Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Are Not Competitive – from a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Expert

Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car. (Credit: Kyle Field for CleanTechnica) Click to Enlarge.
The widespread introduction of hydrogen fuel cell cars is a bad idea, writes Zachary Shahan, editor of  According to Shahan, hydrogen fuel cell cars will never be able to compete with battery-electric cars.  Policymakers should focus on stimulating electric transportation.

One of Cleantechnica’s regular commenters 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:

It is a long piece, and it’s in three parts.  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:
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
  • 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
I’ve written my own debunking of the legitimacy of hydrogen fuel cell cars.  Physicist Joe Romm, PhD, who 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 cars, incredibly 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.
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.

Read more at Why Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Are Not Competitive – from a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Expert

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