Toyota vs Tesla: Can hydrogen fuel-cell cars compete with EVs? | RenewEconomy

Toyota vs Tesla: Can hydrogen fuel-cell cars compete with EVs?

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Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) appear to be making a comeback, but do they have a chance against the electric vehicle?

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Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) appear to be making a comeback. But according to author, lecturer and entrepreneur Tony Seba, HFCVs can’t compete with electric vehicles. “The hydrogen economy would be a massively wasteful economy that would at best use three to six times more energy than an electric vehicle and solar/wind infrastructure and many times more water than even gasoline uses.”


The world has been abuzz about the recent Toyota announcement that the company opened up licensing of its 5,680 HFCV patents (although only until 2020.) By taking a page from the Tesla playbook, Toyota is hoping to encourage an ecosystem of fuel cell suppliers and hydrogen fueling stations. Is this the last hurrah of a dead-end technology? Or will it re-invigorate the HFCV market which has gone nowhere for decades? Does the Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicle (HFCV) matter anymore?

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla has called the HFCV ‘bullshit’. “Hydrogen is suitable for rockets but not for cars,” said Mr Musk. (Video, starting min 29:20.)

But Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota North America says that his company is betting big on hydrogen fuel cell cars. Does the HFCV have a chance against the Electric Vehicle (EV)?

I don’t even mention HFCV’s in my book “Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation”! There are multiple reasons for that. Let’s look at the facts, starting with the basics.

1) Hydrogen is not an energy source

Many industry insiders talk about hydrogen as if it were an energy source. For instance, they might compare it with, say, petroleum products like gasoline and diesel, and say that H2 produces no emissions. Hydrogen is not an energy source. It’s an energy carrier. It’s a form of storage. You need primary energy sources like the sun, coal, natural gas, or uranium to generate the power needed to extract Hydrogen from a source material like natural gas or water.

2) Electric Vehicles are at least three times more energy efficient than Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Assuming that at some point fuel-cells will be cheap and Hydrogen production will reach critical mass, it will still be at least three times more expensive to power an HFCV car than an EV. This figure from fuel cell expert Ulf Bossel explains how wasteful an HFCV is compared to electric vehicles.

Hydrogen-vs-EV-redlightHydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle vs Electric Vehicle – Energy Efficiency/ Source:
Hydrogen-vs-EV-redlightHydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle vs Electric Vehicle – Energy Efficiency/ Source:

But not all hydrogen vehicles are made alike. You can use compressed or liquefied hydrogen. You can also use either internal combustion engine or fuel cells to power the car. The following chart shows that whatever choice of type of hydrogen and engine results in the electric vehicle going three to six times more miles for the same energy when compared to hydrogen-powered cars.

HFCV-v-EV-Better-Place-Fig1Hydrogen Cars vs Electric Vehicles. Source: BetterPlace
HFCV-v-EV-Better-Place-Fig1Hydrogen Cars vs Electric Vehicles. Source: BetterPlace

3) You need to build a multi-trillion dollar hydrogen delivery infrastructure

To build a so-called “Hydrogen Economy” you need to build a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure with large factories/refineries, pipelines, trucks, storage facilities, compressors, hydrogen gas stations, and so on. If you haven’t noticed, this mirrors the existing oil & gas infrastructure.

Department of Energy – Hydrogen Delivery Infrastructure
Department of Energy – Hydrogen Delivery Infrastructure. Source:

Electric vehicles, on the other hand, have a ready infrastructure: the power grid. Everyone who lives and works in advanced economies has access to electricity. Yes, our grid is aging and we need to upgrade it, but it works today. Some readers may remember that the Internet started with the plain old telephone system. It wasn’t fast but it worked. Then we upgraded it to get the fast pipes that we have today. We also built a brand new wireless infrastructure that required no pipes at all.

Distributed Solar PV and EV Charging Station. Copyright @2014 by Tony Seba
Distributed Solar PV and EV Charging Station. Copyright @2014 by Tony Seba

The electric vehicle equivalent of the wireless power infrastructure is distributed solar.

The multi-trillion dollar hydrogen infrastructure would have to be built from scratch.

4) Hydrogen is not clean

About 95% of hydrogen in the US is made from natural gas in large central plants, according to the Department of Energy. It’s a method called natural gas reforming.

Hydrogen Methane Steam Reforming Process – Source HYFleet:CUTE – Global-Hydrogen-Bus-Platform
Hydrogen Methane Steam Reforming Process – Source HYFleet:CUTE – Global-Hydrogen-Bus-Platform

As I wrote in Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation:

Methane (the main component of natural gas) is 72 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas (when measured over twenty years). Natural gas leaks throughout the supply chain. It leaks when it is lifted from the ground, when it is stored, and when it is transported in hundreds of thousands of miles of pipelines. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, three trillion cubic feet of methane leak annually. That figure represents about 3.2 percent of global production. This methane leakage is the global warming equivalent of half the coal plants in the United States.

Today, hydrogen is basically a repackaged fossil fuel – a fossil product line extension, if you will. If you like natural gas and fracking you should love hydrogen.

5) Hydrogen is not ‘renewable’!

Hydrogen is classified as ‘renewable’ when it’s extracted from water by means of hydrolysis. This method involves applying high voltage electricity to split water into Oxygen and Hydrogen. When you apply conventional electricity to do the hydrolysis you still have to burn coal, natural gas, nuclear, petroleum, and so on, so you still have dirty hydrogen.

We need to pause to consider the water-energy-food nexus. Conventional energy is thirsty. In my books Clean Disruption and Solar Trillions I write at length about the obscene amounts of freshwater that coal, natural gas and biofuels consume. By adding Hydrogen to that list we would have yet another way for energy to dry up our planet.

A well-to-wheels analysis by University of Texas Professors Carey W. King and Michael E. Weber found that a HFCV would need to withdraw 13 gallons of water per mile driven. The same study concludes that a gasoline car would need withdrawals of needs 0.63 gal H2O/mile and a diesel car would need 0.46 gal H2O/mile. That is, gasoline petroleum-based transportation is 20 to 28 times more water efficient than hydrogen.

If we use solar or wind power as the source of the electricity for hydrolysis then you could have ‘clean’ and technically ‘renewable’ Hydrogen. I say ‘technically’ because the world is already pumping water at non-sustainable, non-renewable rates and the massive amounts of water you’d need for hydrogen would just contribute to the world’s water crisis. A 2015 World Economic Forum report ranks water crises as top global risk, up from number three the previous year.

Powering EVs using solar and wind would use no water, according to Profs King and Weber. Plus EVs are at least three times more energy efficient than Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles.

6) Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles can’t compete with Electric Vehicles

It makes sense for the fossil fuel industry to lobby for the hydrogen car because hydrogen is essentially a product line extension for them. In other words, the “Hydrogen Economy” is the “Fossil Fuel Economy” with a green sheen.

The HFCV is a substitute technology. If successful, hydrogen would just substitute the fossil fuel infrastructure with a mirror hydrogen infrastructure.

Former DOE Secretary Steven Chu said: “We asked ourselves, ‘Is it likely in the next 10, 15, or 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy?’ The answer was no.”

It’s obvious why I don’t even mention HFCV in my book “Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation”! Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles are neither clean nor disruptive. At best, a hydrogen economy would still be a massively wasteful economy that would at best use three to six times more energy than an electric vehicle and solar/wind infrastructure and many times more water than even gasoline uses. There are many good reasons why hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are stuck in reverse while electric vehicles are on hyper-drive.

By 2030, 100% of cars will be electric and they will be 100% powered by solar and wind.

It’s time to move on from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Source: Energy Post. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. solarguy 4 years ago

    I never needed convincing H2 for road transport, was bullshit.

    • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

      Its “bullshit” unless a government or a billionaire or a large multinational says ‘ok, heres billions to roll this out’. Particularly in the case of governments, they have the authority and the money to make things like this happen, just the way they have wrestled the markets around with emissions controls, carbon trading and carbon taxes.
      Its even more pronounced with factories. If a national government built a big nuclear reactor for the purpose of creating hydrogen, then sold it at subsidized rate to consumers…what would anyone do? There would be hydrogen available…like corn syrup and ethanol…people would start using it, however grudgingly…and that would be that.

      • solarguy 3 years ago

        Governments and billionaires won’t though. H2 may have a place for ocean going ships and perhaps stationary power storage and heavy aircraft, but time will tell.

        • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

          “H2 may have a place for ocean going ships and perhaps stationary power storage and heavy aircraft, but time will tell.”

  2. Radbug 4 years ago

    Quite true, especially when the newer lithium cells, eg., Li-S, reach the market. I think that lithium cells will be displaced by eg. Zn/Br cells for home storage, where the power to weight ratio considerations aren’t so stringent.

    • nakedChimp 4 years ago

      There the volume is important.. Zn/Br won’t come far in private households.

  3. Rurik2 4 years ago

    This article is bullshit. The ideal vehicle is a plugin hydrogen-battery hybrid. For most of the yearly driving distance, the battery will be used, thus eliminating the efficiency difference. Pure battery vechicles are a stupid idea – expensive, heavy, resource-hungry manufacturing. HFCVs can also be used for planes, heavy trucks, trains and other applications where batteries are really laughable.

    • nakedChimp 4 years ago

      Here’s your fish.


      • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

        Hello nakedChimp, another page where we were having a pleasant off-topic chat ( ) has closed commenting, so I’m going to be rude and hijack your fish to continue that discussion (mainly so I didn’t type all this for nothing!)

        “… cut into peoples rights to do what they want with their property/money.”

        What, you mean like taxation, zoning laws, that sort of thing? I don’t see the problem. We have such rules, people mostly abide by them, they are enforceable when flouted.

        “… inflation can’t deal with saturated markets. The economy breaks down in that situation.”

        Do you mean, if all the productive capacity of the economy is spoken for, pouring extra money into it just pushes prices up? Well, don’t pour additional money into it if it’s running smoothly. If necessary for redistributive or regulatory purposes (pollution controls, directed re you can tax the rich. I’m a big fan of land value taxation (Geoism/Georgism).

        But we’re not talking about saturated markets, are we. We’re talking about markets where some people who are willing and able to work are unemployed and many more are underemployed.

        “Just 4 pages that will change your POV forever”

        Well yes. From a first reading the “free money” idea seems more-or-less identical to “positive money”; if so then it’s nothing more or less than a ban on financial institutions issuing IOUs, which seems to me insufficient on its own to reform money in a way which circumvents the tendency of capital to accumulate as you suggest.

        I think I see a few misconceptions of the current system in the first of those “life-changing pages” (eg. “fractional reserve” is largely obsolete, reserve requirements are much more flexible in practice) but I may be misreading them, so yeah, I’ll read again and I’ll also see if I can find some more background for this “free money” concept and whether it actually differs from “positive money”.

        I’d consider myself an adherent (more or less) of MMT and classical Keynesianism, whilst also being an enthusiast for local micro-currency experimentation as an escape route from neoliberal monetarism.

        “pays interest for it until itself is unable”

        Wait, didn’t we start the conversation with fiat money?

        Governments which issue fiat currency of their own are *never* technically unable to pay debts denominated in it. That bears frequent repetition.

        The silly “government shutdown” shenanigans within the US are just one arm of the government getting in another’s way, they have nothing to do with the ability of the government as a whole to pay a figure in US dollars. The US government has repudiated any obligation to pay its debts in gold, or any commodity, since the 1971 Nixon Shock. All it needs to come up with to satisfy bond holders is US dollars.

        (The unusual structure of the US Federal Reserve, being technically a privately-owned bank, doesn’t change the fact that its position as reserve bank and issuer of banknotes is under licence from the US Government, which does have final control over the purse strings and the Fed’s monetary powers, however it has chosen to distribute the exercise of those powers among the Treasury and the Fed).

        Debt really does vanish when the party owing it is literally unable to pay; it’s written down by the creditors and most of it will never be collected.

        That *never* applies to debts owed by a sovereign currency-issuing government, denominated and payable in its own fiat currency. Those debts are always payable, and will always be paid unless the government itself *chooses* to default.

        • nakedChimp 4 years ago

          We really need to have some regular articles on CT about it, some sort of outside-the-box articles that touch on stuff that isn’t CT, but has influence. 😉
          I think Zach would be positive about it, looking at how ‘information’ shapes ‘unrelated’ things.

          I’ll reply to this, after I replied to the one further up.
          I did all those discussions 10-15 years ago in another language and got not so much time these days. I hope this doesn’t inconvenience you too much.

      • JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

        Ah, ok, got it now … “Freigeld”, face-value demurrage to keep notes and balances valid, taking the place of unit inflation. Definitely not the same idea as “positive money”, despite Diestel’s long preamble against debt money which threw me off track 🙂

        I’d read a little on Freigeld and demurrage before, knew about the Wörgl case and about modern variants (Chiemgauer), but I didn’t immediately make the connection, please excuse me.

        It should be noted that some local currencies can be “spent into existence” by anyone at all as part and parcel of a transaction, no issuing authority or intermediary required.

        I don’t consider inflation to be quite as fundamentally ugly as you and Diestel are claiming. It’s functionally equivalent to demurrage for most purposes — and that’s probably why the neoliberal establishment has made fighting it the top priority of monetary policy!

        • nakedChimp 4 years ago

          Yeah, FM should be part of a solution. And the modern variants of it are created like Fiat money really.
          I’ll start with this as good as I understand it. We’ll get to the inflation vs demurrage down the road.

          For simplicity sake, let there be a central book that upon ‘creation’ get’s an entry on the credit side and an entry in the debtors account on the debit side. The debtor then also get’s the money into his hands (or spending account) as he’s going to spend it (that’s why he took out the loan).
          The interest the debtor has to pay depends on the market, the risk of his endeavor, the term of the payback, etc.. we’ll get to that later.
          Just make it a positive amount for the time being that he owes to the central book on top of the loan amount he got into his hands.
          He also has to secure the loan with something tangible in case he faults (his property, his first son, etc..).

          Money is being created and destroyed by this process all the time. The actual amount in circulation depends on how much is created/destroyed.
          This bulk of money is then able to move products (goods & services) between individuals on the market.
          While money moves products from participant A to participant B, the money moves always in the opposite direction, from B to A.
          By doing this there are chains created as products move along into one direction the money moves along in the other direction.
          You can imagine this as complex as you want to.. it’s a market after all.

          In this simple world (no fractional reserve banking), our debtor purchased machinery (investment products) from other participants (on the market) to make stuff (products).
          He then was ‘lucky’ and could sell (to the market) products other participants want/need.
          You can simplify all those interactions by visualizing just the debtor and the anonymous market – exchanging products and money.
          First the debtor gives money to the market and get’s products and then a little while later he gives products and receives money from the market.
          By doing this he earns back the money he loaned from the central book.
          And by paying back the loan (settling the central book account of his) it get’s removed from the market.

          All good so far?

          If he had defaulted the loan, his securities would need to be sold off to the market by the central book for money and the loan being settled that way.
          If the securities wouldn’t cover, the bank would have to rise the price for loans (risk did go up) and other debtors would essentially take over the burden to remove that money from circulation to settle the loan with it (you could call that all-for-one, some sort of kin-liability ;-).
          The central book always sees to settle the accounts.

          The interest that he owns the central book on top of the actual loan he took out first and foremost needs to cover the cost of the central authority (CA from here on).
          It has being booked as credit in the CA’s account and will be spent in the market – for products that enable the CA to deliver it’s product – being the CA.
          You see that all accounts will settle that way, right?
          The CA buys products from the market for this amount and the debtor can earn it from the market as well by selling products.
          And then he turns around and settles the interest part of his loan with it.
          All circles are closed.

          Do you accept that as well?

          Now a lot of participants on the market use money to move products – but themselves must not take out a loan with the central authority to be able to do that.
          They never see the debt that belongs to the money in their hands. They have no idea how it works. That money is just the positive side of a loan with the CA.
          But their ability to exchange goods absolutely depends on those debtors to ‘supply’ the economy with money. It depends on there being loans at the CA.
          As long as there are enough debtors there that create money (and destroy it later), there will be money available to move products.

          I’ll proceed further if you can follow me on this. You seem to be willing to drag this out for a while over a couple of articles (thanks for the opportunity), so I’ll try my best to tell you all I know and think to understand about it. I’ll also make the ‘model’ more complicated over time, so please bear with me, but I have to start somewhere..

    • Bert 4 years ago

      But how are you going to mass produce hydrogen range extended electric vehicles without a ton of hydrogen stations and how are you going to justify building a ton of expensive hydrogen stations for mere range extender purposes that only get used occasionally?

      • Rurik2 4 years ago

        Gasoline/Diesel hybrids are an excellent stopgap solution, but dual drive trains are not a viable long-term solution. And even if battery cars could replace all cars (which they cannot), we will need hydrogen filling stations for e.g. hundreds of millions of heavy trucks. Climate change is a serious problem – building hydrogen stations is a minuscule problem when considering the disastrous effects of greenhouse gases.

        • Bert 4 years ago

          “And even if battery cars could replace all cars (which they cannot)”
          Why not? Why can’t battery cars replace essentially all passenger cars in time?

          I do however, agree that heavy duty trucks are a different story, but will hydrogen win out in that industry? I don’t know. Could be them. Could be synthetic fuels. Could be liquid flow batteries. It could even be a battery swap network. At first hydrogen seems like the way to go for heavy vehicle applications, but it’s awfully hard for hydrogen to become cost competitive with most other options and that’s pretty crucial for mass adoption.

          Electric vehicles will hit the mass market because there is a decent business case for them that is only growing stronger, not because they’re green and people are going to buy them in bulk out of the need to save the planet or something. If hydrogen can’t provide a good business case in whichever industries it pursues, then it won’t succeed. So far, the business case for hydrogen, at least in the consumer vehicle market, is very poor.

          • Rurik2 4 years ago

            I think the business case for hydrogen is excellent, especially if governments really want clean vehicles and subsidize nation-wide H2 filling networks.

            Battery cars may work for families with more than one car, but hydrogen is a drop-in replacement for gasoline and diesel cars. Why have 500-700 kg of huge, expensive batteries on-board? Cars should be light, fast and agile to drive.

          • Bert 4 years ago

            You can’t subsidize a full blown hydrogen infrastructure to the point where it is anywhere close to cost competitive with electric fueling. We don’t have enough money to provide the huge cost offset you would need. You’re not going to get such a large scale bill passed just for the sake of clean energy. Electric cars are getting to the point where they can stand on their own two feet. Hydrogen? Not so much. Which ever one gets put into the mass market will have to be able to stand on its own rights.

            Regardless of how you look at the situation, I don’t see hydrogen having a place in the consumer mass market.

            Why care about the weight of the batteries? Sure it lowers efficiency a little, but heavy electric vehicles are still always much more efficient than less heavy hydrogen vehicles so why does weight matter? Tesla has proven that electric vehicles can be VERY quick, and pretty agile too with that nice, low, center of mass.

            If people are willing to pay the cost of hydrogen for quick refueling, then you will simply see the return of the battery swap programs. This way you only have to pay high fuel costs on road trips instead of all three time like you would have to with hydrogen. The demand for expensive 5 minute refueling over cheap 30-40 minute refueling still remains to be proven though. Hydrogen will have its niches, and there are many other industries to be considered, but regardless of how you look at the situation I can’t see hydrogen vehicles making it big in the consumer vehicle mass market. The business case isn’t there.

          • Rurik2 4 years ago

            Ask anyone who knows vehicle dynamics – making a car lighter is very beneficial. Battery swapping has already fallen flat on its face, why do it when you can just pump in some H2 into your car? The future will tell, but I am convinced pure battery cars are a stupid, stupid idea.

          • Bert 4 years ago

            You don’t make a car lighter for the sake of having a lighter car. You do it for the benefits that a lighter car brings, one of the main ones being improved efficiency and reduced cost. That’s all fine and dandy. A lighter electric vehicle will have better efficiency than the equivalent heavier electric vehicle. However, weight isn’t the only factor involved in determining efficiency and cost when comparing electric and hydrogen vehicles. Despite the electric vehicles being heavier than hydrogen vehicles, electric vehicles still win out by a long shot on both cost and efficiency.

            So please expand on your thoughts more. Hydrogen vehicles tend to be lighter than electric vehicles. Ok, that’s all fine and dandy. But what benefits do hydrogen vehicles have over electric vehicles due to the reduced weight? That’s what we really care about here.

            Battery swap has failed because people would rather use the cheap superchargers than pay for an expensive refueling. If people suddenly become willing to pay for the expensive quick fueling that is hydrogen, battery swaps will come back.

            Why are battery electric cars a stupid idea? They’re cheaper to fuel. The drivetrain has far fewer moving parts than a gas vehicle (granted, hydrogen is the same in this department), which results in inherently having fewer mechanical breakdowns and repairs. You get a full tank every morning so you never have to worry about fuel at all except for road trips. Charging on road trips is becoming much less of a problem as time goes on and Supercharging gets faster. Based on current trends and developments, electric vehicles will likely be outright cheaper to purchase than gas vehicles in a decade or two. So please elaborate on your claims and explain why you think electric vehicles are stupid.

          • Rurik2 4 years ago

            I like vehicles with electric motors, I just do not think pure battery cars are practical for most vehicles. As for vehicle dynamics, a good example is F1 – 700 kg and 700 hp.

          • Bert 4 years ago

            I never accused you out not liking hybrids.

            “I just do not think pure battery cars are practical for most vehicles.”

            WHY NOT?

            This is the question I have been asking you and you still haven’t given any answer besides them being heavy, which isn’t a gif answer without further explanation.

            Super cars are a different discussion from the one we’re having here. Let’s talk about mass production cars first, then we can talk about the super car market, which is fairly irrelevant to the mass market future of electric vehicles in the first place.

          • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

            If Tesla was making pickup trucks, SUVs and small cars for the mass market…ie within a normal person’s budget….and those vehicles were competitive in performance, load capacity, range and recharging convenience…then I could see a great market for battery cars.
            The devil is in the detail though…its a case of getting the calculator out and doing the sums on what the entire package is gonna cost in the long run; and I think that with people in the petrol market making such a big deal about the reliability and resale value of Hondas and Toyotas, you can bet that the long term challenges of battery cars past 8 years or so will become important. Like what happens when you know that a tesla needs to have 10k worth of batteries replaced? Stuff like that’s important and it effects peoples perceptions and behavior and that feeds back around to the popularity and economies of scale of the cars.

          • Bert 3 years ago

            The up front price of electric vehicles, even Tesla vehicles, is coming down. So far Tesla vehicles have been very cost and performance competitive in the high end luxury car market. Next they’re making a car that would appear to be very cost and performance competitive in the entry level luxury vehicle market. Give it a few years and you’ll see electric vehicles that are cost and performance competitive in the base vehicle market. Any technology starts off with a high price tag when it’s new.

            I don’t know why you think battery replacement is going to be a huge issue at 8 years. The oldest lithium ion electric vehicle, the Tesla Roadster, will soon be 9 years old and their batteries are still going strong. In more recent news, there was a Tesla Model S that was used as a taxi and supercharged daily that reached 200,000 miles. They’ve only seen a range loss of 6% so far.

            Besides the still unknown lifespan of the battery, the rest of the electric vehicle drive train has a significant reliability advantage over a gasoline drive train due to the drastically smaller number of moving parts. Moving parts are not good for reliability.

          • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

            There is a Tesla X SUV on sale in Australia, brand new, for A$154,127. So I think its fair to say that the people that can afford a luxury battery powered SUV arent gonna balk at battery life or replacing a few batteries to get their performance back up.
            It was estimated by Tesla themselves that a car that has done 50k miles (80k Km) could be around 70% battery capacity. Perhaps now that has improved.
            This obviously doesnt matter for Tesla customers, the guy knows the top end of the market was his best hope of getting early success. However, his company is driven hard by subsidies and credits from the governments…thats ok, except that its useful to remember that when we’re trying to extol the virtues of the tech, his company and the market for battery power…because without billions in subsidy, it would struggle very hard, exactly the same as hydrogen does…or any other alternative compared to the established petrol and diesel infrastructure.
            From a government policy point of view, it is also deeply disingenuous for battery cars to claim that the cost of electricity is less than fossil fuel, when it is considered that in some parts of the USA, indeed most of the world, fossil fuels bear the bulk of the load of power generation for the grid. The argument obviously only holds water, from a policy point of view, if you can look at overall total cost of ownership and environmental benefit of a system where the grid power is green and that green power recharges the car. I havent googled that, but that would be good to see.
            What we really need to see is a an electric car with the same range as a petrol small car, at the same or lower initial price and similar or lower long term maintenance costs. Resale value isnt necessary, but would be icing on the cake if it were good. At that point it may have a hope of being sustainably mass producible relative to other mass market cars.

          • Bert 3 years ago

            Well, part of your problem there is that you live in Australia. From what I’ve heard you guys have huge import fees to deal with on vehicles.

            The 30% capacity loss at 50,000 miles estimate has been proven inaccurate. The first survey done on the matter, which occurred back in 2012, showed a 15% range loss at 100,000 miles, and that was for Tesla’s very first vehicle. They’ve only improved their battery pack since then.

            Here is a Tesla Model S that was used as a Taxi and accumulated 200,000 miles with only a 6% battery capacity loss.

            I’m not sure what you mean by billions in subsidies, The 200,000 tax credits only add up to 1.4 billion, and that doesn’t even go to Tesla, but the consumers. I highly doubt people buying $70,000+ cars would change their mind over the loss of a few thousand in tax deductions, so Tesla would be unlikely to be significantly affected by their removal.

            Why is it disingenuous to claim that it’s cheaper to run your vehicle on electricity than gasoline? An electric vehicle in my state, and pretty much ever state, would cost significantly less to fuel than a gasoline vehicle. It’s that simple. What does greenness have to do with the fact that an electric vehicle is fuel is cheaper to fuel than a gasoline vehicle?

            I’m sorry, but you can’t have a new technology that is cheap and desirable appear overnight. You can either make a new technology cheap, but it would have to be garbage that no-one wants at that price range, or you can make it be fantastic, but initially expensive. Those are your two options for any new technology. If you want a cheap, good, electric vehicle, you’re just going to have to have patience and wait for electric vehicles to work their way from the top of the market down to the cheaper segments. This is the path that pretty much every new technology follows.

          • Matthew Jenkinson 3 years ago

            Tesla’s strategy has always been to produce an expensive car, then use the profits from that to develop a cheaper car, etc. All we’ve seen so far is the expensive models, though the Model 3 is at least at the entry level for luxury cars.

            Tesla might have estimated 70% after 50k miles, but luckily we have actual cars now with several hundred thousand miles on the clock with ~90% capacity. I guess they were wrong.

            The subsidies and tax credits thing is old. It might surprise you to know that – at least in Australia, though I’m sure in the US also – coal and oil producers don’t pay fuel tax. That’s a big old subsidy right there, to the tune of more than a billion dollars a year. That’s just ONE of the subsidies they get. Plus he hasn’t had billions in subsidy, they were loans that he is close to paying back. The purchase of the vehicles has been subsidised, but that is going to fall off at some point as the market penetration gains.

            As for the cost – well I think you have that backwards. Even when the power is generated from burning fossil fuel, the cost of powering an EV is VASTLY lower, especially if that fossil fuel power is produced in a large, relatively efficient plant. How do I know this? Because even when you do it locally, in the vehicle, with a ‘range extending’ engine, you get WAY more mileage out of a litre of fuel than by powering it directly from the engine.

            Don’t forget, it takes very large amounts of electricity to create that fuel in the first place, almost as much as would take the BEV the same distance as the litre of fuel produced – about 2/3s is the ratio at the moment I believe (ie. the electricity required to create a litre of fuel would power the BEV for 2/3s the distance of that litre of fuel). So, we still have to produce that electricity anyway, it seems.

            As for the cost – sure, it would be nice to have a relatively cheap, BEV that could rival the range of a similarly cheap petrol car. The industry hasn’t been at it in any real capacity for long though, so just give it time.

          • Dennis Abbott.. 4 years ago

            My view of clean energy : use as few toxic chemicals as possible, use what we have in abundance (Our Sun and Hydrogen). At present on a World scale a solar/hydrogen economy is in my view, the logical choice.
            A paper on the subject, Prof. Derek Abbott.
            Keeping the Energy Debate Clean: How Do We Supply the World’s Energy Needs.
            have a read

          • Dr. Dean Dauger 4 years ago

            “battery cars” work for families with one car too. I’ve proven it because I use my BEV as my sole car and my family car:


    • Dr. Dean Dauger 4 years ago

      One vendor alone has built over 700 fast-charging sites to support continent-crossing travel:

      The public will take FCVs seriously only after Hydrogen refueling infrastructure is sufficiently deployed to support long-distance, such as cross-continent, travel. Can you answer: What is the _specific_ date (month/yr) when Hydrogen infrastructure will support continent-crossing travel like the Supercharger network does in 2016? Then we’ll know how far behind the Hydrogen economy is. At this rate it’s pretty clear, FCVs’ window of opportunity to be gas car’s successor has already closed.

      • Rurik2 4 years ago

        Batteries are heavy, expensive, and polluting to make. Plug-in FCV hybrids with a small battery will run maybe half the yearly driving distance on battery, and have the convenience of a gasoline or diesel car. Hydrogen is also a solution for heavy trucks, boats and even airplanes. Batteries have existed as commercial mass products for 100 years and they still suck in so many ways.

        Hydrogen fuel cells evolve very rapidly – costs have plunged 90% in a decade or so, and the amount of platinum used is now on par with a gasoline catalyzer, if I recall correctly. If we are serious about fighting climate change, we will build the refueling infrastructure.

        • Dr. Dean Dauger 4 years ago

          According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

          Grid-powered EVs are cleaner and getting even cleaner than the ICE equivalent. They even provide a calculator, depending on the zip code where they plug in, how much emission is related to EVs:

          Therefore there is environmental benefit whenever an all-electric car displaces a gas car. Can you show an similar study for FCVs?

          And you _still_ haven’t answered FCVs’ most decisive, hence most important, question: What is the _specific_ date (month/yr) when Hydrogen infrastructure will support continent-crossing travel like the Supercharger network does in 2016? Without that answer, mass adoption of FCVs is not plausible, and FCVs, while it may have a niche, will never displace BEVs’ place as the leading replacement of ICE cars. BEVs are just too far ahead already; look up “time to market”.

          Even mighty Toyota is changing position, pivoting away from FCVs and towards making BEVs:

          And the obituary on FCVs’ mass adoption has been written: “Who killed the hydrogen car?”:

        • Bert 4 years ago

          “Batteries are heavy, expensive, and polluting to make”

          You’ve failed to explain why heavy is a problem in and of itself.

          Battery electric vehicles are reaching the price of the average new vehicle pretty soon here and prices are still falling. Hydrogen vehicles are very much on the expensive side. How expensive? We don’t know. None of the manufacturers will tell us. However Toyota, Honda, etc, are rumored to be losing many tens of thousands of dollars on these $60,000 vehicles they’re making.

          Producing hydrogen fuel attacks is also polluting. How polluting? I don’t know. I’ve been unable to find any studies on that during my travels through the depths of the internet. If you’ve managed to find the pollution data for producing hydrogen vehicles, please share it.

          Plug in hybrid vehicles with fuel cell range extender can’t have any level of convenience until we have a large hydrogen infrastructure. We have nothing even remotely like that. Stick with the gasoline plug in hybrid if you want convenience for the foreseeable future.

          Lithium ion batteries are not 100 years old. They’ve only been in existence since the 1970’s and are still very much improving year by year.

          Both hydrogen fuel stack and battery costs are doing pretty rapidly but they both have to level out at some point. Where will the final costs land? That’s the real question. For hydrogen to have a chance in the consumer vehicle market, the final hydrogen diversion cost will have to significantly lower than the final battery cost because the running costs are much higher for hydrogen vehicles. Considering the current cost trajectory of electric vehicles, that’s pretty unlikely to happen.

          Hydrogen is not cost competitive enough to justify building a highly expensive infrastructure when BEVs can do the same job for much, much, cheaper.

          • Rurik2 4 years ago

            If you want the range anxiety and all the other problems with batteries, feel free to use a battery car. But do not FUD and hinder plugin FCEV infrastructure to be built! Give hydrogen a fighting chance – then hydrogen will blow the socks off pure BEVs.

          • Bert 4 years ago

            If you want to pay for highly expensive fuel and be unable to leave California, then feel free too get a hydrogen vehicles. But do not FUD electric vehicles with nonsense about range anxiety (which is an extremely diminished problem with the supercharger network) and the unsupported claim that somehow the extra weight makes BEVs bad.

            I would say don’t hinder the progress of BEVs, but even with the FUD you’re trying to spread, there’s not much you can do to actually hinder electric vehicles. They’re coming whether you’re ready or not and hydrogen isn’t in any shape to blow the socks of anyone.

          • Rurik2 4 years ago

            Range anxiety is real. I am not trying to stop electric cars, it is the battery huggers who try to bad-mouth hydrogen and stop the hydrogen refueling network from being built.

          • Bert 4 years ago

            The infrastructure limitations with hydrogen are more real than the range anxiety on a Tesla. So if you’re complaining about range anxiety then why can’t I comment on the huge infrastructure and cost obstacles that hydrogen has?

          • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

            How does it take to ‘supercharge’ you tesla? Most normal people don’t wanna be sitting around at a charger for 10, 20 or 30 minutes. If it was a case of a few minutes of self service then that might work, but its just a car…if its only doing the same as what a petrol car does, but has these hassles, then its really the geeks and the greenies that are going to buy these cars, not normal people.

          • Bert 3 years ago

            A Tesla can add up to 170 miles of range in 30 minutes on the current 120 kW chargers. However, the next chargers will be more powerful than 350 kW according to Musk. That would put you down in the 10-15 minute range for an 80% charge. That’s not bad considering that it’s cheaper than fueling a gas vehicle and much cheaper than fueling a hydrogen vehicle.

            Keep in mind that you only have to use the superchargers for road trips that run more than 200 miles. For your day to day activities, you just plug it in at home and have a full tank every morning.

          • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

            “Keep in mind that you only have to use the superchargers for road trips that run more than 200 miles.”
            And you can see that unless the charge is down in the 2 to 5min range, then the market is going to be restricted to those people that you refer to, the ones that only need the car to get from A to B within 200 miles.
            Tesla gets credits from some state governments, the buyer gets a US$7500 rebate (A$10,000) which is wow; however, other tax payers are subsidizing it to the tune of billions in all the various concessions, loans and rebates and the cars are not giving the market what it wants and so the makers are losing money on these cars which means there are limited production, limited marketing and limited sales.
            My last small car was a holden barina and it cost me A$14,400 after tax, drive away. If the federal government gave me a A$10k rebate on an electric car…even a $25k electric car would be in my price range, drive away, including tax and options. Its such a no brainer with such a big rebate, the fact that people arent buying them en masse implies something wrong with the business model.
            Realistically, if toyota could partner with government and a bunch of other carmakers and fuel stations to roll out hydrogen refueling infrastructure, then it would have just as much of a chance as battery power and hybrids and it would simply become about whether the hydrogen engines produce the desired power/torque/range/convenience and looks to be a close substitute for petrol and diesel. Whether or not the hydrogen is an efficient use of natural gas or whatever would be a secondary issue, but also still interesting.

          • Bert 3 years ago

            Why would the charge speed have to be in the 2-5 minute range for supercharging to be appealing? My time isn’t that valuable. I would already save more money by using a supercharger vs a hydrogen station than I would make in 40 minutes of working at my job. This is true for most people. Plus, the new superchargers will be at least 3x as powerful. This cost vs time analysis only points more in favor of electric vehicles over hydrogen once that happens.

            The buyer gets a $7,500 federal tax deduction on hydrogen vehicles too, you know that right? What other billions in subsidies are you speaking of? Are you perhaps speaking of all the public funding that goes into building hydrogen stations because no-one is willing to foot the large bill on their own?

            People aren’t buying $25,000 electric cars en masse because good electric vehicles haven’t gotten that cheap yet. Every new technology has to start expensive, if you want it to be good, and work it’s way down the price chain. This is how any new technology works. That’s what Tesla is doing. The people making $25,000 electric cars right now can’t afford to make them very desirable, that’s why they haven’t been adopted en masse. However, if you look within its market, Tesla vehicles are selling phenomenally well. If you want a cheap, but good, electric vehicle, you will just have to have patience and accept the reality that new technologies take time before they can be built cheaply and well.

            The only real barriers to electric vehicle mass adoption are the up front battery cost and an insufficient number of superchargers. Both of those are being addressed. Hydrogen vehicles have the same two issues (expensive fuel cells and no infrastructure), but it also has the added issue of being very expensive to fuel. I’m not seeing that issue being addressed so far. How would you make fueling a hydrogen vehicle cost competitive?

          • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

            “My time isn’t that valuable.”
            Yep, that’s always a factor that should be considered and I’m sure theres many more like you.

          • Matthew Jenkinson 3 years ago

            I don’t know about you, but with a kid in the car I need at least a 20min stop every 200 miles.

            I’m with Bert, if I’m doing 95%+ of my charging at home, then it really takes only a few seconds each day. Much better than having to run to the fuel station, then fuel it, then go back to what I was doing in the first place once a week or two. As for the market limitation, I think you mean ‘limited to those who don’t need to do more than 200-300miles with no stops, ever’. Which is pretty much nobody.

            As for rebates, try the fuel tax rebate that the mining sector gets, to the tune of more than a billion Australian dollars, every single year. That’s just one of the subsidies to pull resources out of the ground, not including the subsidies to the downstream consumers of those resources.

            My last car (in fact my current car) was an AUD$18k second hand Forester, because I don’t like paying for a whole bunch of depreciation. However, the TCO of a Tesla 3 would be good enough that I would pay for one brand new, and get solar, so that I could drive around in a brand new vehicle for roughly the same medium term cost as my Subaru, and way better TCO over the long term. So much better that I worked out the fuel savings by powering from my own solar/battery home storage would pay back the solar/battery system in 5.5 years. After that, all my fuel would be free, until I have to replace them both in another 10-15 years.

          • Dr. Dean Dauger 4 years ago

            Then don’t throw FUD at BEVs.

          • Dr. Dean Dauger 4 years ago

            “blow the socks off”? As a demonstration of performance, show us a drag race between top-of-the-line production cars of a BEV and a FCV. Let’s say, a Tesla Model S P100DL versus a Toyota Mirai. Which socks do we think will be blown off?

  4. Hamish Barker 4 years ago

    the primary energy has to come from somewhere, and has to be transmitted to the vehicle.

    For electric, the transmission and distribution side of it is around half (+/- ? haven’t researched if for some years but with retail at circa $250/MWh, average pool prices of, what $60/MWh and retailers taking a nice cut, I guess T&D must be more than half?).

    For hydrogen first one has to make it from either hydrocarbon feedstock ( and where should one put the carbon? The old sequestration chestnut… Well, let’s assume it does get sequestered, well that is a cost.), then transport/pipe it. All brand new infrastructure which has to be built (oh, and new easements found for the pipelines all over the place to filling points, good luck with that!).

    So, either use the existing electricity transmission and distribution assets for electric cars, or build a whole new network of hydrogen energy transmission. For what? Is there that much efficiency saving in fuel cells compared to very large electricity generation assets or distributed generation (rooftop solar – with it’s inherent advantage of reducing transmission losses and asset use)?

    As far as battery life compared to fuel cell life, hmm, might be a wash. Or might be an awesome spare parts and servicerevenue stream (lock-in for FCV manufacturers. (not awesome for vehicle owners, but great for manufacturer/servicers) Either battery or FC can probably be built with future recycling in mind. (or recycling mandated such as in some other jurisdictions – Germany, Sweden?)

    Weight of the vehicle would I suppose maybe be the biggest advantage of H2 fuel cells. But I just can’t see that outweighing (sorry!) the cost disadvantage of needing to build a whole new energy transport infrastructure, and also have to spend to get the fuel cell vehicle technology to where electrics and batteries are now. (and batteries are not necessarily standing still).

    • Matthew Jenkinson 3 years ago

      Actually storage of H2 is the issue, as it has to be done in cylindrical tanks, that then have to fit into the car body somehow. Modular batteries can be made in all shapes and sizes, though they are undoubtedly heavier – not that it seems to make much difference in terms of BEV’s treading all over petrol cars in efficiency.

  5. Webber Depor 4 years ago

    i really like when tesla fanboys write an article about FCV’s.

    Hyd – 4 minutes for recharge/filling (3.5 for japan 5 for others)
    Elec – 30 minutes with a supercharger. Who knows when without a supercharger.
    Hyd – 750 km with one tank (HONDA Clarity)
    Elec – 350 km (TESLA model 3 – prediction)

    • Mike Dill 4 years ago

      It is the chicken and the egg problem, as I would really like the H2 vehicle for the long trips, but I (and a lot of other people) will not buy one unless the infrastructure is there to support me.
      If I lived within ten miles of a H2 filling station, or if I knew that one was being built nearby, and if I knew that the fuel cost would be less than running my ICE car, then I would be willing to look at going to H2. Until that happens, I will be using my EV (which I can charge in my garage overnight) for trips around town (95% of my driving), and for now I will keep my ICE for the longer trips.

    • Dr. Dean Dauger 4 years ago

      The BEV industry has a major “time to market” advantage over FCV when taking advantage of how the stagnant gar car industry leaves itself ripe for disruption. One vendor alone has built over 700 fast-charging sites to support continent-crossing travel:

      The public will take FCVs seriously only after Hydrogen refueling infrastructure is sufficiently deployed to support long-distance, such as cross-continent, travel. Can you answer: What is the _specific_ date (month/yr) when Hydrogen infrastructure will support continent-crossing travel like the Supercharger network does in 2016? Then we’ll know how far behind the Hydrogen economy is. At this rate it’s pretty clear, FCVs’ window of opportunity to be gas car’s successor has already closed.

      • Webber Depor 4 years ago

        exactly! and Thats where Japan comes into play. 86 station right now and 160 by 2020. Not a problem ….. for Japan

        • Dr. Dean Dauger 4 years ago

          700 > 86
          estimated 2800 in 2018 > 160 in 2020.
          And: that’s “only” Tesla’s station count > Hydrogen station count
          One might add all the other EV charging networks too.

          Japan is not a continent; it’s an island, therefore no matter how many Hydrogen stations are in Japan that network isn’t continent-crossing.

          We’re still waiting for the answer to: What is the _specific_ date (month/yr) when Hydrogen infrastructure will support continent-crossing travel like the Supercharger network does in 2016?

          • Webber Depor 4 years ago

            how many times did you crossed a continent with your car? And as i said its not a problem only for japan.

            and since i live in japan i dont care for others. I’ll buy my hydrogen car in 2020. i’ll refuel in 4 min. and ready to go.

          • Dr. Dean Dauger 4 years ago

            What a remarkably provincial thing to say: “since i live in japan i dont care for others”. Really? Humanity needs a sustainable form of transport proven to fully replace the fossil-fuel incumbent ICE solution and therefore needs to be a solution for _every_ large country, not solely Japan. Every large automaker is financially motivated to address many markets worldwide rather than solely Japan because the economies of scale of automotive mass-production operate far better (i.e., more profitable for said automaker) making more cars as a _global_ solution rather than fewer cars for a Japan-only solution. Therefore no large automaker in its right mind would mass-produce an automotive powertrain they _knew_ was Japan-only. Your wake-up call is: Japan’s way isn’t always the way of every other country, much less the world.

          • Matthew Jenkinson 3 years ago

            That’s OK, for the two trips I’ve done in the last 4 years that I would have needed a fast charger I can afford to wait. Otherwise, I’ll choose to refuel in 5 seconds (plus a few hours of sleep) off the power I produce myself for 1/5th of what the electricity company charges.

            Also, don’t forget that your ‘4 minutes’ is only the time spent standing at the pump. You gotta get there too.

  6. Webber Depor 4 years ago

    I really like how only Japan saw what hydrogen offers.

    japan is going to build a hydrogen society with 2020 olympics. hydrogen will be transformed houses and olympic village with underground pipelines. and there will be no electric cables above ground because electric is produced in house with fuel cells. People will pay hydrogen bills which is 1/3 of a electric bill. plus they wont pay any LNG fee for heating because fuel cells produce heat with electricity. Its to birdies with one stone

    • Coley 4 years ago

      And then you woke up-;)

    • Joseph Brown 4 years ago

      I wish them luck, but the above analysis seems to indicate that they are wasting their resources trying to switch to H2 over solar. Since they are determined to do it, it will, at least, give us a real data-point on the efficiency and green-impact of H2.

      If they do advance the state of the art for Hydrogen Fuel Cells, then that will be a very useful set of technologies for space — so it will not be a complete waste.

      • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

        “I wish them luck, but the above analysis seems to indicate that they are wasting their resources trying to switch to H2 over solar.”
        The first problem with solar and Japan is this: where the hell do they put it? The second problem is japan doesn’t really have resources except the ocean and people and a little bit of land. So, what are they wasting if they pursue hydrogen? Money? The governments of the world ‘waste’ money all the time…that’s hardly a show stopper.

        • JonathanMaddox 3 years ago

          “japan doesn’t really have resources except the ocean and people and a little bit of land.”

          That’s not really true. Japan is certainly a densely populated country, but it is not without rooftops and open spaces and dams and the like. Solar energy is relatively popular there despite a dearth of official support for large-scale roll-out; wind energy has seen shockingly little development to date but it could easily be far bigger than it is.

          • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

            Japan is a volcanic, eathquake prone, tsunami prone, hurricane prone country. It is mountainous, it has very little space for things, it is overcast and cold for much of the year…why oh why would they bother with pv solar, land wind or offshore wind? Its a joke.
            Hydro is there, but again its limited. Japan has no major hydro that it can bring online.
            Its nuclear industry was generating massive power, nowhere near what fossil fuels were, but good…but Japan’s approach to nuclear has been horrid and the tsunami that killed the fukushima plant ruined the nuclear power model in Japan for quite a long time.
            Theres no way wind will do anything significant in Japan, ever from what I can see.
            To me, Japan is one of those countries that will probably have to move into 4th gen reactors, aim for hydrogen byproduction and then use hydrogen more. 4th gen reactors are what the doctor orders for Japan in my view.

    • Bert 4 years ago

      “People will pay hydrogen bills which is 1/3 of a electric bill.”
      Source? Are you sure you didn’t flip the two prices? It’s much more reasonable for your electric bill to be 1/3 of the cost of a hydrogen bill and even that is using pretty optimistically cheap hydrogen prices.

    • Craig Allen 4 years ago

      Mmmm, and perhaps Australia can sell them the coal they’ll need to power the hydrogen generators.

      • Webber Depor 4 years ago

        haha, actually they will produce hydrogen in australia and transport it with a special ship.

        • Craig Allen 4 years ago

          Sure, lets ship it in giant blimps powered by coal-fired steam engines.

          • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

            Well, 50% of south australias power comes from wind…so carrying on about Australia and its coal sounds a bit biased. Are you a greenie luvvy by chance?

          • Webber Depor 3 years ago

            they will produce liquid hydrogen from brown coal and ship it via a special ship built by kawasaki


          • JonathanMaddox 3 years ago

            Maybe they would like to, but they will not. There’s no profit in it, not even the shadow of a promise of a profit.

          • Webber Depor 3 years ago

            Maybe japanese government know a little bit more than you?

    • Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

      Its a nice idea, but id like to see a working vehicle economy or a good sales network of portable hydrogen fuel cell colemans or something…they have to get some runs on the board.
      Similar promises get made about things like thorium reactors…and I agree with those directions…but the willpower hasn’t been there to establish these technologies…particularly from a government point of view.

  7. Robert Comerford 4 years ago

    Tony is quite right here. The water resources become a constraining factor.
    I do wonder however for niche use what the costs will be for onsite renewable generation of H2. Perhaps for range extender use in some vehicles.

  8. Robert Comerford 4 years ago

    Tony is quite right here. The water resources become a constraining factor.
    I do wonder however for niche use what the costs will be for onsite renewable generation of H2. Perhaps for range extender use in some vehicles.

    • Matthew Jenkinson 3 years ago

      I view this as a size thing. Batteries make sense in smaller vehicles, hydrogen probably makes more sense in larger vehicles where storage is not an issue.

      Fully Charged did a show where the Orkney Islands are looking at using excess renewables to generate hydrogen, which could then be used to power the ferry to mainland UK. Would make the ferry essentially free to run, so long as you had enough renewables that the average supply could generate a bit more than you need.

  9. JonathanMaddox 4 years ago

    The “hydrogen economy” probably will see some success, not in light vehicles like cars, but for heavy haulage, trucks, trains (away from existing electrified infrastructure), and stationary energy storage ie. peaking power stations.

    This is not because hydrogen has an advantage over batteries in recharge efficiency; it doesn’t. Its advantage lies in long-term storage ability. It is cheap and easy to store megawatt-hours or even terawatt-hours worth of hydrogen, generated over days or weeks using renewable electricity whenever it is available in abundance, with a view to discharging it months later, also over the course of days and weeks.

    Batteries are not affordable for seasonal storage and would have to drop in cost by two orders of magnitude before they would be. One order of magnitude is unlikely, but electric cars with daily duty cycles (or more often) are a no-brainer even at today’s battery costs. Two orders of magnitude is not possible due to the cost of essential raw materials.

  10. Akseln 4 years ago

    Why do you need to build “a multi-trillion dollar hydrogen delivery infrastructure”? H2 may be produced locally at the filling station. You only need electricity and water. This takes pipelines and transportation out of the equation. Apart from that I agree that H2 is not the future for cars.

    • Matthew Jenkinson 3 years ago

      Where’s all that water going to come from, I wonder… I suppose it just magically appears at the filling station.

  11. GM 4 years ago

    This article is one sided and ignores some very important facts.
    1) The biggest waste of energy on the planet is having wind power switched off during the day when the wind is blowing, because we can’t use the power (you see it all the time in Europe), or spilling water over the top of hydro dams because we have too much water (which happens here in New Zealand). Hydrogen is an ideal way to store this excess renewable energy, both in volume and longevity, much better than batteries.
    2) fuel cells produce water (no account has been made for this in the article). While I don’t have the net loss figures I would be surprised if powering all the vehicles in the USA with fuel cells would amount to less of a net loss of water than what is consumed by a few golf courses in California in a year.
    3) the diagram showing huge hydrogen pipelines is total bullshit and worse is scaremongering. Hydrogen Electrolysers come as small as a washing machine and can be placed alongside distribution sites. Yes you have to have compression and refuelling infrastructure but a three minute refuelling time is the reason enough to use one. The whole hydrogen generation and refuelling process can fit into a container sized operation.
    4) London hydrogen buses operate 22 hours a day between refuels..current battery tech is light years away from what hydrogen can do now. Moores law applies to both, meaning while advancements will be made to batteries, so too will fuel cells advance at the roughly same rate (and by default always stay ahead).
    5) agree the the comments that fuel cells can be used to power a wide range of applications, especially homes.
    6) fuel cells operate in sub freezing temperatures…tried driving you battery power car in the cold recently?
    Some better balance needs to be shown in articles like this please.

    • Matthew Jenkinson 3 years ago

      1. I agree. The Orkney Islands are actually talking about doing this to power the ferry to mainland UK with their excess renewable power, which I think is a great idea – BEV at that scale I don’t think makes sense.
      2. But producing hydrogen consumes immense amounts of water. It had better be coming from oceans rather than fresh sources, as we already have those under strain in many places.
      3. Electrolysers might fit into small places, but so can batteries. We already need electricity generation and so why not use the existing grid, plus distributed (solar/wind) generation? We would need to upgrade the grid by a lot to account for the power use of electrolysers.
      4. There are electric bus lines that use fast chargers at depots and along the route that never. have. to. stop. driving. ever. Well, except for maintenance.
      5. Fuel cells can be used to power anything at all, but due to the complexity of storing hydrogen would make more sense in larger installations.
      6. BEV’s are a high seller in markets like Norway, which deal with sub-zero temperatures for quite a large portion of the year….

      All this to simply substitute batteries for hydrogen? Hydrogen is not a fuel source, as we can’t simply dig it out of the ground – it requires vastly more electricity to produce than it emits. Why not just use that electricity directly?

  12. stefan 3 years ago

    A very one sided article taking the rosiest side of EV’s.
    ‘Clean’ hydrogen production is on its way. A Californian company has a production ready solution to make hydrogen at home or a filling station from water and a tiny amount of power, and another company has a patent on a system that uses water and sunlight to create hydrogen, like an artificial form of photosynthesis.
    Both solutions are about producing hydrogen at the point of refueling, so no pollution is created during transportation and the refueling network is just your house or fuel stop.
    EV’s in cold climates will still be a challenge and of course muppets plugging their EV into a dirty power grid like ours. If more power from renewables keeps up with EV adoption then that’s a good thing, else why bother?
    Either way, both solutions have avenues for a reduction in pollution which is a good thing!

    • stefan 3 years ago

      Here are the hydrogen companies I was referring to

    • David Ian Bowers 3 years ago

      Cost, cost cost… all these technologies you are talking about sounds great, but they will be expensive to the end consumer and EVs will probably end up cheaper

    • Matthew Jenkinson 3 years ago

      So where is all this water going to come from?

  13. Rohan Bussell 3 years ago

    The problem with battery powered cars is the batteries. If they can get the price down so that its a straight forward and relatively low cost of replacement, then that’s fine. A lot of this stuff simply hinges on economies of scale and the level of government intervention.
    If the government provided massive subsidies for hydrogen, the hydrogen fuel cell tech would be here, its as simple as that.
    The advantage that hydrogen fuel cell may have over battery cars is range, so long as the fuel cell car is easy to refuel. This is currently one of the main reasons that Tesla cars are inferior to fossil fuel cars…if you have to wait for more than a few minutes to refuel/recharge…it aint gonna work.

  14. hardtruths 3 years ago

    If refueling and use of fuel cell cars ressembles the experience of refueling and using gas powered cars, and the experience of “refueling” and using battery powered cars ressembles the experience of “refueling” and use of smartphones fuel cells will win hands down once we have hydrogen “gas pumps” nearby.

    The “range” and time to charge smartphones sucks.

  15. Alejandro Jack 3 years ago

    Very interesting. But i find some flaws in the arguments. You don’t need a delivery infrastructure for hydrogen. You could have a compressor in every house and avoid all the delivery overhead because you would also use the grid like EVs. You can argue that you are still less efficient, but you are intentionally avoiding parts of the equation. You don’t just start with 100 kWh production and that is it. Renewable production fluctuates and the grid needs to be constant so you actually discard energy for that. If instead of discarding it you can store it and then the efficiency equation is different very different. And all that without talking about the mining for batteries. It inefficiencies and its irreparable damage. You are not taking all the supply chain into consideration.

  16. achille 3 years ago

    “Hydrogen is not an energy source”… actually it is, because if you burn it you generate energy. Playing with words is not acceptable when popularizing science or engineering. Then how you get your H is another story, and there are means to get it other than nat gas reforming. With the same kind of biased reasoning, one could state “electricity is not clean”, because is still generated largely by burning fossil fuels. This article is poorly written, very questionable and far from a comparison on even ground

    • Matthew Jenkinson 3 years ago

      No, it’s not. You need to put more energy in to produce it than you get back, and there are no places you can go to simply dig it up. Hence it is a carrier of energy.

      Imagine it is hydro – you need to get the water into the reservoir before you can use it to produce electricity. There are energy losses, and you never get back as much as you put in, but hydro can actually be pretty efficient in round trip.

  17. Malcolm 3 years ago

    Clearly Tony Seba has some bias against Hydrogen reflected in this article. Whilst there may be a distribution of hydrogen possible – the main model for hydrogen powered vehicles is parallel to electric vehicles – the use of electricity at the location where it will used by the vehicle. The difference is that an electrolysis unit can have the hydrogen ready and load it into a vehicle within minutes so that the vehicle can arrive, fuel, and drive away. If local electrolysis is used then the water usage is extremely low. It maybe that we need plug-in hybrid electric / hydrogen cars – able to plug in and charge for short journeys, but with a fuel cell / hydrogen storage to manage longer journeys. The two technologies are compatible as the drive train / regenerative braking etc. can be common to both.

  18. Scott Isitt 3 years ago

    “1) Hydrogen is not an energy source…”

    By the logic that follows the above quote, fossil fuels are also “not an energy source” as additional energy must be expended to obtain and refine what’s taken from the ground before it can be put into our cars.

    • Chris Coza 2 years ago

      Oil is an energy source. We loose 15% of its original energy content when we refine it to more useful components, such as petrol for our cars. There are no natural deposits of hydrogen gas for us to use as an energy source. An energy source is required to produce hydrogen which can then be stored in a tank. Similarly an energy source in required to generate electricity which can then be stored in a rechargeable battery. In both cases when using the stored hydrogen or the electricity stored in a battery, less energy is available than was originally used to produce the hydrogen or generate the electricity.

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