Lux Research: Fuel Cell Vehicles Most Costly To Fuel, EVs & PHEVs Cheapest

DEC 7 2014 BY MARK KANE 29

Toyota Mirai

Toyota Mirai

Lux Research recently shot down hydrogen fuel cell cars with pessimistic report titled “Hydrogen Under Pressure: Driving Fuel Cell Adoption Now and In the Future”.

Currently, FCVs are the most expensive of all type of powertrains analyzed and, according to Lux Research, in the near future there is no chance FCVs will be a viable option.

 “As countries around the world look to the prospect of a hydrogen economy, fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) will be first major opportunity to spearhead an effort that could eventually also include stationary energy and broad infrastructure. Automotive OEMs like Hyundai, Toyota, and Daimler are committed to bringing thousands of FCVs to market over the next few years, but until FCVs reach prices of about $30,000 and hydrogen is $3/kg, the total cost of ownership advantage will remain with conventional engines and hybrids. Although Hyundai is already giving free hydrogen to initial FCV adopters, we find this strategy will cost tens of millions of dollars even at low volumes. Interestingly, due to their aggressive cost reduction efforts on fuel cells, automotive OEMs will have an opportunity to enter stationary energy and offer financing. Finally, although OEMs and government have already invested billions, we anticipate that about $180 billion to $800 billion will be required by various individual regions to adopt a full-fledged hydrogen economy. In likely absence of such funding, shift to hydrogen will not happen before 2040, if ever.”

Strong incentives to buy FCVs and free hydrogen for early adopters should help to bring the first batch of fuel cell cars on the roads, but in the long term price must be cut by almost half from today’s Toyota Mirai $57,500 and moreover hydrogen prices must be lowered to $3 per kg.

All-electric cars, despite still too high prices for volume adoption, are on the eve of 200 miles at $35,000 (that’s what some companies promise) and come without the need to lower electricity costs or build a whole infrastructure (at least home charging is available in most cases).

Audi A7 Sportback h-tron

Audi A7 Sportback h-tron

Another problem is that manufacturers must gamble with investment in fuel cells:

“A $30,000 price point and hydrogen at $3/kg makes the FCV option less costly than both the PHEV and EV option, and approaching the cost of ownership of ICE and HEV drivetrains. However, Lux notes, this optimistic case requires a major OEM to commit to producing hundreds of thousands of units, independent of proven demand, with an EV-like $5+ billion risk (similar to Nissan-Renault or Tesla-Panasonic factories) that built huge scale first. There is no guarantee to OEMs that such a risky bet would work out, Lux cautions.”

“OEMs will enter markets cautiously, each selling only thousands of FCVs per year this decade, and deploying a total of 700,000 FCVs on the road by 2030, in an effort to meet regulations while minimizing their losses on these initially unprofitable vehicles. Why so pessimistic? Despite attempts to entice initial buyers with free hydrogen and subsidies, the long-term economics do not enable these strategies to scale to mass-market success; subsidies will eventually expire and FCV costs will remain high. This will also require some pretty remarkable infrastructure investment to go along for the ride.”

For suppliers associated with fuel cells and hydrogen, the rodeo is gearing up (similar to lithium-ion battery):

“It is the strength of partnerships (and the creativity thereof) between OEMs, infrastructure gas specialists, Tier 1 suppliers, and chemicals and materials leaders that will separate the fuel cell survivors from those that fail.”

Source: Lux Research via Green Car Congress

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29 Comments on "Lux Research: Fuel Cell Vehicles Most Costly To Fuel, EVs & PHEVs Cheapest"

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The “Purchase price via 5-year loan” (yellow bar in first graph above) for EV is same size as the $50k-FCV (two bars for FCVs with $10/kg & $6/kg).

Many EVs (LEAF included) can be purchased for under “$30k” (not bar size of the $30k-PHEV and $30-FCV).

In fact, for the $50k-EV & $50k-FCV 1-year cost of ~$10k/year an owner could purchase a use LEAF in 1.5 years vs. the 5-years shown. Used LEAFs under $15k are becoming more common in today’s market.

Many things seem wrong in this “study”

That’s not the purchase price, it’s the cost per year of ownership. The two are not the same.

But $13,000 a year in loan payments! That’s over $1,000 a month. You could finance a Model S for that. A Leaf or Volt will be in the $200-300 range. What planet do they live on?

Likely it also includes depreciation, fuel costs, insurance, and maintenance. There are a lot of assumptions baked in here, of course. The depreciation of a future EV isn’t really known.

“Likely it also includes depreciation, fuel costs, insurance, and maintenance”?!?!

You might want to check what the other two bars represent and rethink your thought on it.

The Lux research is bogus! Just like their last claim about the gigafactory being a huge risk for Tesla.

Sub 100 mile EPA range BEVs do not compete directly with FCEV.

FCV have at least 265 mile EPA range.

The Mirai cost at least $100k to manufacture but sells at $57.5k because it is being subsidized by ICEv sales.

FCEV incentives at least match BEV incentives.
The Federal tax credit for FCEV is $8k.

Do you have a source for that $100k figure?

Electric Car Guest Drive

Bogus numbers for EV TCO.

The “EVs are still too expensive” myth must be refuted.

Nine EVs are available for less than $200 per month. Consider fuel cost savings and these cars are essentially free.

there are some electric models that are over $100,000 on some that are close to $100,000. That makes the average electric car price look bad. The Nissan Leaf is below average in price. I’m not defending the entire study, just that part.

Sales of the Tesla are pretty low to effect the overall average to that point. In this year alone, approximately 41,540 EVs have been sold versus 13,800 Tesla. If Tesla sales are one-third that of lower priced EVs, then that would need to be taken into account. If not, the conclusions are suspect because the study is allowing one outlier to effect an entire conclusion.

Even more important, it doesn’t appear that the study is taking into account a minimum $7500 tax credit for most lease and purchases of EVs. This would substantially lower the overall cost of ownership below or equal to that of most gassers.

The tax credit does not lower the cost of ownership. It simply transfers that part of the cost elsewhere.

Victor, this comment of yours, if read by a uniformed but interested reader would scare them away.

How do I scare you away from making an absurd statement such as this one by you?

According to Plug In Cars Dot Com, of the current 19 available Electric Fueled Vehicle from mainstream OEM’s there are 16 for sale with MSRP’s less then $43,000 before the up to $7,500.00 Federal Tax Credit if buying and the full $7,500 Federal Tax Credit to Lender if Leasing!

Just 3 push the $100,000 or more!

Link Goes To Plug In Cars Dot Com/Cars-


Thomas J. Thias


It’s almost as absurd as you bogarting the #kickgas hashtag on Twitter for your “EREV” Chevy Volt. Just stop.

Why is the cost of maintenance on an EV anywhere close to $2,000 PER YEAR? That makes no sense.

Maintenance, insurance, license, registration is all one category.

It would still be hard to hit $2K even with all that.

My maintenance costs over 33 months with my MY 2012 Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle at 36,624 miles includes 5 tire rotations and one oil change!

This has cost me a grand total of $145.00 in maintenance in just shy of 3 years, Bout $48.50 a year!


Thomas J. Thias


Somehow, I’m guessing insurance is a bit more than that.. – Just saying, it’s the SUM of maintenance, registration and insurance – With insurance most likely being the largest of those 3..

Just curious, but since you have the maintenance numbers handy, what was your insurance this year?

To my knowledge only TESLA’s have high yearly maintenance fees. Mainly routine 12000 mile mtc (about $860 for me), and the tires that keep wearing out (about 1200 per year).

I saved alot on the tires by using extended life ones that Tesla doesn’t sell.

Most other brands of EV’s I’d think have much lower yearly mtc costs. My Volt needs little, and its mainly to service the ICE.

860 $ for maintenance each 12000 miles and 1200 $ tires?
I don’t see where there could be 860 $ spend on an almost maintenance free EV. Is that for brake pads, window washing liquid and replacement wiper or lamp? Tires are usually 600 $ for four tires that last 40000, so that is 300 $ per year. Ok a Tesla tire is larger and perhaps acceleration fun makes it wear off faster but four times as much seems to be on the high side.


Sorry gang at Inside EVs, No Twitter Publish on this study. Lux Researchs’ costs to drive, using Electric Fuel vs Gasoline, formula is flawed. Mr. Kanes comments on the cost of new Electric Fueled Vehicles is repeating the same, ‘cost to much’, mantra and will not be endorced or published by me. My real time experience of the “Net Cost to Drive” of my, MY 2012 Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle is less then $37.25 a week, Net/Net! Link Goes To Google- Search- “Volt NCD” (Last Updated Febuary 12, 2012)- GM-Volt (Since Then,Chevy Volt Lease Payment, MY 2014, Has Moved Down To $269.00 from $349.00)-!-……..What-! — I have save $200 a month in fuel, each month since March, 2012, though the recent collapse of the cost of the global barrel of oil in the last month will save me a little less for now. LOL My fuel savings now totals $6,600.00 over the last 33 months compared to my previous car, a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP. Link Goes To My Lifetime Onstar Data Page- 36,624 Robust Miles Driven- 35,512 Robust Miles Driven As EV- 97% EV 659 MPG – Miles Driven Vs Gas Used- Insane Fuel… Read more »

Cost by drive train? So not the complete car. But why include registration, licensing, and insurance since they are roughly equivalent across different vehicles?
As others pointed too maintenance and depreciation are mere estimates for fcev and
ev’s. So even fuel cost is less overall cost for and ev is more, since they cost more on average. If you are comparing true cost of a drive train then only do that the added on stuff is just razzle dazzle ’em.

“Hydrogen under pressure” – this is the real reason they made this report. They thought of a pun and felt the need to use it.


tempest in a cracked teapot

Just goes to show that if you hand pick your assumptions you can prove just about anything you want.

Something that I’ve not seen covered at all in the hype about FCEVs: –>FCEV cars will never generate the powerful, deep, strong and rapidly growing grass-roots supper that plug-ins and especially BEVs are. Why not? Because FCEVs will not, and likely will never be able to deliver the single most attractive point of plug-ins comparative, and in many cases near 100 percent fueling independence. This is the single most powerful draw for the high percentage of people with EVs and home solar, but is still a significant draw for EV owners without home solar. FCEVs promise to deliver more of the same old, same old, Big Oil morphs into Big Hydrogen. That’s not exciting — it’s revolting. And that’s why no grass-roots movement will develop around FCEVs. That grass-roots element is absolutely key to plug-ins, as it motivates people to “Kick Gas” and move to electric. There is absolutely no such motivate for people to move to FCEVs — why not just stick with gas? That’s why (along with affordable 200+ miles of pure EV range) FCEVs don’t have a chance against EVs.