In 2019, Digital Trends published an article titled “Hydrogen Was The Fuel Of Tomorrow, So What Happened?” A few years ago, hydrogen and battery electric vehicles were in a race to win the prize of being the future of transportation, or so it was claimed. (See our 2015 article “Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars — #FAIL, In Depth” or our 2016 article “Why Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Are Not Competitive — From A Hydrogen Fuel Cell Expert” explaining why we long ago deduced that hydrogen fuel cell cars didn’t have a future.)
Hydrogen’s promises were that it was a different type of gas that could be quickly filled up like you fill up a gas tank (sort of) and that it was clean and didn’t have any emissions that would harm us in the way that gasoline does. The idea that it was clean was never accurate, as natural gas primarily comes from natural gas reformation, but that’s not what killed hydrogen cars.
— 💎🐾Esteemed Earl of Frunkpuppy🐶 (@28delayslater) June 15, 2020
One thing Earl, aka @28DelaysLater, shared on Twitter is that hydrogen has long been hyped as the supposedly next big thing, and that there were many headlines that it was about to crush Tesla. The future is always just about to arrive.
The latest hydrogen automaker that wants to take on Tesla is Nikola Motor Company, this time with its Badger pickup truck. The Badger is supposed to debut at Nikola World 2020 in Phoenix, but no one really knows when that will be (and we are halfway through 2020). Nikola claims that the Badger will have up to 906 horsepower, 980 lb-ft of torque, and 600 miles of range. Many media headlines are claiming that Trevor Milton is Elon Musk’s “big foe,” or that he is going to “out-Elon” Elon Musk — whatever that means.
I don’t see hydrogen as the route to go when it comes to creating a clean vehicle. To me, an EV with a fuel tank is like a human with an appendix — what’s the point? It’s just there. In many cases, regarding the appendix, it gets infected and one may have to have an appendectomy. When I asked Earl what he thought of the whole hydrogen saga, he noted that it seemed to be linked to the oil and gas industry — helping them keep the status quo while putting on the facade of support for an emissions-free future.
“With regard to my internet education on hydrogen, it seems to be a sweetheart of the oil and gas industry which keeps the status quo with a hat tip to an emission-free future. This tech has been strongly pushed since 2013 but hadn’t caught on due to infrastructure limitations and a lack of commitment from automakers. In the meantime, Elon Musk changed the entire auto industry. You see that many legacy automakers have dropped their plans to commit to hydrogen and have begun to dip their toe in the EV market. Also, hydrogen cars don’t have a frunk so I’m out.”
Editor’s note: Hydrogen vehicles have actually been pushed for decades. I recall seeing a full page ad for them in National Geographic in the 1990s (or early 2000s at the latest). As far as using it as a delay tactic, that does seem quite likely. On that topic, see: “50 Ways To Slow The Electric Vehicle Revolution — A Complete Idiot’s Guide.”
One important thing that Earl noted was that many of the legacy automakers now see battery-electric vehicles as the path forward — not hydrogen. Tesla has most definitely changed the entire auto industry, forcing it to acknowledge (publicly if not also privately) that battery electric vehicles are the future. Tesla just recently became the world’s most valued automaker, showing that Big Money is convinced of this as well. That is a preview of what’s to come for both Tesla and the auto industry in terms of vehicle sales.