Jaguar i-Pace EV Designer: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Are “Complete Nonsense”

2 months ago by Jay Cole 89

While debuting the company's first all-electric EV from the LA Auto Show, Jaguar took the time to throw a little cold water on hydrogen fuel cell technology (InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

While debuting the company’s first all-electric EV from the LA Auto Show, Jaguar took the time to throw a little cold water on hydrogen fuel cell technology (InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

Jaguar celebrated the paint almost being dry on its first all-electric vehicle, by taking the time to throw stones at “alternative zero emission technology” – hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

We won't be seeing a Jaguar i-Pace FCEV anytime soon

We won’t be seeing a Jaguar i-Pace FCEV anytime soon

Jaguar/Land Rover’s technical design director Wolfgang Ziebart, the man who was put in place to oversee the development of the company’s 220+ mile, all-electric i-Pace that debuted this week from the LA Auto Show (details here, live gallery here), gave his matter of fact opinion on fuel cell technology – calling them “complete nonsense”.

“The well to wheel relationship from the energy source to the vehicle is a disaster.”

So, we will just go ahead and pencil Jaguar down for not offering any fuel cell offerings in the near term.

Not withstanding the economic/environmental reality of fuel cell vehicles, many automakers who had previously been seen as major backers of hydrogen technology (think Toyota and Hyundai) have already been forced into transitioning their mainstream alt-vehicle offerings into plug-in specific vehicles.

However, the reasoning hasn’t been anything to do with the “common sense” factors behind the fuel cell platform’s efficiencies, but rather it has been due to the ever-rising global fleet and emission standards, and the tepid demand for fuel cell vehicles.  The luke-warm (at best) reception for fuel cell vehicles has been mostly because of a costly starting MSRP, and the lack of a strong hydrogen refueling infrastructure limited places where the fuel cells could be sold.

Basically, you just can’t sell enough FCVs to be in compliance with global mandates.

Mr. Ziebart further clarified his position on/against fuel cell vehicles:

“You end up with a well to wheel efficiency of roughly 30% for hydrogen, as opposed to more or less well to wheel 70% efficiency for a battery electric vehicle.   So the efficiency of putting the electric energy directly into a battery is about twice as high as the efficiency of producing and using hydrogen.

“Also, you have to consider the fact that the battery itself has a high efficiency of around 90% or so.” 

Hydrogen Versus Electric Cars

An example of how plug-in electric vehicles have a much higher “well to wheel” efficiency

As for the lack of infrastructure, the Jaguar design boss didn’t feel that was too big of an obstacle – provided the vehicles themselves made sense.

“This is the most important argument. The other stuff – for example, the infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cell refuelling not being developed yet – that can be overcome. If there was a strong reason to have a hydrogen infrastructure, then I think it would be set up, but with this disastrous well-to-wheel relationship, it doesn’t just make sense.”

Autocar, hat tip to sven!

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92 responses to "Jaguar i-Pace EV Designer: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Are “Complete Nonsense”"

  1. Steve says:

    Lukewarm? I wouldn’t even describe it that optimistically.

    The reception to fuel-cell vehicles is quite obviously disastrous and fatal to the technology.

    1. John says:

      I still think Fuel Cells will have their place. Think cruise ships, construction sites, etc.

      But, for the consumer vehicle market, BEV is simply the way to go.

      1. John M says:

        Why do you think cruise ship companies would want something so inefficient?

        1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

          Ask Royal Caribbean Cruises. Fuel cells will power Royal Caribbean ships in the near futute, but they will be using liquified natural gas rather than hydrogen.

        2. bogdan says:

          Think about charging the battery of an ocean liner…. :-)))
          Filling it up with H2 makes sense, no question about that.
          Take a look at the german submarine Typ U 212 A. It still has a diesel generator though, so we’re not there yet.

      2. Nix says:

        In a cruise ship, space is money. Anything that isn’t a cabin or an amenity is losing them money. Anything that increases fueling time costs them money.

        Fuel density and high delivery rate is a high priority. Both are a strike against both electric and H2 drivetrains. Add in the fact that there are no emissions requirement for international waters, and it is highly unlikely that we will see H2 fuel cells replacing liquid fuels for a cruise ship any time soon.

        1. SJC says:

          SOFCs can take preformed liquid fuel, with an afterburner turbine they can get 70% efficiency. Never say never.

          1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

            Bingo! It’s already a done deal, but the SOFC will run on natural gas instead of a preformed liquid fuel (and will carry/store the fuel as LNG). See my comment above about Royal Caribbean Cruises plans to buy and run fuel cell ships.

            1. SJC says:

              I agree, LNG is more likely. I was responding to those absolute statements about liquid fuel and how fuel cells would NEVER work.

        2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Nix said:

          “…it is highly unlikely that we will see H2 fuel cells replacing liquid fuels for a cruise ship any time soon.”

          Right. Switching to pressurized (or even liquified) H2 fuel would require far more interior space for the ship’s fuel tanks than for diesel fuel, not to mention the danger of constant leaking from hydrogen storage inside the confined space of a ship.

          But there might be a case to be made for switching to electric drive powered by fuel cells using H2 from an onboard reformer. Scaling that up might well be much more efficient in a large ship than in an automobile, due to economy of scale.

          And using fuel cells plus a reformer, they wouldn’t necessarily have to use diesel. Using natural gas (or methane) would be less polluting, and quite possibly cheaper than diesel, even if they had to carry more of it to go the same distance.

    2. SJC says:

      Jaguar says this because they have NO fuel cell technology, they were too busy going broke.
      GM/Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Mercedes all have fuel cell technology because they invested in it.

      1. Mikael says:

        Tata has both a fuel cell buses and a small fuel cell car.

        Jaguar is saying this because hydrogen fuel cells are complete nonsense.

        1. SJC says:

          Tata owns Jaguar now, but fuel cells are a long term investment that Jaguar did not make.
          I have heard no announcement that Tata would put one of their fuel cells in a Jaguar.

  2. SparkEV says:

    All those negatives of FCEV can be overcome IF price is low enough. Then people will buy and infrastructure will pop with with invisible hand. The problem is I don’t see any way to lower the cost below gasoline any time soon, if ever. Meanwhile, BEV is cheaper for many (most?).

    Funny thing is, Musk etc. talk about energy efficiency, but no one mentions the real reason why H won’t succeed, which is cost.

    1. philip d says:

      Another area where H2 proponents like to claim is ripe for HFCVs are fleets.

      Just wait until fully autonomous fleets like city cabs start to take off. The practicality of autonomous driving with inductive charging pads at the depot will make it evident that old petrol cars or HFCVs that need to be filled up by human attendants are profits lost and a drag on resources that could be spent elsewhere. You also have to make sure H2 deliveries are on time to keep your station tanks full.

      With inductive charging you just need to make sure you pay your electric bill.

    2. speculawyer says:

      “All those negatives of FCEV can be overcome IF price is low enough.”

      Well you can say that about ANYTHING. But if wishes were horses . . . .

      Too many high cost areas with fuel cells . . . the fuel cells cost, the infrastructure cost, the hydrogen compression cost, the safety cost, the cost of making cheap reliable tanks, the cost of manufacturing hydrogen, etc.

      EVs really only have ONE cost issue . . . the cost of the batteries. Everything else isn’t much of a problem (infrastructure, motors, electricity cost, chargers, etc.)

      Both EVs and FCVs still struggle against ICE/hybrids. But EVs are now very close. In the ballpark. Fuel cells are no where close to the ballpark and don’t have a map.

      1. SparkEV says:

        You can’t say that about anything. Walking is free, bicycles are practically free, both much greener than any car. Yet people still drive cars.

        FCEV at same cost as BEV would be more painful in most cases since one would have to drive to fuel up. But longer trips might be less painful, though not less so than gasoline. Then FCV must be at least cheaper than gasoline to be competitive to make up for lack of H station inconvenience factor.

        1. KumarP says:

          An FCEV is a BEV with more stuff added, so the idea that it could ever be cheaper to produce one than a BEV is pretty silly to me.

          1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

            Ever? A 300+ mile Mirai costs less than a 300+ mile Tesla. The costly lithium-ion battery on a 300+ mile HFCV like the Mirai is a tiny faction of the size of a humongous battery on a 300+ mile BEV like the Tesla.

            1. Leaf2012 says:

              Even though they have about the same range, weight and outside dimensions it not fair to compare Mirai with Model S. Model S has about 3 or 4 times more power, can carry 5 or even 7 people and has a lot of cargo space while Mirai can only accomodate 4 people and has a tiny and unpractical cargospace due to the large H2 tanks.

              Mirai could not even be compared with the Bolt as the Bolt has more power, can accomodate 5 people, has larger cargo space and can fold down rear seats to accomodate large cargo. For practical reasons Mirai could be compared to a Mitsubishi iMiew with longer range.

              1. SparkEV says:

                Better comparison is gen1 Volt to Mirai. Ranges are similar, seats 4, sedans, long range with fill ups. But Volt is lot better in convenience since it can charge at home most times. Of course, gen2 Volt is even better.

            2. bogdan says:

              Charging-filling infrastructure makes the difference. Electricity is available everywhere and a power converter is small, cheap, u can do it at home.
              H2 filling stations are very expensive, don’t do it at home.
              The charging time issue will be no issue as pluging the car becomes a habit. And we will have inductive charging soon.

          2. SJC says:

            Instead of a 100 kWh battery you need 10 kWh and a 50 kW fuel cell. It is lighter, has longer range and can fill faster.

            1. Leaf2012 says:

              It is a myth that fuel cell cars are lighter. A small car like Mirai is almost as heavy as Model S, if you wanted to scale up Mirai to accomodate 7 people or same cargo space it would be way heavier.

              Hydrogen supporters also tend to focus on te 5 kg of hydrogen and not the 87 kg hydrogen tank, 57 kg fuel cell, the weight of the voltage booster and the battery.

              1. SJC says:

                100 kWh battery pack with thermal management can weight 1400 pounds. A 50 kW fuel cell weighs less. Toyota has a larger fuel cell, which is not needed with 10 kWh of batteries.

                1. 50kW of power from that hydrogen stack, versus many hundreds of kW from ANY Tesla car.

                  How much would that hydrogen car weigh to go from naught to 60 in… 5 seconds? 4 seconds? 3 seconds? 2 seconds?

                  1. SJC says:

                    How many of the millions of car buyers each year worldwide say they have to have 0 to 60 in 3 seconds?

              2. SJC says:

                Tesla S 4,936 lb
                Toyota Mirai 4,078 lb

                1. Model S-70D curb weight: 4,608 lbs

                  The smaller battery cars without all-wheel drive are lighter.

                  1. SJC says:

                    The statement was
                    “Mirai is almost as heavy as Model S”
                    That is not true.

        2. Kdawg says:

          Even if the fuel was free (like it is now for those few fuel cell car owners), I still would drive a BEV. I like filling up at home. I don’t want to have to drive out to a fueling station. Even if it costs me a whole 50cents/day.

          1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

            Having to drive to station (if it is not plugin hybrid with gas or hydrogen backup) once a week or so in minor inconvenience, but people are used to it. Having to waste an hour or at least half an hour in place a car demands it during long trip is complete nonsense that is not going to fly with people used to 5 minute refueling. Tesla already has problems in California when chargers supposedly can’t get enough electricity from grid (or so is excuse) at summer and are limited to some 35-50-60 kW at times. Now add couple of millions cars to the road and guess who is going to power all this nonsense, backup diesel generators?

            Minor savings on fuel taxes are not going to push balance when long range battery cost and weight demand premium price over regular hybrids, and will continue to demand premium for the next decade.
            It may still work for short distance commuting, or densely populated islands like UK or Japan, for the part of the people who have their own parking place with electricity access. The rest needs something else.

            1. SparkEV says:

              If you’re generating H from clean sources (ie, using electricity), H would be even worse for the grid since FCEV are less efficient than BEV. Only way to make H work is to reform gas, but even that’s iffy with regard to cost.

              What H needs is as yet unknown discovery to bring the price down, which may or may not happen. Meanwhile, BEV is chugging along quite well with problems and potential solutions well understood.

              1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

                “If you’re generating H from clean sources (ie, using electricity), H would be even worse for the grid since FCEV are less efficient than BEV.”

                Hydrogen generation is not worse for the grid, as it can adopt to electricity availability. Hydrogen is not just fuel, it acts as huge and very cheap battery. Battery cars can schedule charging at some time at night at best, i.e. help with daily grid cycling, and that is all. Li Ion is just too expensive for now and probably next decade.

                “Only way to make H work is to reform gas, but even that’s iffy with regard to cost.”

                Steam reforming is more efficient and cleaner process compared to natural gas burning in power plants. That is if you burn natural gas for electricity, large part of electricity worldwide is still produced burning coal, and it is not going to change quickly, even if coal share is getting slightly less.

                “What H needs is as yet unknown discovery to bring the price down, which may or may not happen.”

                Honda just announced 366 mile Clarity FC lease $369 a month for 36 months, with $2,499 due at signing. Includes 20,000 miles per year, $15,000 allowance for fuel and 3-5 minute refueling on road. How many 366 mile Teslas you can lease for $369/month including fuel and options?

                “Meanwhile, BEV is chugging along quite well with problems and potential solutions well understood.”

                It is fine and great when it works. It is just that they are not for everybody if you want everybody to drive zero tailpipe emission cars, trucks, buses and ships. Alternative solutions are needed at least in some usage cases.

            2. Nick says:

              Having to drive to a fueling station as a matter of course is old world thinking.

              It takes about a week to realize that driving to fueling stations is super lame once you start charging at home.

      2. Steve says:

        I would not say the charging infrastructure is low when fast charge station installations are running into the tens of thousands

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “Funny thing is, Musk etc. talk about energy efficiency, but no one mentions the real reason why H won’t succeed, which is cost.”

      But the cost, too high to ever be even remotely competitive with gasoline, is a direct result of the energy inefficiency. That’s what an EROI (Energy Return On Investment) analysis shows. If you have to invest far more energy in making and distributing something than you get out of it, then it’s at a severe cost disadvantage, even without taking into consideration the very high per-vehicle cost of building H2 fueling stations.

      “Hydrogen economy” advocates always talk about ways to lower the cost of generating hydrogen. They ignore the fact that most of the energy loss comes after the H2 is generated. Compressing, storing, transporting, re-storing, re-compressing at the fueling station, and dispensing H2 fuel all involve energy loss, so every step makes the EROI worse.

      All those losses are a direct result of the physical/chemical properties of hydrogen itself. That can never be changed. There’s no magic way to make a hydrogen molecule into a better fuel. If you think you can change the laws of physics that way, then why bother with H2 fuel? Just go directly to perpetual motion! It won’t be any more difficult.

      I find it very strange that these facts have not yet sunk in with people who appear to be both rational and educated. It’s pretty basic science. It’s as bad as arguing evolution or global warming aren’t real.

      1. SparkEV says:

        Even if they find some as yet undiscovered process that can generate compressed hydrogen at 90%+ efficiency, if the cost is high, that won’t work. Conversely, if they discover something that will be cheap, but only 0.1% efficient, that will work well. It doesn’t matter the efficiency. What matters most is cost.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Only 0.1% efficient, yet still cheap? I seriously doubt you can point to any real-world example of that. If it’s that inefficient, then it won’t be cheap, which was my point.

          Any source of chemical energy less than 1% efficient (at the point of use or where dispensed) is going to fail to be cost competitive. At that low an efficiency, the cost for transport and dealing with the waste is going to be quite significant. You’re also ignoring the cost to society of the pollution involved, which may not be directly measurable in dollars, but which is very real nonetheless — just look at the human cost of air pollution in large Chinese cities!

          Now, if you want to theorize some sort of small, cheap nuclear reactor that’s only 0.1% efficient, then that might work as the energy source for a car or larger vehicle, because nuclear power offers the potential for orders of magnitude more energy available than with chemical energy. Two or three orders of magnitude increase in available power would in theory offset an abysmal 0.1 energy efficiency. Perhaps a small nuclear reactor that doesn’t require heavy shielding. Perhaps something like this:

          I think that using nuclear power would be the only real-world exception to the rule that massive inefficiency equals inability to compete on cost.

        2. zzzzzzzzzz says:

          Efficiency of cherry picked part of energy conversion chain is straw man argument. Cost is what matters, it accounts for much more than simplistic efficiency numbers. Hydrogen production only cost is below $2/kg now, and it is storable form of energy, not “use it or loose it” peak of PV panel at noon. It is just unreasonable to assume that H2 price at pump will not get closer to production cost when it is done at scale. All these “expensive compression issues” are complete nonsense.

          1. SparkEV says:

            I’ll believe it when I see it. My rough back of the napkin calculation shows H for FCEV has the potential to be about $5/kg (about double gasoline), but that’s if the demand is like today’s gasoline where everyone buys H. Calculation is aymptotic in that building cost, etc. are amortized away to zero (only possible with HUGE volume).

            There’s no hope for H when interest / opportunity cost of H station will make H far more expensive than gasoline for decades to come even if H itself is practically free, and that’s assuming people buy FCEV like they do gasoline cars. People simply won’t buy FCEV and pay 3X or 4X gasoline for decades, not even a day. Companies won’t spend money to build something that won’t be profitable for decades, if ever.

            1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

              “My rough back of the napkin calculation shows H for FCEV has the potential to be about $5/kg”

              There are plenty studies with more accurate than “back of the napkin” calculations with more details and factors accounted, although it is hard to foresee at the moment how everything will evolve.
              And yes, companies are building and investing billions, so they do expect to get something from it. Don’t tell me it is just for some “credits” or that everybody at these companies is more stupid than average EV blog genius. You don’t get much credits for few thousand cars and eventually you need to sell on your own at profit to recoup invested R&D billions.

    4. Peter says:

      “All those negatives of FCEV can be overcome IF price is low enough.”

      No, you still can’t overcome the poor efficiency of FCVs, that doesn’t change if the prices drop. And that’s Jaguar’s design director Wolfgang Ziebart main reason for why FCVs are “complete nonsense”.

      1. SparkEV says:

        Suppose H is so cheap that it cost just pennies to drive million miles but only 1% efficient. You’re saying that won’t work, just because it’s not energy efficient? Efficiency is related to electricity for now, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be other ways that doesn’t translate to electricity. In the end, money is the only thing that matter.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          This is nothing but wishful thinking. You can’t just handwave away the costs for compressing, storing, moving, re-storing, re-compressing, and dispensing pressurize hydrogen.

          As I’ve said before, it wouldn’t matter if generating hydrogen was free, because the other costs of moving it thru the supply chain to the point of dispensing it would still be too high to compete with either electricity or gasoline.

          This is settled science, SparkEV. Arguing about it is denying that the Laws of Thermodynamics are real.

          1. SparkEV says:

            Settled science is religion. Science is never settled. That’s especially true with regard to H production and distribution. It’s like saying 640K should be enough for everyone if you think H process cannot be improved.

            You bring up thermodynamics, but if gasoline price goes to $1/gal, EV are toast even if gasoline with distribution, etc. is far less efficient. Now imagine if there’s something like oil to gasoline process that result in cheap H (coming out of volcano or permafrost?), and it doesn’t matter the efficiency. As of yet, there is no such thing, but the law of thermodynamics doesn’t say such process cannot exist.

            It’s the money issue that H needs to solve, not science.

          2. zzzzzzzzzz says:

            It is funny people talk about laws of thermodynamics like preachers about religion but are unable to say anything specific what it has to do with the subject. Show me the numbers and logical & mathematical proof if you want to talk physics. Otherwise it is plain B.S. from somebody who has no clue about physics, just like charging battery car straight from PV panel without electric grid.

            “With assumed power costs of 100 €/MWh el, (see Table 7), the total internal costs of
            hydrogen liquefaction amount to about 1.72 €/kg LH2. When the power costs are halved,
            1.38 €/kg LH2 follow. For comparison, the costs of hydrogen generation from large-scale
            steam methane reforming are currently 1.00 – 1.50 €/kg (Ref. 17). “

            1. Bill Howland says:

              Pushi has no idea what he’s talking about and only brings up “Laws of Thermodynamics” to sound important – the proof being I gave him a simple everyday LoT problem to solve and since you couldn’t WIKOPEDIA the answer, he was dead silent.

              But I question Fuel Cells requirement of an entirely new infrastructure. If the stations are $1.8 million and the compressors and driers require much maintenance – since we already have a great gasoline infrastructure that is very efficient, I have no idea why someone would want to have a totally additonal one. Who would pay for it and who would make money at it?

              If you can play a CON GAME on California’s CARB, perhaps you can get California Taxpayers to pay for all this happiness – but I would think sooner or later Californians would feel they are currently taxed enough, and object to any pie in the sky wet dream project.

              As long as it remains in Pilot stage, the costs are not too excessive.

              But a PHEV gives the best of both worlds.. PURE EV, and battery recharging most of the time, and efficient gasoline storage with economical dispensing when it is rarely needed.

  3. jimijonjack says:

    I couldn’t have said it better and couldn’t be truer….But.,I bet there is “Method to their Madness”

  4. no comment says:

    the idea that large numbers of drivers will prefer standing around for an hour for a BEV to recharge when they can refill an ICE in 5 minutes and get more range is also “complete nonsense”.

    there is a reason that automakers are considering fuel cell vehicles and it isn’t because of the nutty conspiracy theories that you see promoted on this forum at times. the reason is based on the economic reality that automakers have to make cars that people are willing to buy – and by “people” i mean a much larger customer base than ev enthusiasts.

    if you could recharge a BEV as fast as you could refill an ICEV and get similar range, nobody would be considering fuel cells. of course fuel cells are not practical *today*, but if you judged BEV technology by the technology of 25 years ago, i suppose you could have declared that BEVs were “complete nonsense”.

    1. james says:

      For the most part, I don’t stand around anywhere charging my car, and unless you take a lot of road trips, neither will you. In the 5 years I’ve been driving electric, I’ve taken one short road trip with my EV, and the other times I rented a gas car or I had to fly because almost every city in the world is too far from Phoenix to drive. And before you scoff at renting a car for a road trip, I have always rented cars for road trips to keep miles off my cars.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      You have a point, but hydrogen fuel is very nearly the worst possible candidate for an alternative fuel.

      Let’s list the attributes we’d want for an ideal fuel:

      1. Very high energy density. This enables the vehicle to carry sufficient fuel for long trips without frequent refilling, and minimizes the weight and space of fuel which must be carried.

      2. Liquid at a wide range of temperatures, below the freezing point of water and above the highest temperature at which people can live.

      3. Liquid at standard atmospheric pressure. Taken together, #1 and #2 enable use of pipelines and very simple, cheap pumps to move and dispense the fuel.

      4. Simple, cheap, low-tech material such as mild steel can be used for storage tanks for the fuel on a long-term basis.

      5. Storage is stable. The fuel can be stored long-term, for months, remaining stable, and without leaking or degradation.

      6. Can be burned without producing pollution (i.e., toxic gasses and carcinogens; not CO2).

      You will note that gasoline and diesel both have all these attributes except the last, while compressed hydrogen has none of them! People claim hydrogen fuel has property #6, but that’s false; it requires ignoring all the energy loss and pollution emitted in producing and distributing the fuel.

      * * * * *

      A quote:

      I don’t want to turn this into a debate on hydrogen fuel cells, because I just think that they’re extremely silly. There’s multiple rebuttals of it online. It’s just very difficult to make hydrogen and store it and use it in a car. Hydrogen is an energy storage mechanism, it’s not a source of energy. So you have to get that hydrogen from somewhere.

      If you get that hydrogen from water, you’re splitting H2O. Electrolysis is extremely inefficient as an energy process. If you took a solar panel and used the energy from that solar panel to just charge a battery pack directly—compared to try to split water, take the hydrogen, dump the oxygen, compress the hydrogen to an extremely high pressure—or liquefy it—and then put it in a car and run a fuel cell… it is about half the efficiency. It’s terrible.

      Why would you do that? It makes no sense. Hydrogen has very low density. It’s a pernicious molecule that likes to get all over the place. If you get hydrogen leaks from invisible gas, you can’t even tell that it’s leaking. But then it’s extremely flammable, when it does, and has an invisible flame.

      If you’re going to pick an energy storage mechanism, hydrogen is an incredibly dumb one to pick. You should just pick methane. That’s much, much easier. Or propane.

      The best case hydrogen fuel cell doesn’t run against the current case batteries. So, then, obviously, it doesn’t make sense. That will become apparent in the next few years. There’s no reason for us to have this debate. I’ve said my piece on this. It will be super-obvious as time goes by.

      — Elon Musk, January 13, 2015

      1. Scott Franco says:

        That list was always the holy grail, and it is just as much a goose chase. Physics does not support it.

        Perhaps metallic hydrogen, but that is not a liquid (please give me 5 sticks of MH).

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          The point is that for a practical fuel, you want as many of the characteristics on my list as you can get.

          Hydrogen has none of those characteristics. So why in the world would any sensible person advocate using it for anything beyond a science experiment?

          The people who are advocating it are not doing so because it can be a practical fuel. They’re doing so with the intent of promoting Big Oil’s agenda, or are “useful idiots” who have swallowed Big Oil’s propaganda.

    3. Mikael says:

      What is funny or rather sad is that you don’t even grasp (or more likely don’t want to grasp) the fundamental things about BEVs.

      What’s happening is 220+ miles BEVs with 150+ kW charging. That is the starting point for a number of manufacturers within 3 years.

      So what we are talking about are the few days of the year when people travel more than 220 miles. And during those few times of the year we are talking 15-30 minutes wait. Most people would want to eat something or at least use a restroom during such a trip, reducing the unwanted waiting time to zero or close to zero.

      Those who don’t fit into that category are few, but then there will be a nisch for some other vehicle. Possible a FCEV but more like a traditional hybrid, PHEV or EREV.

      1. no comment says:

        your view is extremely short sighted. if you drive a BEV everyday, there are going to be days in which you drive more miles than you can recover in the time that you have to recharge in a given day. if you live in a cold climate area, it is likely to happen. a lot of ev enthusiasts tend to do the math by assuming that all you do is drive to and from work, but in the real world it isn’t that simple.

        what a bigger battery does for you is to give you a buffer there are more days in which you can drive more miles than you can recover by recharging. but the buffer isn’t infinite so you are probably not going to be able to get by on home charging exclusively, which means that there are times where you will need fast charging infrastructure. those are the times when you will have to wait while the car recharges.

        a lot of stuff can influence how often you would need to use public charging, but you can see the trade off. if a person refills once a week, then public recharging would probably have to be no more than once a month assuming that the person was willing to stand around for 30 minutes or more while waiting for the car to recharge. the infrequency with which people would be using public charging raises the question of how do you make it a profitable venture?

        i understand that an ev enthusiast would gladly go for the BEV, but a for non-ev enthusiast it is probably a lot less obvious. of course, a lot of stuff could change if gasoline went back to $5/gallon…

  5. Yogurt says:

    I think the effiencies from speak for themselves…

    2017 Hyundai Ioniq 136 MPGe
    2016 Toyota Prius ECO 56 MPG
    2017 Toyota Mirai 66 MPkg

    1. Yogurt says:

      Forgot estimated annual fuel costs from site…

      2017 Hyundai Ioniq 136 MPGe fuel cost 500
      2016 Toyota Prius ECO 56 MPG fuel cost 600
      2017 Toyota Mirai 66 MPkg fuel cost 1250

      1. Jason says:

        And is making an exteremely generous assumption of $5.55/kg for hydrogen. The current going rate in CA, depending on location, is $15-20/kg.

        1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

          All FC cars leased in California and US North East soon include some $15,000 of fuel for 3 years. So you may use $0.00 instead these costs.
          After 3 years you will see somewhat more efficient FC cars and different costs.

          1. Jason says:

            In three years, CARB anticipates there to be 66 hydrogen fueling stations in CA compared to the current ~40. That level of scale will do nothing to lower the cost of hydrogen. With the main backers (i.e. Toyota, Honda, Hyundai) of hydrogen already backing off and announcing investments in BEVs, I doubt FCEV sales will increase to any substantial volume.

            1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

              CARB: “Based on the most current information, 38 stations are projected to be open in the state by the end of 2016, with all 50 currently funded stations open by the end of 2017. ”

              By 2020 they may reach 70 in California (figure 14), but automakers are not really ready for mass production of FC cars until 2020 or so. These 50-70 is enough to service existing cars or sold till 2020, there is no point to build stations in sparsely populated areas at this time. Anyway, California market may disappear and it would not matter much, there are or will open soon much more stations in Japan and Western Europe and these markets will not go away just because of US politics.

              “Backing off” is complete nonsense. None of serious automakers including Toyota ever claimed that they will produce cars with only one kind of fuel for every purpose, it is just Tesla cult with “one true path” zealotry and way of thinking. Are you going to claim that best fuel for everybody’s barbecue grill is lithium battery too? Honda is releasing FC Clarity for lease next month, 366 mile range and 5 minute refueling for $366/month & 20,000 miles/year, much better offer than Tesla can dream to be able to produce any time within many years.

  6. pjwood1 says:

    “The well to wheel relationship…a disaster.” was such a funny comment, it reminding me of an old InsideEVs and GM-Volt member, Dave G.’s reference to the following chart. It shows what we ask of electricity to first produce the hydrogen, and then power the car:

    Engineers may chime in on improving fuel cell conversion efficiency, but you can see 100kwh in, ~23kwh out, isn’t great.

    1. Just_Chris says:

      That is a great chart and it is a pretty reasonable assessment of the two technologies. I don’t think you are going to get a vast improvement or change in either technology with a fuel cell chain always being 3 to 4 times less efficient than a direct charge battery chain. Things will improve in the fuel cells favor if you have to store the renewable energy and then charge the car from the energy store, and/or if you take into account full life cycle analysis as you require less energy to make a FCEV (this last point is always controversial especially if you count the whole refueling chain) but you will always be worse off from an energy perspective with a FCEV over a BEV (unless you consider steam reforming but lets not go there). The question is why would you choose the fuel cell route and get 70% less useful energy?

      IMO, fuel cells and hydrogen are necessary when you want to get to 100% renewable fuels and 100% zero emissions at point of use. There will always be places where you can’t get enough renewable energy, there will always be situations where you can’t charge a vehicle for long periods, there will always be situations where you need to transport energy internationally across the ocean and there will always be a weight penalty for a battery pack vs hydrogen. My understanding (I am happy to be corrected) is that Norway now has a pretty extensive charging network and a reasonable choice of EV’s which cost a similar amount to an ICE after the various sales tax’s are applied – has this lead to 100% of the market switching to EV’s? for any segment? I should imagine that there are some market segments that are now above 50% but I would be surprised if there were any segments above 80% and fall off my chair if there was a single segment that was at 100%.

      In addition to the routes above, I could also see a branch coming from the fuel cell to charge the electric vehicle. Especially in nations which do not have enough renewable energy resources to produce power domestically – it is possible for Australia to produce 4 times the energy requirement for Japan from renewable energy sources without impacting any other sector (such as food production).

      There are almost no technologies in the energy space that are as efficient as a lithium ion battery. 20% end to end efficiency is actually pretty good. If you look at a solar energy to bio-fuel (ethanol, sugar cane) route, for instance, you’d get around 0.67 l/m2 of land (720 gallon per acre) or approximately 5.8 kWh per year, if you put a solar panel on that land and followed the hydrogen route proposed in the diagram you’d get 75 kWh useful energy per year per m2 (following the liquefaction route). That is roughly 13x more than the ethanol case before conversion. I guess if you want a true comparison for your chart i.e. solar energy in to useful energy out the ethanol route would probably be around 1.6% efficient (vs 21% for H2) – clearly there is more to these equations than efficiency as in ethanol case the solar panels build them selves which is handy from a cost perspective and the ethanol processing industry is normally a net energy producer (i.e. they burn the waste plant material in power stations).

      If you compare “engines”, a petrol engine is 25%, Diesel 40%, gas turbine (at this scale) 30%, fuel cell 50% including the electric motor. A solar panel is around 20-25% efficient and a wind turbine probably extracts 5-10% of the winds energy.

      The OCED has 34 years (2050) to reduce its carbon emissions by 80%, transport will have to be, pretty much, carbon neutral by then. I can’t see how we get there without BEV’s but at the same time I can’t how we get there with BEV’s only. One thing is absolutely certain is that we could be doing a lot more with BEV’s and PHEV’s today which would give us a whole lot more breathing space come 2050.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Just_Chris said:

        “There will always be places where you can’t get enough renewable energy, there will always be situations where you can’t charge a vehicle for long periods, there will always be situations where you need to transport energy internationally across the ocean and there will always be a weight penalty for a battery pack vs hydrogen.”

        That’s an argument for continuing to use ICEngines and gasoline, diesel, or natural gas. It’s not an argument in favor of using pressurized hydrogen for fuel.

        If necessary, if in the future the cost of emitting CO2 from burning natural gas is judged to be too high, then we can use electricity to generate methane, which unlike hydrogen is a practical fuel. Sure, you can’t burn it without generating pollution, but it burns considerably cleaner than gasoline, and if it’s synthetic, then it’s carbon-neutral.

        (Please don’t blame me for the oxymoron “synthetic natural gas” in the article linked above.) 🙂

        1. Just_Chris says:

          PP said:

          “That’s an argument for continuing to use ICEngines and gasoline, diesel, or natural gas.”

          Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more and that is what I want to avoid. I don’t think we should be using fossil fuels to power transport and I also think that the cost to human health of our current transport networks is appalling but I think if there isn’t an alternative then we will continue to use current technology indefinitely. If you look at tar sands, coal and shale gas there is no shortage of hydrocarbon feed stocks to keep going as we are now for many years to come.

          PP also said:

          “If necessary, if in the future the cost of emitting CO2 from burning natural gas is judged to be too high, then we can use electricity to generate methane, which unlike hydrogen is a practical fuel. Sure, you can’t burn it without generating pollution, but it burns considerably cleaner than gasoline, and if it’s synthetic, then it’s carbon-neutral.

          (Please don’t blame me for the oxymoron “synthetic natural gas” in the article linked above.) 🙂 ”

          producing a transportable vector (like natural gas) is a good idea. I would argue that NG is not a good vector with fuels that can easily be liquefied such as methanol (already a liquid) and ammonia (a liquid at 8 bar) being better options for transport (as in moving the fuel, I think an on board tank of ammonia is not a great option).

          Spark ignition and diesel engines will always produce toxic pollution but catalytic reactors will not. So if you wanted to go down this route the logical conclusion would be an electric vehicle with an on board fuel processor and fuel cell such as this one (top video):

          I don’t know why the guy needs to change gear but apart from that, its pretty good as a concept. You could essentially go 100% fossil free with this using existing technology and you would not produce much else other than CO2 and H2O in the exhaust as the fuel would be converted in a catalytic reactor before being fed to the fuel cell. I suspect the challenge would be getting the price down. You can put methanol in a ICE (which helps with the cost) but the efficiency would be lower (probably about 50%) and pollution higher than the fuel cell concept. Something like the i3 or volt drive train running on synthetic methanol is, IMO, a perfectly sensible compromise between pollution, CO2 emissions, cost and efficiency, although it would still require some home, public or work charging infrastructure to be a viable alternative due to the low efficiency of the ICE engine (synthetic fuels are expensive so you really need to be using them either in a very efficient car like the Mirai or very infrequently like in the i3 or volt). Synthetic gasoline is possible but complex to make, more polluting to use and more energy intensive so somewhat pointless as an alternative.

          Hydrogen transport, compression and storage is not as difficult or cost intensive as you make out and you won’t have any of the associated energy losses converting H2 produced from renewable energy to an energy carrier. The use of H2 in its pure form does also lead to the vehicle being much cheaper (which is why the car companies love it) and the efficiency of the vehicle being higher i.e. on an energy basis a FCEV is about 2 to 3 times as efficient as a normal ICE vehicle which is why the cost of the fuel is less critical. Incidentally it appears the plan is the oil industry will make the hydrogen (a fairly profitable business), the car companies will make the cars (again reasonably profitable) and the government will sort out the infrastructure (the part of the equation where the business case is less clear).

          I had a drive of the Mirai the other day and I have to admit the technology is pretty much ready, in terms of an energy basis it is about twice as efficient as an ICE vehicle and the fuel can be produced and transported for a similar cost per mile as conventional petrol. I can’t say that I would trade my Leaf in anytime soon as I like “filling up” at home and I have no need to pay more than 4 times as much for my fuel as I do now. I also don’t need the range which would be the only real benefit for me as I can charge at home.

          I’m happy for people to tear apart what I am suggesting but really we need a better option than the info-graphic in the article that suggests that electric vehicles are a great option for people who only drive at night.

  7. CLIVE says:

    Fool Cell.

    At least he gets it.

  8. zzzzzzzzzz says:

    I just wonder why these fanboy geniuses don’t suggest Musk to unplug all superchargers from electric grid and power them from PV panels on their roof. The picture in the article proves very clearly that it must be possible and should be very cheap. Why Musk doesn’t do it, is he bought by Big Oil now? It must be some conspiracy for sure.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      There’s my argument against home schooling.

      1. ffbj says:

        …certainly not a bad one.

      2. M Hovis says:

        We homeschooled our daughter one year waiting to get her into the proper school, but that was FUNNY Pushy! LMAO

    2. mr. M says:

      Since the picture of the PV is only like 1″ wide on my desktop the PV to recharge the car below must be really cheap.

      PV cost per m² is around 200€/m² (Europe prices, high cost because of small PV area)
      1 squareinch is like 0,0006m²

      Meaning the PV in the picure should only cost around 0,12€ or 0.13$. That is damn cheap bro… 😀

  9. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    I find it very sad that we’re still having this debate. It’s like we’re still arguing over whether steam engines can be competitive with the internal combustion engine to power a vehicle.

    The only reason this debate continues is that Big Oil persists in using propaganda and Big Lies to promote the utterly impractical idea of a “hydrogen economy”. The science is settled. It’s only the politics and the propaganda that’s not.

    “If only the world weren’t governed by the unfair and cruel laws of thermodynamics and economics, the hydrogen economy could rule the world.” — HVACman, comment at, July 8, 2015

    1. Yogurt says:

      Its not just big oil it is some goverments like US CARB and Feds under Bush and Obama and auto makers who want to slow down EVs…

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Why is CARB pushing the “hydrogen economy”?
        And why is the Japanese government pushing the “Hydrogen Highway”? Because of lobbying by organizations such as Japan’s “Hydrogen Highway” network, and the California Fuel Cell Partnership. Who funds those organizations? Big Oil (or more precisely, Big Oil & Gas).

        And yes, Big Oil propaganda has been successful in turning some genuine “green” advocates into “useful idiots” promoting the “hydrogen economy”. But it all goes back to Big Oil propaganda and lobbying.

        It’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s all right out there in the open, if you look. There’s nothing hidden about it. See the links below if you doubt it.

        1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

          Big Oil operatives are already sending black copters for you Pu-Pu ! 😉

  10. Djoni says:

    Anyone with common sense knows that.

    Obviously, not everybody has common sense.
    Hum… I’m trying to remember what happen 9 days ago.

    The earth is flat and the world is square and we are immortal, (I guess)

    1. Anon says:

      These all must be true, in the Trump-verse.

  11. From 2000:

    “In summary, the automakers have mostly forecast that they will be at full-scale commercialization by or during 2010. General Motors and Ford have gone beyond those claims to assert that they will at minimum have brought a significant number of fuel cell vehicles to the market. The makers who do not have plans to release vehicles in 2003 or receive certification from CARB are the most optimistic. In contrast, Honda and Toyota have been much more guarded with their future plans, but have accelerated their timetables this year perhaps because of competition with each other for the Japanese market. Likewise, Nissan has bumped up its initial release date by two years from 2005 to 2003 in order to compete. Perhaps competition and increased government spending like that of the EU will also speed the transition for all OEMs to full-scale commercialization.”

  12. Bill Howland says:

    Here again I find myself sticking up for PHEV’s versus Fuel Cells.

    If people don’t want to wait for a charge session to complete, or there are no public charger docking stations in the area period – there is always the hybrid gasoline vehicle which ‘recharges’ at the corner filling station just as fast as a 100% ice CAR.

    Plus many people, myself included, cut their visits to the gas station by a factor of TEN.

    That is almost unbelievable and if everyone did it then alot of oil companies and distributors would be put out of business.

    But I have no problem using them occassionally, when:

    1). I want to travel 300 miles effortlessly without stopping.
    2). I need to refuel quickly, in minutes to go the NEXT 300 miles and I need to refuel ANYWHERE, not at a few specific places.

    But again, 90% of the time I’m effectively driving a 100% electric car which I don’t care how long it takes to charge since I’m sleeping. And doing it over the midnight hours greatly improves the service utility’s efficiency and load profile such that if EVERYONE did it they’d lower the cost of electricity.

    1. terminaltrip421 says:

      how’s the weather under that there rock?

      1. Bill Howland says:

        So sorry that you missed the local consoling session at the local college, where they hand out Teddy bears or Play-dough, or ‘hugs’ for the SHOCKING Trump win.

        Maybe a local Nursery School will let you in.

  13. Ahldor says:

    I think there is an error in saying hydrogen isnt viable due to energy conversions (losses).

    Because if we will be able to use algae or some other biological source to produce hydrogen from sunlight then efficiency wont matter that much. It will only be a matter of the over all cost to produce the hydrogen that will determine its viability.

    1. Mikael says:

      Sure… but by then our flying cars will be powered by fusion.

  14. Get Real says:

    I can’t help but notice that Big Oil companies have yet to start building out H2 refueling stations.

    Gee, I wonder why since they are the primary promoters of H2 as a transport fuel that they will manufacture and sell?

    Meanwhile, PEVs and solar pv continue to rapidly drop in price and continue to advance in efficiency and other metrics.

    I for one have no intention to ever go backwards to having to buy my energy from Big Oil now that I produce my own from my roof and I will soon add a new long-range Bev and a Powerwall 2 to my system to cover night usage.

    This distributed generation is the future economically and otherwise, not horribly inefficient H2 and centralized distribution from the same rent-seekers that fight the future along with their minions here like Big Oil shill zzzzzz.

    1. Saint Elon says:

      “Dear Cult members, I love you!”

      “Your Faith Will Be Rewarded”

      p.s. Don’t forget mortgage your house and to send me more money, share price is getting dangerously low, oops, mmm, hmm, it is good time for entry or double down!

  15. Roy_H says:

    Jay Cole, this is the first time I disagree with you. You couldn’t be more wrong. FCVs are a terrible idea and you brush over the main problem, lac of infrastructure like it was just a minor problem to be solved. It will cost $trillions and what is worst is the fact that it has been pretty much accepted that this be paid for by governments. This is for the sole benefit of oil companies so they can keep customers coming to their pumps. If the oil companies want the world to buy FCVs they should pay for the infrastructure not the taxpayer.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      I think we agree…totally with you that the infrastructure (along with price realities) of the tech is the main problem.

      Perhaps, as you mention, you think I just didn’t come down hard enough in the piece?

      “The luke-warm (at best) reception for fuel cell vehicles has been mostly because of a costly starting MSRP, and the lack of a strong hydrogen refueling infrastructure limited places where the fuel cells could be sold.”

      …we make an effort to not turn every fuel cell piece into a run-off tangent on why the tech is performing so poorly.

      Primarily because that generally steers the conversation away from the article’s topic at hand.

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