical price. We’ll need storage so that “excess” will get stored.

          Were we to use H2 FCEVs we’d have to build hydrogen production and compression plants. Those plants, like oil refineries, would have to run 24/7, not just a few hours a month when there might be very low priced electricity.

          People who talk about making hydrogen (or synfuel) with excess electricity have not thought through the scale of powering transportation.

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            “The majority of modern windmills take the form of wind turbines” (source en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windmill). So yes wind turbine is more specific and I’m all for that but a bit tough to ding the guy for using the more general term windmill.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Anti-renewable folks commonly refer to wind turbines as wind mills.

      • Marty

        Come on, in a hydrogen economy no hydrogen is made of fossil fuels anymore. Did you read Bela Liptak´s book about that? It´s very clear how this would work and what the benefits are. The first countries to adopt this strategy now are Japan and Germany, other countries in Europe and Asia will follow. Grid capacity is not HVDC always the solution, distributed power plants using grid-scale fuel cells might be better in some geographies, also for political reasons as in Germany. They just started the worlds largest electrolyzing demo plant near Frankfurt. this is just the beginning.

        • Ivor O’Connor

          “Currently, the majority of hydrogen (∼95%) is produced from fossil fuels
          by steam reforming or partial oxidation of methane and coal
          gasification with only a small quantity by other routes such as biomass
          gasification or electrolysis of water”
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_production

          Apparently reality doesn’t get in your way.

          • Marty

            Yes, currently. This is already going to change. Wikipedia is not the best reference for fast changing facts.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            You do realize you are already contradicting yourself. Now you say it is currently true but before then you said “Come on, in a hydrogen economy no hydrogen is made of fossil fuels anymore”.

            Could it be you like the idea of hydrogen but are not aware of all the pitfalls to it. Perhaps you just need a few months to get up to speed? (I once believed in hydrogen like you do currently but I got past it after a year or two.)

          • Marty

            Since we are not yet living in a hydrogen economy, this is not a contradiction. I don´t care about today, I am talking about tomorrow. Let me know about the pitfalls you are afraid off. That´s interesting.

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            I too once thought H2 fuel cells might get us passed the diminishing stock of economically extractable oil. Since then lead acid batteries and NiFe cells are no longer the only option for EVs. NMhi and subsequently Li-ion have has changed all that. The end of economically extractable oil seems as far away as ever however which would be nice if it weren’t for the about to be devastating affect on the environment and its inhabitants.

          • Michael B

            It is odd how just the idea or even *word* hydrogen has an irrational allure to certain individuals, isn’t it?

    • Marty

      Because they know better? Who really knows. We know that BEVs are not a big success so far. Tesla doesn´t earn any money yet and BMW´s i3 is also not permanently outsold. If I had the choice, and there were enough H2 stations, I would definitely go for FCEV. Why? Cause I can use it in the same way as my current car. Anytime, anywhere. Let the price go down a little bit more and let there be enough H2 stations and here we go.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        There are very few places in the world that over produce by 400% their electrical needs. In fact a couple states in Germany may be it. Everywhere else they need to efficiently handle all the electricity they produce. Hence FCEVs don’t make a lot of sense. When the world is filled with too much energy maybe then FCEVs will make sense. But I suspect they’ll use excess energy to purify ocean water and clean out the CO2 from the environment long before there is enough energy to waste on FCEVs.

      • Epicurus

        No one will invest in hydrogen filling stations. Existing gasoline station owners won’t take the risk.

  • Marty

    Guess I never read an article about EVs that was more wrong and misleading. Just a few examples:
    – There is no distribution problem with H2 (Germany just started building the next 400 H2 fueling stations, using excess wind energy to produce H2).
    – FC efficiency is even higher regarding combined heat and power and heat is a mobility requirement in over 80 % of the use-cases worldwide.
    – Refueling FCEVs is as easy as refueling gasoline. All you need is an H2 station.
    – Conversion losses are irrelevant when H2 will be produced based on excess wind and solar power for now and 100 % based on RE in the future (AZ alone could fuel the entire US based on PV and H2 only).
    – H2 will be distributed in pipelines and stored under the earth in salt caverns in the future. Air Products already operates a 600 miles pipeline in TX, no problems.
    – MIT recently found a new catalyst for FCs that avoids 90 % of the platinum used while gaining efficiency in the same time. Overall FC cost will drop by up to 50 %.
    – FCEVs cover all possible mobility use-cases in all geographies and climates, BEVs cover a small subset of urban use-cases in moderate climate. Elon Musk might once want to leave California to understand what “mobility” really means.
    – For the same reason, BEVs were blown away by ICVs over 100 years ago, they will be gone again as soon as H2 has replaced gasoline, diesel and natural gas.
    – Current reach of FCEVs is about 100 km per kg. Recently presented models of Daimler and BMW go around 500 km with one filling of 5kg (refueling time 4 minutes) in any (!) temperature including heating (try this with a Tesla in Alaska in December but don´t forget your survival package).
    – Safety: how many H2 (or natural gas) cars exploded yet and how many Teslas burned down to ashes?
    – Infrastructure: for every H2 refueling point you need 60 battery chargers based on refueling time. Cost?
    – And what is the problem to produce your own H2 with a PV roof?
    – Smart grid with car battery buffer? In theory, but sorry, look at the grids load curve. Cars would charge during peaks, even more grid capacity would be necessary. Cost?

    Want more? Shall we discuss recycling and life-cycle issues of batteries vs. fuel cells? What do you think a total energy and emission balance “batterie vs. fuel cell” would look like? Batteries will be necessary for some reasons but we need to keep it at a minimum and think “environment” and “usability” for all of our energy requirements which are mobility and heat beside others. The overall efficiency is the question. At home, on the road and in the air.

    Hydrogen economy is coming up. Now. In the grid, in your basement and in your car.

    • Ivor O’Connor

      The only valid point to your rant that wasn’t full of partial truths was the range. If you are seriously deluded and want answers try making posts on a single subject instead of a shotgun approach where pages and pages would be needed to reply to all the delusions.

      • Marty

        I just tried to correct some of the statements in the article and, sorry, but there is a lot to correct Just pick one issue of your choice if you think something isn´t fully accurate. I am happy to discuss any misunderstanding.

        • Ivor O’Connor

          lol, you just tried to correct? Yeah. That’s it.

          Statements like “- Safety: how many H2 (or natural gas) cars exploded yet and how many Teslas burned down to ashes?” really don’t look like a correction. More like BS propaganda. Could just be me.

          • Marty

            Just correct me, please. How many? Sounds sarcastic but is still true. I have never heard about any FCEV that burned down, did you? Shall I post some links of Tesla wrecks?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hard to burn them down when there aren’t any.

    • deejay

      True I heard about a Mercedes SUV too with fuel cell coming next year. Isn´t Mercedes also building a small hydrogen car? Can´t be so wrong if they do it and Toyota and BMW? Japan and Germany are the worlds leading car manufacturers for some reason, aren´t they?

      • Bob_Wallace

        Toyota and Honda have released hydrogen fuel cell cars.

        They are not selling.

        A few years back hydrogen fuel cell cars looked to be the way we would get off fossil fuels. Batteries were far too expensive.

        Since then EV batteries have gone from $1,000/kWh to under $200/kWh and should be down to $100/kWh in a few more years. No one saw that incredible price drop coming.

        Car companies started fuel cell programs. That looked like where the market was heading so they prepared. Now battery prices have knocked the legs out from under fuel cells.

        • Marty

          Price is not the issue, the issue is use-case: charging time and reach. No real improvement there and still more than poor in cold condition. FCEVs did not work yet due to availability of H2 stations. All we know is that so far, no EV was really successful. Tesla wasn´t, BMW wasn´t either.
          Germany and Japan are now going to prove what the better solution will be for them. 400 new H2 stations until 2023 in Germany, new FCEV models from AUDI, BMW, Daimler, VW in the next 4 years. Plus existing models from Toyota, Honda, Hyundai. Grid-scale fuel-cells and electrolyzer are in the pipeline for some european countries as well as for Korea and Japan. China is doing first demo projects on hydrogen as well and there is a substantial hydrogen program running here in the states as well. We´ll see.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Price is not the issue? Please. Price controls just about everything we do.

            Filling H2 tanks is faster but one has to go to a gas station every time they need fuel. People driving an EV just plug in when they park.

            Range is only a temporary issue. The longest range Tesla has as much range as the Toyota Mirai. Battery capacity has increased about 7% per year on average. If capacity continues to increase at that rate (it will probably go faster) then we’ll move from 200 mile range EVs to 400 mile range EVs for the same price.

            Your claim that EVs have not been successful is lacking truthfulness. Tesla is taking market share away from other luxury car makers (Mercedes, BMW, etc.) and there are almost 400,000 people who have paid for a place on the list to purchase a Tesla 3.

            Toyota introduced the Mirai and the world went “Ho-hum”.

            You can find lots of places where people are dabbling with hydrogen. But EVs are selling and demand is high.

            Take off your hydrogen fan cap and take a careful look at the cost of driving with hydrogen. It’s a deal killer.

        • Marty

          The most recent support program for BEV in Germany grants 5000 € to everybody who buys one. Want to know the impact of that program so far? It is a single number: 0
          Price is not he issue. Tesla is even giving the charge on top and it is not selling in Germany. Why?

          • Ivor O’Connor

            And here I thought Germany was only offering €4,000 for BEVs and €3,000 for PHEVs. Where did you get the €5,000 number? Link?

          • Marty

            Right, it is 4,000 not 5,000. No effect on sales anyway yet.

          • Ivor O’Connor

            Really? I call BS.

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            So when did the most recent support program for BEV in Germany go into affect ?
            Anyway here is a quote from Forbes, April 6th 2016 about Eastern European sales :
            “In 2015, according to British-based newsletter Automotive Industry Data (AID) quoting what it called its exclusive statistics, Tesla sold 15,787 Model S sedans, beating out the Mercedes flagship S-class’s 14,990”. It was in fact the “best selling luxury car in Western Europe”. The same can be said of US sales of course.

          • Marty

            Model S compares to E Class, BMW 5 or Audi A6. It´s not a luxury car. check those numbers.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s not where the S is stealing sales away from Mercedes and friends. Apparently luxury car purchasers think the S is pretty luxurious.

            .

          • Marty

            Where in the world would anybody compare these cars? Not in Europe and not in Asia. This comparison is nonsense, sorry. Ever driven an S-Class or 7 Series? The car that comes closest to the Model S is the Audi A7, based on the A6 platform. Just compare dimensions, features and price.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Doesn’t matter, Marty. The kind of people who normally buy Merc S-Class and BMW 7-Series are buying Teslas.

          • Marty

            It started in May I believe.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Hydrogen is a very inefficient method of storing energy. I’ll give you a chart at the bottom. Start with a given amount of renewable energy and over 70% of that energy is lost on the way to where the rubber meets the road.

      Batteries/EVs are about 3x as efficient.

      That means that we would have to install 3x as many wind turbines and solar panels to produce clean hydrogen than we would have to install were we to use EVs.

      Input energy would cost three times as much for a hydrogen energy transportation system. Three times as much.

      Hydrogen would need a transportation, storage and distribution system. We’d need plants where the H2 was extracted from water and where the H2 was compressed for transportation or use.

      Those plants would cost a lot of money and would need to be maintained and staffed. That’s another cost that would add to the cost of input energy.

      Hydrogen is a poor storer of energy in terms of volume. Second graph below. A given amount of energy stored in the form of compressed H2 requires about 10x as much space compared to storing it as gasoline or diesel. That means that we’d need 10x as many tanker trucks to move H2 from plant to gas station. We’d need storage tanks 10x what we now need.

      Now we have accruing costs. Three times as much energy input. Massive infrastructure costs for producing and compressing hydrogen. A huge amount of transportation and storage capacity. These things make a hydrogen expensive.

      Now let’s look at EVs.

      Only a third as many solar panels and wind turbines needed.

      The transportation and infrastructure is almost all in place. Since EVs would mostly charge late at night when demand is down the grid is capable of charging without any appreciable modification. (Some neighborhood transformers may need to be upsized.)

      The economics simply do not work for a hydrogen transportation system.

      • Marty

        Efficiency has some dimensions. You are only talking about the drive train. What about heat? What about battery capacity in cold climate? Did you make a calculation of well-to-wheel for Alaska once? Try it, its funny. CHP of an actual FC goes up to 85 %, 90 % seems possible. If you use the heat because it is cold, FC are far more efficient than batteries. Plus: battery capacity drops at low temperatures. Those are the reasons why BEV are not successful, beside charging time.
        Hydrogen does not have the energy density of gasoline or diesel, true, but it is 100 % emission free and can be produced 100 % based on RE. This is the argument. The energy input is irrelevant, just install more and you are done. PV generators produce electric power for over 30 years, almost unattended once installed, H” just flows into the salt caverns for storage and into the pipelines for distribution. Almost all of the infrastructure is maintenance-free or can be automized. Plus: distributed micro-grids are the only option in some geographies anyway.
        But even in urban areas with advanced grids, massive amounts of BEV would have a significant impact on the load curve and unfortunately, the infrastructure is not sufficient.
        So find an alternative for a future hydrogen economy with zero emission and don´t forget: we still want to fly somehow, right?
        How would you store excess RE?

        • Karl the brewer

          “BEV are not successful”

          We have gone from negligible to ~ 1.2 million EV’s in 5 years.

          • Marty

            Right. And that is what share of all cars built in the last 5 years? And what was the target for BEV? And what is the profit so far? How much money did Tesla earn yet? Or BMW with it´s i series? How do you define “success”?

          • Karl the brewer

            And how many FC cars have been built in the last 5 years? And what was the target for FC? And what is the profit so far? How much money has Toyota earned from the Mirai? How do you define “success”?

            If you want to sum up FC cars you just need to look at the hydrogen vehicle wiki page. And there, at the start of the second paragraph is the phrase that highlights the folly of these vehicles “Hydrogen does not occur naturally on Earth.”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_vehicle

          • Marty

            Sorry, I don´t read wikipedia. There was almost no FC car maker and no H2 infrastructure until now. Let´s wait for a real competition. Have a reasonable amount of both charging and H2 refueling stations, get to competitive cost and in the end, usability will be the point. And that´s reach and refueling time. FCEV will win this battle. Clearly.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m very glad to wait and see how FCEVs do. So far they’ve failed.

            Let some country set up some filling stations. Hopefully not with my tax money.

            FCEVs will win in terms of fueling/charging times. But that’s a hollow victory.

            As battery capacities grow and superchargers grow in output capacity EV drivers will simply stop once a day during a long (500 mile) day drive and plug in while they have lunch.

            FCEV drivers will spend some time filling. And then they’ll drive to where they are going to have lunch. FCEV drivers will get to where they are going after the EV drivers have already arrived.

            The rest of the year? FCEV drivers are going to need to take time to stop at a filling station about 40 times a year while EV drivers will just plug in when they park. Or park over a wireless charger.

          • Karl the brewer

            Would you like to add a winning lottery ticket to that extensive wish list?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tesla has one of the higher Gross Profit Margins (GPM) in the car industry. Their GPM generally is above 20%. I’m aware of only one manufacturer (Porsche) with a higher GPM and it’s not that much higher.

            Companies such as Toyota and Ford have GPMs that are about have as good.

            Tesla makes a lot of money from building EVs. The company “loses” money because they are heavily investing in growth and future profits.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “What about battery capacity in cold climate? ”

          Preheat your batteries while plugged in.

          In really cold places people use block heater for their ICEVs on the coldest of nights/days. Places in the north have outlets in parking lots so that people can plug in during the day.

          Worst case. Volvo has an ethanoyl heater for their cars. Heats batteries and passenger cabin.

          Batteries give off heat when discharging. They can keep themselves warm while driving.

          ” The energy input is irrelevant, just install more and you are done.”

          Bullshit, Marty. “Install more” means pay more. Cost is the FCEV killer. You need to get that into your head.

          “But even in urban areas with advanced grids, massive amounts of BEV would have a significant impact on the load curve and unfortunately, the infrastructure is not sufficient. ”

          That is absolutely incorrect, Marty. Totally incorrect. The NREL found that the current grid could charge 80% of all US cars and light trucks right now if they turned into EVs overnight.

          “So find an alternative for a future hydrogen economy with zero emission and don´t forget: we still want to fly somehow, right?
          How would you store excess RE?”

          There is no hydrogen economy coming our way.

          We won’t fly using hydrogen. The tanks would be so bulky that there would be no place for passengers and luggage.

          The best large scale storage solution is pump-up hydro. About 85% efficient compared to 30% for hydrogen. Much cheaper per kWh. Even CAES is superior to hydrogen for long term energy storage.

          For short term storage batteries are starting to take over.

          • Marty

            Just look at the long run. Sure we need to invest now, but it pays back cause fuel is for free. the transition is expensive, I would not deny that. But there is no other option.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The fuel is not free.

            Hydrogen will cost more than 3x what running with electricity costs.

            One needs a 3x energy input to produce low carbon hydrogen.

            The one needs to pay for the hydrogen plant, transportation, storage and distribution system.

            There is clearly another option. EVs are now on roads and sales are accelerating. We should see a huge jump in sales as the 200 mile range Bolt and Tesla 3 start rolling out of factories.

        • dogphlap dogphlap

          “FC are far more efficient than batteries” do you have a reference for that ?
          While it is true that battery capacity drops with temperature, the capacity returns when the battery warms up.
          The Norwegians know a thing or two about cold weather and they buy more BEVs per capita than any other nation.

          • Marty

            Sure, but it´s pretty easy to make a calculation yourself. If you are talking about eff. you need to consider the circumstances like temperature and the use-case. If you just look at electrical power at room temp., the battery is superior. FC is at about 47 % max right now. If you look at combined heat and el. power, their head-to head at about 80 %. If you are looking at lower or higher temperatures, battery efficiency drops too. So its not a surprise, that FC at low temperatures looking at combined heat and power efficiency is higher. That is just thermodynamics. Now you may answer yourself which use-cases are more likely in transportation if you consider the entire planet and not only California. Hope that helps.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Dang, forgot the charts….

        FCEVs need 3x the amount of renewable energy to drive a mile than do EVs.

        Hydrogen needs 10x the number of tanker trucks and 10x the amount of storage tanks of a similar energy amount of gasoline or diesel.

        • Marty

          Thx but again, diesel and gasoline are not options for zero emission. Sorry. And btw, you forgot the life-cycle part of the total energy balance in your chart. Battery vs. FC, production, recycling, maintenance, … and don´t forget the recent MIT findings which safe 90 % of FC platinum while gaining efficiency. Cost (your favorite) might go down by 50 % for next gen FC.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Marty, you’re fast on the keyboard but I’m afraid that it’s costing you contemplation time.

            The cost of H2 is input energy and infrastructure.

            Energy input, that’s a physics thing. It takes energy to break the hydrogen/oxygen bond in H2O and it takes energy to compress any gas. It takes about 3x as much energy to power a FCEV as it takes to power an EV.

            And the cost of infrastructure. Lots of hydrogen plants. Lots of hydrogen tankers. Lots of hydrogen storage tanks. Lots of hydrogen filling stations. EVs need none of that, they avoid all those costs.

            Cutting the cost of the electrode is small change. The cost of hydrogen is in the plants, transportation, storage and distribution.

            EV batteries will be recycled. They’re a source of concentrated lithium and more valuable materials.

          • Marty

            Well, today we have lots of oil tankers, lots of coalmines, lots of nuclear power plants, gas, coal and oil plants etc. right? So that and even the factor 3 doesn´t bother me. The US consumes twice as much power per capita as Europe. Let´s be more efficient in general.
            Try to imagine in the absence of all fossil and nuclear power plants how would your energy generation, transmission and conversion look like, supporting a common grid load curve? It won´t happen today but it will happen one day. What are the options? Why not starting now? Gotta get CO2 down right?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Nuclear plants are closing because the power they produce is too expensive. Coal plants are closing in Germany because the wholesale cost of electricity has dropped below their operating cost.

            FCEVs are not likely to be the transportation solution because EVs will be far less expensive to own and operate.

            Want to get CO2 down? Crush your ICEV and drive an EV. EVs take only a third as much electricity per mile as does a FCEV.

          • AltairIV

            Let´s be more efficient in general.
            …Just not in this one specific area.

          • Marty

            Switch on your heating while driving in low 40s and you are more efficient in this area too.

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            No one here is arguing for fossil fuels. Maybe H2 might be marginally better than gasoline but that is a very big maybe. It is much worse than current generation BEV tech and shows no sign of ever being superior.
            As to distribution it is currently delivered via 10 long tubular tanks on 44′ trailers at low pressure (3200psi) but Linde do have a higher pressure version that can transport a 1100kg per trailer load, enough to fill from empty 110 Toyota Mirai cars. Six times that number of gasoline cars can be filled from the contents of one tanker truck.
            Then you have the problem that H2 gets into the molecular structure of steel, both weakening it and making it brittle. When dealing with a gas that is much less picky about precise air fuel ratios to render it an explosive mixture than say gasoline and is compressed to 10,000 psi for delivery to FCEV you really don’t want compromised plumbing.
            I get the feeling you are aware of all these arguments against H2 already but for reasons I can only guess at you trot out these apparently practised arguments in favour of a hydrogen tranport economy.

          • Marty

            You are right, I am aware of this. The storage problems are probably solved already, BMW and Toyota have developed a carbon-steal tank that shows almost no H2 excess and surface altering. But I don´t want to say everything is solved and everything is easy with H2, I am just convinced, that there is no better option than H2 for a zero emission energy future in general. And it wont come overnight. 2050 is my scope. It only starts now.

          • Bob_Wallace

            ” I am just convinced, that there is no better option than H2 for a zero emission energy future in general. And it wont come overnight. 2050 is my scope. It only starts now.”

            We are extremely aware of your beliefs. Most of us here operate on facts, not belief.

            2050 for H2 FCEVs to be a player. Let’s think about that.

            EVs are on track to reach purchase price parity with ICEVs in about five years. And then are expected to become less expensive than ICEVs to purchase. Driving using electricity is already much cheaper than driving with gas or diesel.

            That suggests that by ten years from now, if trends continue, the new car market will be shifting heavily to EVs. By 2040 the new car market may be close to 100% EV.

            Now, according to you, FCEVs will move into the market in larger numbers somewhere around 2050. One has to ask why.

            Why would anyone decide to purchase a car which will cost more to purchase, more to operate, have poor acceleration, and be inconvenient to operate?

            You seem to be suffering a logic failure.

          • Marty

            “EVs are on track to reach purchase price parity with ICEVs in about five years. ” That is why Tesla pulled the super charger option away for the Model 3, right? Let´s see what the price of Daimlers GLC FC will be next year. Or BMWs 5 series or the Audi A7 h-tron. They are all ready to go, just wait for the filling stations. I think you have no idea what size of an impact a combined action towards FCEVs of the entire Japanese and German car industry would have!

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, not including unlimited Supercharger use was one way to bring a $35k 200 mile range EV to market. The 3 is about 20% smaller than the S which was another way to lower cost.

            The least expensive S is $66k. A drop of close to 50% in selling price is an excellent step on the way to purchase price parity.

            “I think you have no idea what size of an impact a combined action towards FCEVs of the entire Japanese and German car industry would have!”

            Come on Marty. You’re just wasting our time. You’ve gone from simple lack of knowledge about EVs and ICEVs to to some sort of hydrogen fantasyland.

            I think you’ve had an excellent chance to make your point and now you’re just going off into weird tangents. I’m going to shut down comments on this topic so that we can get back to the real world.

    • AltairIV

      I’m just a casual reader with almost no technical knowledge or awareness of details, but I’m going to have a bit of fun and flex my mental muscles to respond to as many of these points as best as I can.

      – There is no distribution problem with H2 (Germany just started building the next 400 H2 fueling stations, using excess wind energy to produce H2).

      There’s even less of a distribution problem with EVs. The electrical infrastructure is already in place, barring a few upgrades here and there. It takes very little time, money or resources to plug in a new charging point. How much will it take to build a new H2 filling station?

      – FC efficiency is even higher regarding combined heat and power and heat is a mobility requirement in over 80 % of the use-cases worldwide.

      But no matter how you slice it, the maximum possible efficiency of using H2 as an intermediate storage medium can never be higher than that of direct charging. See Bob Wallace’s replies in this regard.

      – Refueling FCEVs is as easy as refueling gasoline. All you need is an H2 station.

      First of all, not is… “will be”. It will only become true when/if we have an H2 station on every street corner, like we do with gas stands now. In the meantime “refueling” a BEV is even easier, and for the most part already available. Just plug it in wherever there’s an outlet available. Most people just let it do its magic at home while they sleep.

      – Conversion losses are irrelevant when H2 will be produced based on excess wind and solar power for now and 100 % based on RE in the future (AZ alone could fuel the entire US based on PV and H2 only).

      Another “will be”, and indeed an “irrelevant” point. This doesn’t even count as an argument for FCEVs, since it applies even more strongly to BEVs. AZ alone could also power the entire US with PV and EV/battery storage alone, and even more efficiently.

      – H2 will be distributed in pipelines and stored under the earth in salt caverns in the future. Air Products already operates a 600 miles pipeline in TX, no problems.

      Yet another “will be”. On the other hand, electricity is distributed by a comprehensive network of copper cables, which just coincidentally happens to already exist. It can be stored in a myriad of different ways. Why bother to build a completely new infrastructure when you can just make minor upgrades to one you already have?

      – MIT recently found a new catalyst for FCs that avoids 90 % of the platinum used while gaining efficiency in the same time. Overall FC cost will drop by up to 50 %.

      Super! Be sure to let us know when that discovery actually leads to the savings it promises. In the meantime battery technology is also making great strides in improving storage density and cost savings.

      – FCEVs cover all possible mobility use-cases in all geographies and climates, BEVs cover a small subset of urban use-cases in moderate climate. Elon Musk might once want to leave California to understand what “mobility” really means.

      And of course by “small subset” you really mean the vast majority of all vehicular traffic. Most driving is done inside city limits and within daylight hours. Long distance travel without stopovers is actually the exception, not the rule.

      In point of fact I’d say this is the only real advantage that FCEVs have (excuse me, “will have”, if they ever get the fueling infrastructure in place), over the current crop of BEVs. But of course BEV range, charging speed and infrastructure are improving all the time, and so the number of people affected by this “problem” will also keep getting smaller and smaller. It won’t be all that long before it ceases to be an issue at all.

      Oh, and you are aware that Tesla owners have already demonstrated that it’s possible to travel in one all the way across the U.S. right?

      – For the same reason, BEVs were blown away by ICVs over 100 years ago, they will be gone again as soon as H2 has replaced gasoline, diesel and natural gas.

      This is nothing but an unsupported assertion. There is very little parallel between current conditions and the one a century ago, except for the fact that BEV charging points continue to expand in a way very similar to how gasoline stations did back then. In contrast, I’ve seen very little action happening on the H2 front, except in areas where the FCEV fanatics keep trying to hype it. Or to put it another way, the EV charging infrastructure is growing quickly and naturally due to market forces, while the H2 structure is only being forced reluctantly into place by a few vested interests.

      – Current reach of FCEVs is about 100 km per kg. Recently presented models of Daimler and BMW go around 500 km with one filling of 5kg (refueling time 4 minutes) in any (!) temperature including heating (try this with a Tesla in Alaska in December but don´t forget your survival package).

      Assuming, once again, that you have an H2 filling station available to refuel at. Just how many of those are available in Alaska right now? But as I mentioned before, nobody denies that BEVs are currently more limited range-wise, or that they are particularly affected by colder climates. Strangely enough, however, that didn’t stop the Model S from becoming the number one selling car in Norway a couple of years ago. BEVs do have a ways to go before they are suitable for everybody, but that doesn’t mean they will never get to that point, and they are certainly suitable for many already.

      – Safety: how many H2 (or natural gas) cars exploded yet and how many Teslas burned down to ashes?

      Some level of danger always exists whenever you have to store large amounts of energy in a small volume. The real question is how much danger there is relative to the benefit and to other comparable solutions. So far all the evidence suggests that BEVs are much safer than any fossil fuel burner, and that all of the “fire disasters” that have happened so far have been blown greatly out of proportion by anti-EV critics. The short of the matter is that BEVs are already very safe, and will get even safer as time goes on.

      As for FCEVs, it seems to me that we can only say that no cars have exploded yet, and that’s probably only due to the still very small numbers of them actually in operation. It seems a tad bit early for you to be hyping the relative safety of one over the other. Also, how safe will the pressurized pipes and containers in that huge number of H2 filling stations be compared to the risks faced of your standard EV charging station?

      – Infrastructure: for every H2 refueling point you need 60 battery chargers based on refueling time. Cost?

      Yes, indeed… “cost”. How many battery chargers can you install for the cost of a single H2 refueling station? How much land is needed for each? And how much does it cost to keep each one in operation? How many employees are needed to operate them? How many service vehicles, maintenance checks, replacements of worn-out equipment are needed? How much will it cost to decommission them?

      Also, is the 60:1 ratio really justified, since with BEVs the entire usage paradigm gets flipped on its head? With BEVs one no longer needs to visit dedicated stations at regular intervals to fill up. Instead, primary charging is done at home, work, or other dedicated locations, and charging stations are mostly needed only for those relatively infrequent emergency situations in which you cannot get back in time for a top up.

      In this respect BEVs behave more like your cellphone than your ICEV. 90% of the time a single charge is good enough to get you through the day, but occasionally you find you need to find a free outlet or something similar to give you that extra boost. But just imagine it if you had to go to a cellphone “filling station” once a week to charge up!

      – And what is the problem to produce your own H2 with a PV roof?

      Another non-argument that if taken at face value actually works in favor of BEVs. It will always be much easier and more efficient to charge a BEV directly from a solar panel than to throw away half of what it generates in an unnecessary intermediate storage stage. And how many people are going to want, or be able to have, dedicated electrolysis and compression machinery in their homes, when they can have a single plug-in cable, or even a wireless charger, instead?

      – Smart grid with car battery buffer? In theory, but sorry, look at the grids load curve. Cars would charge during peaks, even more grid capacity would be necessary. Cost?

      You know all this, how? Looks like more baseless assertion to me.

      Want more? Shall we discuss recycling and life-cycle issues of batteries vs. fuel cells? What do you think a total energy and emission balance “batterie vs. fuel cell” would look like? Batteries will be necessary for some reasons but we need to keep it at a minimum and think “environment” and “usability” for all of our energy requirements which are mobility and heat beside others. The overall efficiency is the question. At home, on the road and in the air.

      Yes, exactly how does the “overall efficiency” work out? Don’t forget to include the full life cycle cost of operating the necessary dedicated H2 distribution system in your calculations, compared to that of the multi-purpose electrical grid BEVs will use.

      Hydrogen economy is coming up. Now. In the grid, in your basement and in your car.

      Sure it is. Wanna bet?

      • Marty

        1st, the current el. infrastructure is not even supporting all RE that is installed and in addition, you need a lot more charging options if BEV would have a noticeable market share. That is a huge investment too and what is more cost effective in the long run? Nobody knows yet. Lots of H2 facilities are maintenance free, that is why H2 is considered now as the favorite option for RE excess storage in all countries that have a significant share of RE. And if you compare the different way if heating systems in other countries in the world, H” all of a sudden becomes very efficient. Why do you think europeans per capita power consumption is half of US? They don´t heat electric, they use CHP. Same in Korea, Japan …
        2nd, you are right with H2 efficiency and losses, but what other options do we have beside fossils or nuclear? Hydro-pump doesn´t work everywhere. Actually power-grids also don´t work everywhere. Think global.

        • Bob_Wallace

          The infrastructure for charging EVs is largely in place. It’s called the electricity grid.

          Probably more than 90% of all EV charging will be done while parked and that just requires a simple outlet. The other small percent will be when people are taking long trips and Tesla has already shown how that is done. A startup company will have covered most of the US (lots of Europe and some of Asia) in only four years. Look below.

          ” Lots of H2 facilities are maintenance free, that is why H2 is considered now as the favorite option for RE excess storage in all countries that have a significant share of RE.”

          You need to prove that apparent false claim.


          You’re changing the topic by moving to space heating. Let’s stay on topic.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Actually, I think you make several good points:
      FCEVs are not difficult to fuel and much faster to fuel than EVs, although cost of H2 filing stations is high.
      Range of FCEVs is much higher than for EVs. That could bring H2 back into the game later on. We’ll see.
      ICEVs are far more of a fire hazard than either FCEVs or EVs.
      MIT (Nocera) did come up with a lower cost catalyst for electrolysis, but I don’t think they increased the efficiency any.

      Here is what it comes down to …in your words:
      “The overall efficiency is the question.”
      H2 is less than half as efficient as direct use of electricity in an EV.
      That’s it. …and of course FCEVs still cost way too much.

      Maybe we’ll see H2 for range extension of EVs later on …when the cost comes down …maybe …or maybe not because batteries get better …we’ll see. Right now EVs have it completely over FCEVs. That’s clear.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The Honda FCX Clarity has a 240 mile range.

        The Toyota Mirai has a 312 mile range.

        The Tesla S85 has a 320 mile range.

    • Michael B

      Ok, I’ll byte and pick this one at random: “Refueling FCEVs is as easy as refueling gasoline. All you need is an H2 station.”

      OMG LOL… don’t know where to begin, but how about: “It’s easy to make a unicorn pot roast. First, kill or buy a unicorn. Then roast it in a pot.”

      Yes, all you need is an H2 station. And what do you need to get one of those and have it operate as consistently, economically and continually as a gas station?

    • Steve N

      Fun with math.
      150,000 gas stations in USA
      Hydrogen Fuel Station $3,000,000
      Only $450,000,000,000 to build out Just the refueling stations.
      I see Exxon and BP licking their lips.

  • Thanks, Zach. I have some FC die-hard friends to whom I forward all such articles. They will catch on to the point that EVs are more efficient than FCs at some point.

  • Mike Shurtleff

    This is a great summary! Thank you Zach!

    One way to fight the EV revolution is to redirect funds to less productive areas. This is what Bush Jr did when he gave $1 billion to FCEV development. He and others in the fossil fuel industries and ICEV industries knew even then that EVs were getting closer to being competitive. FCEV were, and still are, 20 years away. He gave money to the technology that wouldn’t change anything for them. Look ma, renewables don’t work! Subterfuge!

    • neroden

      Musk has an interesting advantage over most engineers: he thinks like an engineer but his mental focus has always been *cost-effective* engineering. Which is apparently rare in an engineer. He loves to figure out how to design things which work more *cost-effectively* — it’s just not the way most engineers think. Big advantage for running a business.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Spot on! Most engineers over focus on how to build it better and tend to neglect design trade-offs still allowing a good product, but at a lower cost. Definitely not my gift either.

      • super390

        Cost-effective engineering means, if some other industry is already producing the parts you need and they’re getting better and cheaper every year, then adapt them for your project. I love engineers who find clever uses for off-the-shelf parts. The refusal of mainstream carmakers to evolve laptop cells instead of creating new battery form factors from scratch has been a disastrous anchor on their EV progress… though the Bolt should turn things around.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        Not entirely. Look at the price of those gull-wings. Or the price of the $2,500 wind shields. Hopefully the model 3 will use wind shields that are already being mass produced by other cars and cost less than $200. And screw all the sensors and computers. Just give me enough sensors and computers to monitor the battery and motor. The rest I can do myself. Let Musk prove he can make a car that is economical!

      • Michael B

        That’s what happens when you get degrees in physics and economics (simultaneously).

  • Frank

    When is the IEA ging to revise that list and get rid of coal and carbon capture, and nuclear? We don’t need to make progress on things we are going to get rid of.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Right, waste of money compared to investing more in renewables.

    • Ivor O’Connor

      When republican presidential candidates quit saying they believe in whatever god happens to be geographically popular to their voters.

  • Jessee McBroom

    Thanks for the post Zach. I can appreciate your realistic analysis. I can think of only one other approach in which hydrogen may be a contender. That is an onboard hydrogen production system via electrolysis. This as an ICE approach is feasible. I have colleague in England that sought my advice on his system. It worked just fine. In addition to the obvious facility of just filling up with water; he and I discussed how to close loop the system with existing tech to recover recycle and reuse the water. As a word of caution, the problem of the premature engine wear due to the shock wave produced by the hydrogen burn front, is unavoidable in ICEs. With hydrogen as fuel, this will; result in premature wear and tear on wrist pin bushings as well as connecting rod and crankshaft bearings. Turbine blades suffer similar fates on their tips; but this is mitigated with nanotech applications to a marked degree at a cost increase. The production of hydrogen via electrolysis makes sense in the electricity production area with enough off peak solar and wind produced hydrogen to augment the natural gas supplies and supply stationary PEM Cell applications like server farms where the cleaner natural gas will extend the fuel cell stack life. All in all I believe the FCEV has a place in the transportation mix with a BattCap application. I have managed to content myself with working on zero carbon emissions fuel systems for the past few years. NH3 is; and has been a contender to hydrogen as a transportation fuel; but has toxicity issues when people are exposed to direct inhalation of its fumes. The Germans used it as fuel back in the World War era. ICEs fare much better with it as fuel; and with Catalytic Converter tech applied the net emissions are , as with hydrogen; H2O.

    • Mike Shurtleff

      “That is an onboard hydrogen production system via electrolysis.”
      No, not in automotive vehicles, you’re referencing a free energy scam that’s been going on for a while. It obviously takes more energy for the electrolysis and combustion of the hydrogen than just using the electricity directly in an EV. Claims to the contrary are fraudulent. Laws of thermodynamics should tell you this and there is no real proof or evidence to the contrary. If it did work then by now everyone would be using it.

      “The production of hydrogen via electrolysis makes sense in the electricity production area with enough off peak solar and wind produced hydrogen to augment the natural gas…”
      Maybe, being done in Germany. Not at all cost effective compared to pumped hydro. Not cost effective for daily storage of Solar PV compared to batteries.

      • dogphlap dogphlap

        Not saying it’s a good idea but I think Jesse McBroom was writing about an H2 fueled ICE. Just where the power for the electrolysis came from is not clear from his post though.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’m pretty sure it’s that perpetual motion machine scam.

          Use the electricity from the car’s alternator to electrolyze water. Feed the hydrogen into the fuel system.

          Pretend you get the H2 for free.

    • Michael B

      Good luck!

  • Fritz Redeker

    Some of the facts here on fuel cell vehicles are not entirely correct. I have specific experience with the Mirai and it is a decent car. Real range is about 300 miles driven sanely. It remains to be seen whether I will say it’s decent in a couple years. The biggest problem I see is the lack of a low carbon footprint hydrogen infrastructure. In that way the BEVs are way ahead. That in itself will relegate the FCV technology to trail BEV for quite a while, if not forever.

    Furthermore, some invention seems required to make “green” hydrogen. It looks like it requires about 50Kw-hr to make a kg of H2 by water electrolysis. That will drive a Mirai about 66 miles.
    That same 50Kw-hr would drive my Volt 200 miles. ( similar for a Tesla ) If by chance some of the photo enhanced electrochemical techniques can be used, perhaps the energy requirement can be reduced.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The EPA gives the Mirai a 312 mile range. I don’t see any claims anything less in in this article or discussion other that the “You won’t even go 100 miles on current tech hydrogen tanks that are still safe to carry around in a car” which has been discussed and dismissed.

      You stated “facts”, plural. What else do you see that in not, in your opinion, not factual?

      As for reducing the energy required to make green hydrogen, that would apparently take a violation of the laws of physics. Electrolysis is already very efficient. It simply takes energy to break the oxygen/hydrogen bond in H2O. And vapor compression is a very mature technology. It takes a lot of energy to compress hydrogen into a small enough volume so that an adequate supply can be carried in a car.

      • Fritz Redeker

        The poisoning of fuel cell materials is a real problem, but as I understand it this is pretty well take care of if H2 gas is used as the contaminants are not particularly soluble in that media. Furthermore, hydrogen, while difficult to contain, is not so problematic in non cryogenic gas systems. Those are two of the other problems mentioned as I recall.

        As for the energy efficiency of electrolysis, I agree with you that it is quite efficient now. If the photo enhancement effect is real, less electrical energy would be required. That’s why I downloaded a few articles to read during upcoming travel. Shouldn’t violate the laws of thermodynamics in that case.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          How do you break the H2O bond to produce two H2 + one O2 without losing energy?
          Show me a real, demonstrated system that gets better than 70% efficiency of energy in to resulting H2 contained energy out.

        • Marty

          What poisoning are are you talking about? FC contain some platinum. Batteries contain cobalt, cadmium and sulfur.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Electrolysis of H2O is maybe 70% efficient on a good day.
        Add energy cost for compression or freezing for transport and your talking about maybe 50% efficient.
        Pumped hydro and battery storage do not have that kind of loss and are cheaper/kWh to use.

        • Marty

          Electrolysis is already at over 80 % efficiency. Compression is necessary, if you store local underground like natural gas e.g. in salt caverns, you don´t need to cool it down. Pumped hydro is good, but hey, you need mountains for that. Think global. Grid-scale H2FCs based on RE reach a system efficiency (CHP) of about 65 % max. This is already better than coal or oil and it´s emission free. There is no other option. This will be the kick-starter for H2 in Japan and Korea now, you´ll see.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Pumped hydro is good, but hey, you need mountains for that. Think global.”

            No, you don’t need mountains. Abandoned rock quarries, open pit mines and subsurface mines work as well.

            And globally, there are a lot of mountains.

            How universal are salt domes?

            “Grid-scale H2FCs based on RE reach a system efficiency (CHP) of about 65 % max.”

            Where does one find this information and what is the cost?

    • Marty

      But who cares, if you build plenty of PV or solar-thermal generators in AZ and produce just enough H2 for the entire nation? It´s just a question of scale, market and demand. Dont´forget that the primary fuel is for free: sunlight and wind!

      • Bob_Wallace

        Just build this. Just build that.

        All that stuff costs money and would mean that it would cost 3x or more to drive a mile with a H2 FCEV than an EV.

        Toyota has stated that it costs 14 cents per mile to fuel their Mirai and hopefully that will drop to 10 cents sometime in the future.

        A Toyota Prius burning $3/gallon gas costs 6 cents per mile.

        An EV charging with $0.12/kWh electricity costs 4 cents per mile.

        People aren’t going to pay that much extra to drive a car which gives them no benefits over an EV.

        FCEVs, at least the ones produced, are slugs. EVs accelerate like scalded cats.

        FCEVs are inconvenient. You’ve got to go to a fueling station and fill them up. With an EV you just plug it in when you park and you’re fully charged the next morning. Filling up on a long trip is faster than charging, but that advantage is offset by the number of times you’d have to fill up the rest of the year.

        FVECs have a cost problem. Until purchase prices could compete with ICEVs manufacturing levels would need to reach 100,000 per year or higher. Who is going to purchase those hundreds of thousands of expensive vehicles which cost more to drive than an ICEV to create the needed economy of scale?
        EVs should hit purchase price parity with ICEVs within five years. And then they should become less expensive than ICEVs. Add the very low per mile operating cost.

        There’s no market for FCEVs.

        • Marty

          FCEV and BEV accelerate just identically because they are both electric cars. This is just a question of the layout.
          In the current phase of development, cost is not the point since the most significant aspect is not even visible yet: scale. think about battery production and recycling and charging stations for everybody. Not just for some californians commuting from Monterey to the bay area. I agree, price has to be competitive in the end, but it will be, when hydrogen is the general fuel replacing oil and coal and natural gas. And why is that? Because hydrogen CHP plants are far more competitive than doing everything electric. They are even more efficient than coal oil CHP plants. And about 80 % of the overall energy consumption in a lot of countries is going into heat and they don´t heat electric. That´s why they consume half of the per capita energy of the United States and that´s why they move towards a hydrogen economy. Transport is just a small part of the whole picture.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, Marty, they do not.

            The Toyota Mirai FCEV is a slug. 0 – 60 in 9 seconds. The Toyota Camry, hardly a speed demon does that in 7 seconds.

            The Honda FCX Clarity is even sluggier. 0 – 60 in 11 seconds.

            A hydrogen transportation system would simply be too expensive.

          • Marty

            That doesn´t mean you can´t build an FCEV that accelerates like a P90D.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You could. But then you’d have such a large battery pack that there would be no reason to haul around hydrogen tanks and a fuel cell.

            A hydrogen transportation system would simply be too expensive.

          • Marty

            Please that´s BS! Battery size has to do with energy capacity, not with power. All you need is the right engine and drive train and a suitable battery plus fuel cell.

      • Fritz Redeker

        That is certainly possible. It’s just not cost effective in comparison to solar powered BEVs, and in the end, the lowest cost easiest to use technology wins if the free market prevails.

  • Epicurus

    Ugh, FCVs are worse than I thought.

    Yet, Toyota is, or was, betting the ranch on them, and Honda and Hyundai (others?) were on the band wagon too.

    They couldn’t figure all this out at least two or three years ago?

    • Mike Shurtleff

      Maybe they could.
      …but they own most of the HEV market with the Prius, so why should they want to hurry along the EV revolution. Subterfuge.

    • socrateos

      > They couldn’t figure all this out at least two or three years ago?…

      Obviously Toyota sees what you do not see.

      • Epicurus

        Which is?

        • socrateos

          That humans are often ignorant about their own ignorance.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Toyota is a great big corporation, isn’t it? Big and smart. They know something others don’t so they are eschewing EVs and going the hydrogen FCEV route. We should listen to them, right?

        Kodak was a great bit corporation, wasn’t it? Big and smart. They thought they knew that there was a future for film and while they were the leading digital camera company they turned their back on digital and stuck with film.

        Kodak went bankrupt. Fairly quickly….

      • Epicurus

        One thing I see is that no one is going to invest in hydrogen filling stations, particularly existing gasoline station owners. Unless Toyota can bribe enough politicians to vote for government funded hydrogen stations (as it is doing in CA), game over.

  • NRG4All

    Hydrogen power vehicles will only become viable if “Doc” comes up with the Flux Capacitor.

    • Yeah, if I could power my flying DeLorean with yesterday’s garbage, and leave just a stream of helium in my wake, I’d be willing to pay Mirai prices. Otherwise…

  • That’s an interesting article. He considers the car “peppy”, which surprised me since I’ve heard otherwise from some alleged early adopters. Obviously I can’t test drive one myself, since I’m not in the tiny area where they can be refueled today.

    Otherwise, he derives great pleasure from his intimate knowledge of how the drive train works, and that seems to color his other perceptions of the experience. I’d love to read additional perceptions by non-expert owners, since those I have read were mostly along the “I can’t get any fuel!” lines.

    • Bob_Wallace

      0 to 60 in 9 seconds. About the same as Toyota’s Corolla. A couple of seconds slower than their Camry.

      ” passing time of 3 seconds from 40 to 64 km/h (25 to 40 mph)” Wiki

      I couldn’t find other numbers for passing acceleration for 40 to 64 km/h but found a couple of numbers for

      Tesla S P85 30-60 km/h 1.9 sec
      Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid 30-60 km/h 2.1 sec

      There may be a table somewhere that shows similar numbers for other cars but I didn’t find it.

      I did find this one ‘first drive’ report –

      “Having spent plenty of time with the Rav4 EV we looked forward to that grin-inducing, constant torque electric motor acceleration that makes children and adults giggle. We selected ‘Power’ mode, but found
      that acceleration from a dead stop, or from 30 or 40 MPH lacked the instant torque and acceleration familiar to drivers of electric cars.

      In fact, acceleration in the Mirai is average and perhaps even a little on the slow side. While the Mirai does have enough power to drive safely on the freeway, its 0-60 time of 9.0 seconds is slower than that of a 2015 Corolla.
      “​

      • Thanks. The steadily rising tide of EVs even amidst near record low inflation-adjusted gas prices seems to be driven at least in part by Tesla’s reputation for fun and features rubbing off across the segment. The Mirai doesn’t seem to offer the same giddy reputation, from what I can find. At least, nothing I’ve read makes me even slightly inclined to want one.

        • Michael B

          > The Mirai doesn’t seem to
          > offer the same giddy
          > reputation, from what I can find.

          Giddy? If it has any reputation at all, I think it’s quite the opposite… “understatement of the day”!

  • JeffJL

    “I hope this will be my last piece on hydrogen fuel cell cars. I hope….”

    I don’t think you will be out of a job soon Zac.

  • John Moore

    It has seemed obvious for some time that FCEVs were doomed to failure. It almost didn’t seem worth the effort to debate the subject. Yet the few FC fans out there have showed up here routinely, making arguments that made me wonder about, and question out loud, their motives. Well, I guess I want to say here sand now, can we put this subject to bed? Can we move on to something more productive, more, you know, debatable?
    I know that some of these people are frustrated by what they perceive as a pervasive and unwarranted adulation of Elon Musk on this site. But you don’t combat that by disagreeing with what Musk says and stands for with arguments that don’t hold water.
    So thanks for the article, Zachary. I hope it gets through to even the most ardent FC supporters. And I look forward to moving forward, to the debate on more current and relevant subjects. Like “Clean Coal: A New Perspective”, and “Global Warming: Liberal Hoax”.

    • Adrian

      Personally I’m waiting for the “Liquid Florine Thorium Reactor Fans – More rabid than Muskovites?” article.

      • neroden

        Heh. I looked into those molten salt reactors and then I spent a few days reading about the cleanup problems at Dounreay… looks like they haven’t solved any of the problems since then. The fast breeder reactor fans ignore all of that. The thorium reactor fans also ignore the nuclear bomb potential of U-233, and the fact that U-232 actually makes the entire process *more* dangerous than the usual nuclear reactors from a radioisotope-leak perspective.

      • juxx0r

        Ahh yes but some muscovites contain significant quantities of lithium and are being considered along with other lithium micas like lepidolite and zinnwaldite as potential lithium sources.

        but i see what you did there.

    • Michael B

      I’d like to see an article and debate about what Toyota’s and Honda’s actual, “real” motivations are for publicly embracing fuel cells and publicly dissing BEVs. Because I don’t think there is consensus on this. Was it just to protect the lowly Prius and Insight hybrids? Are they in cahoots with big oil? Do they not really give a damn about cleantech & efficiency? Are they really so clueless? Or ‘other’?

      Inquiring minds want to know!!

      In any case, that debate would be better than the (correctly-labeled) tiresome FC v B debate.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The most likely reason, I think, is that Japan focused on the methane hydrates in its coastal water. Apparently there are large amounts.

        Some of the people running things got visions of Japan becoming fuel self-sufficient by using the methane to fuel FCEVs. Apparently no concern for climate change. Just suck up that frozen sludge, melt the water out, burn the methane in FCEVs and Japan rises again.

        Along with the planet’s CO2 level….

  • omar

    why Cleantech dont post articles on Mirai driving experience since there are already 1000 on the roads?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’ve seen only one article about owner/driver experience. The author seemed to be struggling to find justification for his spending but there was little good he could say. I have a feeling that he would have traded for a lightly used Tesla S in a heartbeat.

      I’ve seen a few ‘reporter goes for a test ride’ pieces and they’ve been copy and paste Toyota articles. “We drove the future. It has adequate acceleration and the ride is quiet. They tell us we could refill it somewhere.”

      I’ve got a Google Alert set for the Mirai. There’s almost nothing said about it on the web. It got some attention the first week or two it appeared and after that just mentions or someone copies the same old stuff about how FCEVs are the cars of the future.

      • Michael B

        That’s hilariously sad.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Ok Zach, what is it that you want from Neroden? You’ve mentioned his name in two articles now. I figure it has something to do with his Tesla…

    • neroden

      Heh. I think I just read a lot. 🙂 I’ve given Zach some references he hadn’t found on his own.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    How is it possible that one of the FCEVs is getting 300+ miles on a tank? Contrary to the above analysis.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s an error in the article Zach references. It may have been true when written but it clearer is no longer correct.

    • deejay

      Good question. I just read an article about this too. BMW 5 series with 300 miles reach.

  • S Herb

    The neroden-referenced article is excellent. I had not thought much before about the nastiest distribution problem for high pressure H2, which is that every transfer in the chain involves decompression or compression, using or wasting energy, and with problems attached to the cooling or heating effects.

    • super390

      I didn’t realize that H2 squeezes out through steel tanks so quickly. I also didn’t think about the overchilling from decompression, even though I have been aware of the problem from other compressed gas fuels like propane.

    • neroden

      Yeah, the compression/decompression and associated cooling and heating effects are the biggest problems with the idea of distributing H2; they contain massive inefficiencies and energy loss.

      There’s an additional problem which I believe mux (the blogger who wrote the 4-part series) doesn’t specifically mention. The existing hydrogen stations mostly generate hydrogen on site, either through steam reforming or through electrolysis. After a few cars use up the stored compressed hydrogen, the site has to generate and compress more. Generating it is fairly quick, but compressing it is *not* — compressing it is slow. Which accounts for why after enough cars have fuelled, the station can’t be used at all for half an hour or more, much to the frustration of Mirai drivers.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Japan set up a hydrogen filling station where the H2 was generated onsite and ran into the same problem. They could fuel only a few cars per day.
        But gen away from the station and you’d need about 10x as many tanker trucks to deliver to the station. H2 is crummy when it comes to energy density. Stations would need huge storage tanks or a continuous stream of tankers refilling smaller tanks.

        • Adrian

          We actually have a few hydrogen pipelines, but they go from the natgas->hydrogen plant to the nearest oil refinery – used to upgrade heavy crude to get more valuable lighter fractions from it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We? Where? And so what?

          • Marty

            Air Products in Texas and Louisiana operates H2 pipelines for years with no problems. Natural gas pipelines can be used for H2 with some modifications.
            Besides the DOE hydrogen program, currently projects are being implemented in South Africa, Thailand, Korea, China, Germany, France, Norway, Japan, …. the European commission just launched the second stage of the HyWays program that will support H2 generation, storage and distribution for grid stability and transportation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Marty, don’t confuse small scale research projects with real world adoption of a technology.

            Hydrogen has a significant cost problem. One that cannot be overcome unless someone invents a way to violate the laws of physics.

          • Marty

            It will be overcome by scale and due to the efficiency of CHP. As long as we heat electric, our efficiency in the US is ridiculously high anyway compared to countries using CHP. So savings potential is at least around 35 % in the US, according to a recent Stanford study. Nothing is more inefficient than heating with electric power.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Current heat pumps are highly efficient.

            Space heating has nothing to do with FCEVs. Let’s stay on topic.

  • eveee

    You forgot to mention how ugly the Mirai is. LOL. Alas, the irrationality of fuel cells will not be overcome by logic. Rather, the droves of new EVs coming in the next 5 years will obviate the entire matter.
    FCEV proponents forget that the benchmark, at least up until the Model 3, was ICE vehicles, not hybrids or other tech. Now that the Model 3 is here and battery improvements are increasing, ICE vehicle days are numbered.
    When we see Toyota announce they are abandoning FCEVs we will know reason has returned.

  • Outside Lane

    Wow, thank you for writing this very detailed analysis of FCEV and BEV cars. It must have taken years of research! Keep up the good work!

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