Tesla Is Proving That Electric Cars Make More Sense Than Fuel-Cell Vehicles

MAR 5 2017 BY EVANNEX 112

Toyota Fuel Cel Mirai gets a refueling


Tesla CEO Elon Musk and others have spoken at great length about the reasons why hydrogen fuel cells are inferior to batteries for automotive applications, but others, particularly in Japan, do not agree. The leading proponent of fuel cells is Toyota, which has been selling the Mirai fuel cell vehicle since late 2014, and hopes to be selling 30,000 hydrogen vehicles per year by 2020. Things haven’t been going so well. This week it’s been reported that, “Toyota Motor Corp said on Wednesday it was recalling all of the roughly 2,800 zero-emission Mirai cars on the road due to problems with the output voltage generated by their fuel cell system.”

*This article comes to us courtesy of Evannex (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman.

Other Japanese automakers have also embraced hydrogen fuel cells. Honda introduced the Clarity Fuel Cell sedan in December, and Hyundai offers the Tucson Fuel Cell SUV. Lexus and Audi showed hydrogen concept cars at the recent Detroit auto show. GM and Honda recently announced a joint venture to develop next-generation fuel cell systems. The companies plan to invest $85 million in the venture, and hope to reach production in 2020.

Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

In Japan, fuel cells are seen not only as an automotive technology, but as a way to store energy for residential and industrial use as well. The ENE-FARM program had installed over 120,000 residential fuel cell units as of 2015, and the government has set a target of deploying 5.3 million by 2030. Toshiba’s H2One includes a fuel cell, an electrolysis hydrogen generator and an electric battery in a standard shipping container. It produces electricity and hot water, and can be used as a portable power source in disasters.

H2One system transported on a trailer

H2One system transported on a trailer (Image: Alternative Energies)

The city of Tokyo plans to invest $400 million in vehicle subsidies and hydrogen fueling stations in order to showcase fuel cell technology at the 2020 Olympic Games. Toyota hopes to have 100 fuel cell buses operating in the nation’s capital by then. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has become an advocate. “Hydrogen energy is an ace in the hole for energy security and measures against global warming,” Abe said in January. “Thanks to deregulation, a hydrogen society of the future is about to begin here in Japan.”

Toyota Mirai out for a spin

In the wake of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan is looking for new ways to reduce emissions and reliance on imported fuels. Currently, most hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, but the Japanese government hopes to find ways to produce it from renewable sources by 2040. The debate over fuel cells has been going on for decades. Detractors are fond of saying, “hydrogen is the fuel of the future – and always will be.” The first thing to understand is that hydrogen is not a source of energy, but a means of storing energy, an alternative to batteries. Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) are electric vehicles – they use the same electric motors and other powertrain components that Teslas and other battery electric vehicles (BEVs) do – only the energy storage medium is different.

Comparing the simplicity of electric cars with the complexity of hydrogen cars

Comparing the simplicity of electric cars with the complexity of hydrogen cars 

Fuel cell vehicles have two advantages over current BEVs: they have more range, because a full tank of hydrogen stores more energy than today’s typical EV battery; and they can be refueled quickly, like a legacy gasoline vehicle. However, the technology of automotive batteries is in its infancy, and both the range and recharging time of BEVs are steadily improving. New technologies such as automatic wireless charging and/or dynamic (on-road) wireless charging may someday make the charging issue irrelevant.

Teslas at a Supercharging station

Back in 2003, when Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning were laying their plans to create Tesla Motors, they considered many different energy storage mechanisms, including hydrogen, before deciding that batteries were the best choice. “Hydrogen is an energy carrier, not a primary fuel,” noted Tarpenning, “and unfortunately, it’s not a good energy carrier.”

Even from the beginning of the company, Tesla dismissed hydrogen in favor of battery electric vehicle technology for its Roadster

The debate continues. In 2014, Green Car Reports published a list of questions for Hyundai, Toyota, and Honda about the viability of fuel cells. To their credit, the automakers responded. In January, Business Insider attempted to address fuel cell vehicles’ advantages in range and refueling time. In the meantime, Elon Musk has explained the technical shortcomings of what he calls “fool cells” many times. As an energy storage mechanism, hydrogen is less efficient than lithium-ion batteries (to say nothing of future battery chemistries). Hydrogen is even more volatile than gasoline, so storing it and transporting it are challenging. And using it in cars would require building a network of fueling stations, whereas the electricity to charge a BEV is already available almost everywhere.

Above: Comparing the two technologies and Musk’s thoughts on hydrogen (Youtube: 5 hours ahead)

At the Automotive World News Congress in 2015, Elon said, “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,” Musk said. He went on to note the complexity of producing hydrogen. “It’s just very difficult to make hydrogen and store it and use it in a car. If you, say, took a solar panel and use that…to just charge a battery pack directly, compared to split water, take hydrogen, dump oxygen, compress hydrogen…it is about half the efficiency.”


Sources: Bloomberg, CNET, Green Car Reports, Business Insider

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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112 Comments on "Tesla Is Proving That Electric Cars Make More Sense Than Fuel-Cell Vehicles"

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“It’s about half the efficiency” is being generous. Less “efficiency” when the recalls start piling up at the Toyota Mirai repair facility! Or, when you get the pass through on actual costs of building the non existent Hydrogen Highway refueling infrastructure. The list goes on of course….

Yeah, “half” the efficiency is certainly an overstatement. Fool cell cars are about 1/3 to 1/4 as efficient, on a well-to-wheel basis, as a BEV.

And that’s not even getting into the astoundingly high per-car cost of installing hydrogen fueling stations. That alone would kill fool cell cars, if building the fueling stations and selling the fuel wasn’t highly subsidized.

It really does amaze me that people are still promoting this galactically stupid idea, even after some years of throwing millions or billions of dollars away on it.

Sometimes I just have to shake my head about how stubbornly some people will pursue an obviously unworkable endeavor.

What matters to most people is wallet efficiency. Just having done an experiment of only using public chargers (not free), I get about 60 MPGe$ when gas prices are $2.70/gal. If FCEV gets 60 miles per kg of H, and $15/kg of H, that’s almost 1/6th the money efficiency of SparkEV.

Even if you assume $7.5/kg at the pump (as Eddie Murphy would say about divorce, HALF!), that’s still 1/3 as money efficient as SparkEV. If gas prices go up (which they will), but electric prices remain stable (if I get solar), that ratio gets even worse.

Not at all to dispute your numbers, Sparky, but that’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison. The Spark EV is, if not quite a microcar, at least not much bigger than one. It’s not surprising that such a tiny EV gets better energy efficiency than the average BEV.

If someone built a fool cell car that was equally small, then its energy efficiency would be somewhat better than other fool cell cars, too. Fueling up a small fool cell car would still waste energy in a profligate manner, but not quite as bad as, say, the Toyota Mirai.

P-P, Well, you will soon get your wish, when Honda builds their BEV version of their FCV Clarity! And thay will be putting in a small battery for just 80 miles range, to make the FCV version ‘Look Better’ to continue their argument!

I’m not sure if they can make a small FCEV. Mirai and Clarity FC approach 4000 lb. There’s only so much you can save. Makes you wonder what are they stuffing in there to make it weigh so much.

But even if you assume they can make it as small as SparkEV, coming from 1/6th efficiency is not going to be anywhere near SparkEV.

Furthermore, you can look to Prius Prime as closer comparison; it’s rated for higher MPGe than SparkEV. While the real world constant speed may or may not be better than SparkEV, it will be similar. BEV of Prius size would still be about 6 times more cost efficient than similar sized Mirai.

People do not want to do the math. A recent report said Tesla would need to spend eight billion to make recharging as available in America as refueling. Well, it would be at least $1.25 Trillion to make refueling with Hydrogen as available…in California alone.

Hydrogen fuel cells are pre-obsolete technology. Obsolete before being perfected or adopted.

“Tesla would need to spend eight billion to make recharging as available in America as refueling.”

This doesn’t make sense though. 60-something of US households have a dedicated spot with a plug. While not all of these are L2 chargers they could be converted at little cost to be so.

So in the long run Tesla would only need to provide an equivalent refueling capability for around 40% of day to day driving of gas cars for those that don’t charge at home. And then the cover capacity for the average 1-2 road trips a year of 450 miles or less that the average American household takes.

This would be nowhere near the need for 100% replacement capacity of refueling. So even at 75% that would be $6 billion which is nothing when spread out over 10-20 years.

And this cost is assuming Tesla would go it alone without any other networks like CCS also adding to the total.

The same cannot be said for a hydrogen refueling network.

Eight billion dollars to replace a national automotive fueling infrastructure is nothing really. Whether it is actually six and not eight…it is far less than the astronomical price that would have to be paid for a hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

Exactly – Superchargers are far less in demand because of charging at home. And H2 stations will basically need to replace all gas stations. This makes the H2 stations even less cost efficient.

Remember 1.7 Billion was the bailout of the Auto industry alone. We should be able to actually invest at least10% of that in infrastructure and mandate that all new dwellings have at least one charging spot per unit.

I found the FCV versus battery debate to be pretty ridiculous. Everybody seems to be thinking it’s an either or scenario, when in reality both options are still just an electric car. Realistically, if FCVs become economically feasible, they will all be plugin hybrids. The round trip efficiency of a battery is much better, and therefore a battery will be used for enough range to cover high frequency driving, say 40 miles. Any additional needed range would be met with hydrogen and a fuel cell since hydrogen is much more energy dense than batteries. Fuel cells are also very light (40 lbs for one supposedly big enough to run a car). There is no free lunch, so moving around any more weight than required is in itself inefficient. Given a battery weight of over 1,000 pounds for a battery car, its pretty easy to see how plugin hybrids marrying the two technologies is the most realistic path forward.

I do think that for the next ~7-10 years PHEVs will dominate, being more than 50% of PEV market share, but then BEVs will become the majority. This is not just my own idea by the way.
By mid 2020s HPFC infrastructure will be commonplace everywhere, and batteries will be quite improved, hence the majority of EVs being BEVs then.

I also wanted to point out that the 60 kWh battery in the Chevy Bolt is 960 lbs, and in 8 years from now the watts per kg of lithium ion batteries is expected to be around double what it is now, which is around 200 wh/kg currently. So the weight will be maybe only 500-600 lbs for a 60 kWh battery. Weight is certainly not an issue, and it’s only going to get better.

My argument stands as written. 60kwh of hydrogen would only weigh around 8 pounds. Add on the fuel cell weight of say 50 pounds and you are still a fraction of the overall weight of a battery. Batteries are never going to match the energy density of a pure fuel like elemental hydrogen. Driving around the extra battery weight will make the efficiency of a battery powered car less than a comparable PHV with a fuel cell for most trips…

Sure, they won’t match, but they are plenty good enough, and will substantially improve even more.

Regarding weight, I’m not convinced you are correct from what I’ve heard and seen. As an example, the Toyota Mirai’s curb weight is 4,078 lbs, while the Chevy Bolt’s curb weight is 3,563 lbs.

Batteries over Hydrogen in cars is, “A NO BRAINER” A Child that is able to Vocalize Can attest to That!…Although , Fuel Cells will have their place in other important Power Producing Applications . May be BIG RIGS Or neighborhood power plants.Fuels will have their Day…

Set up SOFCs/SOECs to take renewable methane with solar and wind electricity.

Make electricity and heat from the SOFCs then synthesis gas from the SOFC CO2 and water with renewable electricity from wind and solar in the SOECs.

Sell the oxygen for medical and industrial use then dispense the hydrogen as LH2 for transportation of buses and trucks using fuel cell range extenders.

They’re going to make H2 from natural gas for a very long time, since Japan was using it before LNG prices halved last year (~$5/mmbtu). If they were doing it before, no way they’ll go with anything but natural gas now. Add what’s been said about inefficiency, and the CO2/mile simply climbs.

Even with a little bit of coal in the mix, the above efficiency problems likely make H2 CO2/mile worse in many cases, than an EV. The fuel is well north of $5 equivalent gasoline, while electricity is often dirt cheap.

The idea is to use renewable energy to get hydrogen, oxygen and hydrocarbon fuels.
You put the bio methane in the pipes and renewable electricity on the grid with contracts. You are just paying the price to use the grid and pipes.

If only it were that obvious. Instead, people see “but it goes farther and you can refuel faster!” and that just masks any other shortcoming of the technology. This is the entire reason that we even spent the 20th century burning gasoline instead of driving EVs to begin with, after all.

Where EVs really shine is operating costs – they’re much lower – and infrastructure, which is getting rolled out so much faster than H2 stations that it’s insane. 5 years from now, South Dakotans will look at an EV as a far better alternative to HCEVs for no other reason than because the infrastructure will already be there. I doubt H2 infrastructure will be there in 10 years, if it ever actually materializes at all, and I don’t honestly see this experiment going anywhere outside of California.

I hope FCVs will succeed in every physially possible way, because it will only spur more advancement in battery technology, especially in charging rate since that would be its biggest drawback.

I am always wondering to what extend the writer of the article understands the EV market when seeing headlines that sort of make a general statement about Japanese automakers and hydrogen.

Nissan has been selling more electric cars than anyone else in the market. So this is such a stupid headline and generalisation to make.

It just seems that Toyota is seen as a synoniem for Japan. Although Toyota is practically the only one left pushing for H2

I find it odd that this article portrays the situation as Tesla vs. hydrogen power. What does Tesla have to do with recognizing the reality of physics and the Laws of Thermodynamics? Physicists and other scientifically literate people know that trying to use compressed hydrogen to fuel a car was utterly impractical, terribly wasteful and wholly unaffordable, long before Elon Musk labeled fuel cell EVs as “fool cell” cars. For example, here’s a 2006 article from Phys.org (That’s “phys” as in “physics”) which points out that reality: https://phys.org/news/2006-12-hydrogen-economy-doesnt.html Big Oil shills and Tesla bashers keep trying to make this out to be a case of Elon Musk vs. FCEVs, as though Elon himself invented the Laws of Thermodynamics. I’m certainly a fan of Tesla, but even if that company vanished from the face of the Earth tomorrow, it wouldn’t make “fool cell” cars more practical by even one iota. * * * * * I don’t think much of using hydrogen generation for stationary energy storage, either. Throwing away half the energy just so you can store it for a few hours, or a few days, is hardly a good solution! A battery pack for stationary storage may have a… Read more »

“I don’t think much of using hydrogen generation for stationary energy storage, either. Throwing away half the energy just so you can store it for a few hours, or a few days, is hardly a good solution!”

That’s not the use case, though, at least not as I see it. It’s storing it for a few months where it might make sense. For instance, there is very little winter sun in Scotland. The competition is from nuclear or HVDC lines to sunnier locations. Personally, I’d prefer nuclear, too, but I want to be fair and present all options.

Is it practical to store compressed H2 for months? It leaks past all seals, altho perhaps not that rapidly.

I wonder what percentage of the H2 would leak out over a 30 day period. Would it be just a few percent, or would most of it escape over that time?

Type IV tanks don’t leak for practical purposes. Unlike your brain, that is all leaked from Tesla fanboyism.

You can look up on internet for leak norms, required tests and all the numbers.

Low winter sun, but high winter wind!

There really is no counter-point when one technology is clearly inferior.

Extremely stupid counterpoint:
no montion of:
* fact that while batteries are heavy FCEV powertrain isnt exactly a paperweight either
* cost difference for infrastructure needed for EVs and FCEVs
* cost difference between EVs and FCEVs (no FCEV is sold even for what is its manufacturing cost)
* cost different of “fuel” between EVs and FCEVs
* much lower efficiency of fuel cell cycle
* ability of EVs to recharge at home
* inability to place hydrogen station in built up non-industrial areas due to safety requrements for storage of high pressure hydrogen.

Using so fallacies to prove … nothing.
Musk is talking about hydrogen vs battery usage in cars. So why talking about renewable energy storage to prove FCEVs era is coming ?
That is just one example of fallacy.

“Elon Musk needn’t feel so threatened by the many attractive features of the FCEVs that are just now breaking into the mainstream automobile market, (…)”.

Many attractive features, really ?
Ranges are comparable: Toyota Mirai, 312 miles
vs Tesla Model S, 335 miles.
There is still the refueling advantage but for how many time ?

Mainstream market, really ?
When your think that the Mirai is hand made, and cost prohibitive. The Leaf is mainstream, the zoe is mainsteam, not FCEVs.

Scott Samuelsen is director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center. OK, makes thing clearer.

Using some*

There is no refueling advantage for hydrogen fool cells. There are just fifteen hydrogen fueling stations in America last I checked. All in California. To equal the 1,250 gas stations in California would be more than $1.25 Trillion dollars. Most BEV refueling is done by plugging in at home, which is WAY more convenient. But the real comparison here should be to hybrids like the Prius, which is more fuel efficient than the Mirai, costs half as much, and is a far superior car and can simply pull into any gas station. If consumers are fixated on refueling times, buy a plug-in hybrid like the Volt and you are way better off than with the Mirai.

You are right, this is a purely theoretical advantage.
It reminds me of the way Toyota chose its Mirai customers: close to a nearby H2 station.

So if battery tech in cars is in its infancy can’t the same be said for fuel cells? I don’t know which will end up being the long term solution but fuel cells seem to make a lot of sense for certain applications just like batteries seem to make more sense for certain applications right now.

I say keep going with both as one solution won’t likely solve all our needs.

BTW what is with all the spam GC awards popups I have been getting on this site lately!?!?

Yeah, pop up Spam is slamming this site. No more GC awards 4 my Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fool Cell recall vehicle.

Nope, not really. There have been prototypes for FCEVs for years and years. Looks like current BEV technology (li-ion) is younger.
But your right, let’s both technologies develop, and we will pick the best one for our usage.

“So if battery tech in cars is in its infancy can’t the same be said for fuel cells?” No. The processes of generating electricity from renewable power sources, and charging batteries are already very efficient. Even if we ignore the fact that fuel cells themselves are only about 50% energy efficient, a more significant limitation with using compressed hydrogen gas to power cars is all the energy-wasting steps required to generate the hydrogen, compress it, transport it, store it, and dispense it. The Laws of Thermodynamics impose strict limits to how efficient those processes could be, even on a theoretical basis. If I said that perpetual motion engines would someday be used to power cars, you’d immediately realize this is scientifically impossible. But it’s every bit as impossible for the EROI (Energy Return On Investment) of compressed hydrogen fuel to ever be even in the ballpark of being economically competitive with using either gasoline or electrical energy stored in batteries. The Laws of Physics and Thermodynamics impose constraints on the real world. One of those constraints is that perpetual motion engines are impossible; another is that hydrogen is nearly the most impractical, energy-wasting fuel imaginable. And energy wasting equals more… Read more »

All of you are wrong. BEVs have been around for decades, as have fuel cells. saying one of them is in their infancy while the other isn’t is flat out wrong…

Last I checked BEVs have even been around longer than FCEVs.

Toyota has an out, and I think eventually it will happen when they announce they have developed an electric car. A bev.

For quite a while I have been saying that one the reasons they doggedly stick to the party line is fear of loss of face. Also Japanese engineers a notoriously acquiescent to their superiors views. You don’t want to rock the boat.

The out for them is that they said battery technology is just not ready, clearly opposed to logic is the supposition by default that FCV technology is ready, when it is not. So then when they finally come out with a BEV they can say now batteries are good enough.

Electric vehicles are electric vehicles. They run on battery power. So called battery electric vehicles run from one charging station to the next. Fuel cell vehicles have the battery charger built in, basicly batteries store electricity, fuel cells create it. Fuel cells will rule.

What a demonstration, you fully convinced me.

Dream on. Or try mathematics.

Yes, they will rule in a a fictitious world that does not exist and probably never will.

Or a parallel universe …

Send those “fool cell” engineers back to school and thermodynamics lessons!
It is clear that the traditional auto makers don’t want to loose their technological gatekeeper position and their profits.
Only a few giants are able to produce a FCEV.
A BEV almost everyone because of its simplicity e.g. DHL.
But most of all FCEV are a big bluff: it’s the until the cows come home promise of the ICE auto maker of “clean” cars and “so keep on buying our ICE cars, as long as the FCEV are not here yet”.

I love this from the Tesla fan article above-

“Hydrogen is even more volatile than gasoline, so storing it and transporting it are challenging. And using it in cars would require building a network of fueling stations, whereas the electricity to charge a BEV is already available almost everywhere.”

If the electricity to charge the BEV is already available almost everywhere, then why all the crying and bitching about the lack of charging network? Why all the praise for the superior Tesla Supercharger Network?

Sounds like building out infrastructure to me. I personally have no dog in this fight and don’t care either way. If in five, or ten years a hydrogen fueling network magically appears and fuel cell cars are competitively priced and prove to be reliable, I will gladly trade my Bolt for a fuel cell car. My the best tech win and let the market decide.

This part of the statement: “whereas the electricity to charge a BEV is already available almost everywhere.” I think is referring to the electricity available at the home. The crying about lack of charging infrastructure is about long distance trips when away from the home charging point.
Charging infrastructure of this type is lacking in some areas, but nowhere near the lacking of number of hydrogen fueling stations.

Of course it does, but that’s disingenuous. They make it sound like BEVs are good to go with regards to their fuel supply, yet clearly they are not. Infrastructure still has to be built.

Oh, trust me, the market would decide even if a hydrogen refueling network magically appeared (which is of course the only way one will ever exist, equaling the gas fueling infrastructure in California alone would cost well over a trillion dollars).

Do you want to spend mid-level luxury car money and get a medium size car with small car interior and cargo space, bargain-basement acceleration, fuel that costs twice as much, fuel efficiency that is worse than a Prius…? Yeah, pretty much no one else does either.

To Toyota, the “market” exists for evolution to be controlled. They know exactly what they are doing, the likelihood of H2 infrastructure, the final fuel costs, the effect of the “I-Rodeo”, the pollution, the phone number of their lobbyist.

My family vacation last summer had just over 2000km of driving. Before I went, I checked charging stations near the route I planned to take. None. Infact one of the destinations didn’t even have access to grid (diesel gen).
I’m sure there were no hydrogen filling stations either.
PHEV is the only true alternative to ICE for the masses for the foreseeable future.

Great Idea! Take the front drive train of the Volt, stick it in the Prius V, add a Tesla Model S 40 kWh floor mounted battery pack and rear motor, and a 10 gallon gas tank! Result = LRPHEV. (Long Range PHEV), with about 120-150 miles on electric + 450 or so miles on gas!

Any vacation spots that people go to that are more than 450 miles away from a gas station or 150 miles from an electric plug?

I venture off the beat track quite often. Pulling my boat with my last vehicle (Ford Escape V6), there is no way I would get more than 300 miles per tank but was never at risk of running dry because the gas filling station network is very robust.
But I hate starting my vehicles for < 20 mile trips, especially in the winter. I can't imaging how dirty the exhaust is at -20.
So a PHEV with 50 miles of electric range and 300 miles of gas range (used according to the intended purpose of the vehicle) is plenty.


“you should just pick methane”.
Good point, just a few days ago saw a documentary about this technology http://www.empa.ch/web/s604/mm-co2-methanation
whereby surplus solar enenergy is used to produce hydrogen which in combination with CO2 (e.g. from biogas production) is delivering CH4 (methane).

Yup. Methane is a practical fuel; in fact, natural gas is mostly methane. So using synthetic methane as a mass transportation fuel is an idea at least worth discussing… and the idea of using compressed hydrogen as a fuel ain’t.

I don’t agree with these generalizations. If you asked in 2005 whether electric cars can become mainstream, the answer was probably not. There were problems with price, range, charging times, etc. Fast forward 10 years and they are mainstream. The point is that we don’t know where FCV technology will be 10 years from now. I have some faith in Toyota, because they were the company that developed todays dominant technology (hybrid cars). If you compare the amount of fuel saved by hybrids vs. BEVs today, it is several order of magnitude larger. So if they think they can make FCVs work, it is foolish to don’t give them the benefit of doubt.

Another factor to consider is that the claim that BEV infrastructure is cheap is shortsighted. BEVs use existing infrastructure (power grid). The power grid is a hugely expensive infrastructure. Trillions of dollars have been spent to develop and maintain electricity generation and transfer. It is already stretched to the limit. If we end up using it for significant number of electric cars, it will need trillions of dollars of investment to beef it up. It is not gonna be cheap.

While the total cost of infrastructure for full electrification would indeed be high, the fact is that a lot of electrification can happen at low cost and a lot of people can own a plug-in without any public infrastructure modification.

The electricity grid is a just-in-time system with capacity built to meet the demands of daytime use and the evening peak, with underutilized capacity at other times. As a result, a significant proportion of miles could be electrified without additional infrastructural cost. In fact, success for plug-ins would in fact almost certainly lead to _cheaper_ electricity, even taking into account any required additional investments.

HFCV requires public infrastructure that is convenient for owners. It leads to a chicken-and-egg situation.

I wonder how many miles of range a 120V x 15 Amp, self contained, H2 Catalyser/ Generator/Compressor/Pump, could provide a FCV per day, if only accessible on the Grid for 8-10 Hours per day?

That demonstrates the difference between the technologies perfectly. If you wanted an electrolyser, compressor and dispensing system at your house it would be quite possible. In terms of how many miles, you’d get about 2/3 less for the equivalent EV but you wouldn’t have to have your car connected to the wall for the entire night, you’d fill a buffer tank and then fill your car from that tank. It would take about 5-10 min to fill your car. Now I am not suggesting that is sensible. If you can plug your car in at home and charge over night why bother with a home filling system? but if you are a business running a fleet of vehicles (like buses, taxi’s or delivery vans) and you need to fill the fleet within an few hour time window FCEV’s and a fueling station makes a lot of sense. The buffer tank can fill 24/7 and you can fill vehicles in under 10 mins as and when they turn up. This would (does) make sense for fleets that don’t need the full 700 bar refill. Like a bus, for instance, which can have 180 bar tanks on the roof and still carry… Read more »
If just people who lived in Detached Houses only, currently with 2 or more cars, and commuted to work in Cities with more than 500,000 population, and drove just 20-60 miles per day during their commute, switched to BEV for said commute, and used a PHEV for any longer trips and as a supplemental EV for short trps, the Grid would be fine for all required Electric Vehicles needed today! For charging infrastructure, the predominant number of those could be carged from the 120V wall plugs such homes already have in their garages! Some might need to add 20-40 Amp EVSE to their garages! It is only when we start trying to change Single Vehicle households from straight ICE to straight BEV, that we need more than mostly 120V overnight charging, and even that is only for those with long commutes, busy post work family schedules, and who live too far from a Car Rental Business to rent an occasional car for vacation trips! Even that only needs a 240 volt line into their garage, and a stove plug, for cars like a Tesla that come with the better 240V charging cable, or anyone that can spent $395 or a… Read more »

But as solar costs fall rapidly, and stationary energy storage like the Tesla Powerwall become more affordable and store more power, the grid is strengthened and the draw from recharging EVs is minimized. Many many homeowners will switch to solar as the cost drops below their local electrical power rates.

Electric use is falling in the U.S. It’s on a downward trend and has been for years. Mainly due to more efficient devices, especially led lighting.

Never say never, when it comes to technology.

But at the same time, we can see where HFCV is right now with the underwhelming vehicles they offer now, and we can tell from the year predictions of the companies involved that they have not solved the key problems involved.

While PEV manufacturers talk about products being delivered in 2017 to 2020. HFCV manufacturers talk about mass production in 2025 without numbers.

Fool cell cars cant be charged at home.

Automatically inferior and inconvenient compared to EV’s. It’s the same sh*t as having a gas car. You have to go fill up at a station which is supported by none other than Big Oil. Nothing different nor exciting.


Actually not nearly as good as having a gas car. Less fuel efficient than a Prius, and just fifteen fueling stations in America, all of them in California. If FCEV is to replace gas cars, they will need to equal the 1,250 gas stations in California at a cost per hydrogen station of one to four million dollars. The money simply does not exist, and since buyers are not ever going to clamor for expensive heavy cars with poor acceleration, small interiors, almost no fueling infrastructure, and limited cargo space, market demand for more stations will never supply the money to build the infrastructure.

That is not necessarily the case. You can have a 7 kwh battery and charge it at home. FCVs have a battery anyway, to regulate the power between the FC and drive train, so the size of the battery can be a bit larger to minimize hydrogen consumption. You get about 20 miles that should be good enough for daily commute.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars have been the future since GM made the first one in 1966. Yes, they are slowly making progress. Heck, hybrids and EVs did not exist they would be a somewhat promising technology. But hybrids do exist, and they are superior in every way. EVs exist and they are superior in every way. EVs also are improving rapidly, and will improve far more rapidly still as multiple companies start making them in earnest.

A false analogy, and doubly suspect due to conclusions which do not coincide with fact or logic.

There are so many reasons why hydrogen fuel cells are a bad idea that it is hard to include them all in an article. Here are some more: 1) Not as fuel efficient as a good hybrid like the Prius, also costs twice as much as a Prius, performance and interior space are far worse… 2) Cost of CO2-free refueling (as opposed to fueling with cracked natural gas) is twenty four times as much as recharging an electric with renewable energy. 3) In order for refueling to actually have any advantage over electric hydrogen stations need to be as plentiful as gas stations. At a cost of one to four million dollars each, this means likely two trillion dollars, for California alone, to make this technology remotely viable. And that is being generous because each hydrogen station can only refuel a limited number of vehicles each day. The recent estimate for Tesla to equal the convenience of the gas station infrastructure is eight billion dollars. 4) Because fuel cell tanks and stacks to convert the hydrogen back into electricity take a lot of space and because you can only get so much energy from the stack these cars also need… Read more »

In the move to alternative fueled vehicles, one thing barely touched on, is the insurance scam!

Basically, if I ADD an EV to my household, the Insurance Companies Assume I am driving MORE Vehicles, when in fact, I am still just driving the same number of vehicles as if I traded in an ICE for my BEV, but they want Full Insurance on each Vehicle, as if I was driving driving 2 of them at the same time!

I suspect, that, if they upgraded their thinking to offer a plan that covered an EV Add On, for just the cost of Fire, Theft, and Damaged while Parked, and Floated the Vehicle in Motion Coverage, to the Vehicle I was In, that adding an EV would cost even less for Instance, & would attract a few more people!

Probably part of why Tesla will soon be offering lifetime insurance included with the price of the vehicle.

Yeah, for vehicle transportation it’s beating a dead horse. Now with ultra-fast charging that’s coming that supposed advantage of refueling time argument is a non-starter.

Yep, no one is going to build a Super-Hydrogen pumping network across the world.

I am a massive fan of Tesla and I think we should go as far with EV’s as we can. They are a massive part of the future but I think your comment is not a fair representation of reality. See my comments below. “1) Not as fuel efficient as a good hybrid like the Prius,” This is not true, a Mirai has the energy equivalent of a 13 liter petrol tank but the same range as a Prius. If you are talking about CO2 emissions that is dependent on where the hydrogen comes from and where the petrol comes from. What ever way you cut it, if you have to make the fuel from scratch then a FCEV will work out more efficient than a petrol vehicle. “also costs twice as much as a Prius, performance and interior space are far worse…” Volume of the hydrogen tanks is more, but the weight is a lot less so if more interior space is required then the vehicle can get bigger. Cost will come down, there are no large scale applications of fuel cells currently. This is not true for batteries or ICE’s that are mass produced for a number of… Read more »

“…the end target that is generally accepted as achievable is 6 $/kg [for dispensed H2 fuel]…”

It may be “generally accepted” by fool cell fanboys, but it certainly won’t be accepted as a target price that is even remotely possible, by anyone who is scientifically literate and has looked at the numbers involved.

You have to ignore the reality of EROI (Energy Return On Investment) very firmly indeed to come up with numbers that would allow selling compressed H2 at that price, and make a profit!


As I mentioned before FCVs already have a battery. Mirai has a 1.6 kwh battery. If you use a larger battery (5-7 kwh) with charging capability, you get about 20 miles of electric range, kinda like a hybrid. So lifetime hydrogen consumption will drop significantly. The key is to reduce the cost of fuel cell stack. Once it is done hydrogen production/consumption won’t be a deal breaker.

Yeah it will. Only if you’re not using your own money sunk into the cost of making the hydrogen, would you want LESS of it to be used. Even if the electricity is free, hydrogen is an intensive manufacturing process requiring FAR more processes than simply gathering electricity and charging batteries. If you start making the battery larger or more powerful to offset the cost of hydrogen use, then you start to defeat the purpose of going to the expense of creating the hydrogen in the first place. The simple fact of the matter is that hydrogen proponents tend to look only at the point that fuel cell cars themselves, don’t emit harmful pollutants, whereas B EV proponents tend to look at the entire fueling paradigm. The fact that currently, nearly ALL hydrogen is from dirty sources(brown coal, SMR) cost much more to make and distribute, and can be quite dangerous if mistakes are made(which we humans are won’t to do) ruffles the feathers of efficiency-minded EV advocates! Once you add the point that it starts competing with the EV infrastructure for TAX DOLLARS(largely pushed by lobbying from the fossil fuel industry) gets you into the realm of ‘OH NO… Read more »
With respect to the numbers involved. If we take the example of producing hydrogen in Australia and transporting it to Japan. It takes 54 kWh to produce 1kg of hydrogen in an electrolyser operating at 72% efficiency, the current PEM electrolyser average. If you pay 3 cents AUD per kWh – the same price as the aluminum industry pays in Australia then the cost of the energy per kg of H2 would be $1.62 AUD. The cost of an electrolyser at this scale is about $4 million AUD per MW H2 output and has an 80,0000 hr lifetime. That would add around a further $2.2 AUD to the price per kg in sunk CAPEX costs. Fully costed analysis based on the compression, liquification, boil off during transport and transport of hydrogen to filling stations carried out by Kawasaki heavy industries suggests that this process can be done for around 30 yen/Nm^3 or about $3 AUD/kg. In total this works out as $6.82 /kg AUD or roughly $5.80 /kg USD. These numbers are based on today’s technology, it is very conceivable that the efficiency of the electrolyser will increase to 50 kWh per kg, the lifetime will increase, that the cost… Read more »
You say several times that the Mirai weighs a “ton” less than a Model S. No, the lightest Model S weighs 390 lbs more than a Mirai and the heaviest is 873 lbs more. Even this is misleading since you are basically comparing a car with the interior of a compact to a car with the interior of an SUV and saying the former weighs less… If your concern is for getting a global zero emissions fleet by 2050 then the faster we abandon FCEV the better off we are. It will ALWAYS cost a lot more to make CO2 free clean hydrogen than to crack natural gas, so these cars will be essentially natural gas powered (which is the entire point, to avoid a transition to renewable energy). Even if we did legislate only CO2 free hydrogen production, we are still just wasting huge amounts of energy in the whole process for no reason and then the cars will not be remotely competitive in operating cost per mile. I understand not everyone lives where they can plug in a car. But huge numbers will simply not own a car because affordable fully autonomous electric mobility will be more convenient… Read more »

Also: ” The most pessimistic cost of hydrogen in a fully developed scenario is 15 $/kg which would be $90.”

But those are cracked natural gas prices. It costs about four times as much to make hydrogen in a CO2 free manner.

You are right on the weight it isn’t a ton in difference, it’s about half a ton. The car weight will pretty much always be less for a FCEV because fuel cells and hydrogen tank weigh less than batteries.

There is no justification that hydrogen from renewable energy will always be more expensive than from fossil fuels. That is like saying it will always be more expensive to charge an EV using fossil fuel rather than renewable energy. Its flawed because the fuel costs of renewable energy are zero.

I disagree that if you could charge a car at the same speed as you can fill a car that fuel cell technology would be obsolete. You are always going to need to be able to transport and store energy more cheaply than can be achieved with a battery.

“The car weight will pretty much always be less for a FCEV because fuel cells and hydrogen tank weigh less than batteries.”

If any of the several solid state batteries that appear to be on their way make it into EVs they could cut battery weight to a third of what it is now, making an EV a bit lighter than an FCEV with the same range. They will also recharge in around ten minutes most likely, which on a road trip no one will care is five minutes more than pumping hydrogen. On top of that, much more convenient when not on a road trip so the advantage actually will go to EVs and not FCEVs. Since their claimed refueling advantage is about all they have for a selling point…they are done.

Yet again we have a story about fuel cells and hydrogen and yet again we have the 2 parallel sets of conversation on cost and practicality. In terms of Japan and South Korea nothing much has changed. Their problem is still the same as it always will be. They have to import all of their primary energy. You cannot, even if you factor in significant improvement in batteries, import enough energy to Japan in a battery. So how to they reduce their CO2 emissions? They signed in Paris just like everyone else – how are they going to do it? They can stay with existing fossil fuels and send the CO2 to somewhere else, they could reduce energy demand and go renewable but that is a pretty big ask for a country that is already pretty efficient and imports 90%+ of its primary energy. Nuclear? not all that popular at the moment. So why hydrogen and why fuel cells? Hydrogen is the easiest and cheapest fuel to make from a renewable energy input and a fuel cell is the most efficient way to convert hydrogen to electricity. You could put the fuel cell on a dock somewhere as a large… Read more »
I have both a Honda Clarity FCV and a Tesla Model 3 reserved. I currently have a BMW i3 on lease which will expire in a few weeks. It has been a fantastic city car for my commute of 22 miles each way. The Honda will arrive about a year earlier that the Tesla. The Honda makes a realistic case for me because I live in California and the nearest hydrogen station is only two miles away from where I work, and I can fill-up once a week. The Honda Clarity makes sense for me ONLY because Honda offers a very attractive lease rate and provides all fuel for the entire duration of the lease. I will be able to use the Honda for long range travel, but currently only within the state of California. (However, Honda also offers a free luxury rental car for 21 days for longer trips outside of California). When my Tesla arrives, I will be able to travel the entire country. In spite of what most fan boys of either technology have stated, both technologies are viable now and will only improve in time. And both will probably be with us for the next fifty… Read more »

Absolutely, I could not agree more with you. I am on the same boat, and I am expecting my Honda FCV delivery in the next 2 months. With so many new Hydrogen Fuel stations coming up in CA in 2017, it looks good. I always rent on road trips so owning an FCV or EV does not affect me there. Knowing Tesla, I am not holding my breath for the Model 3, Honda will probably have 1 or 2 newer generation FCVs by then, GM will potentially have better EVs, and probably an FCV as well by 2019.

Great comment!

Actually, it is one or the other, not both.

If there’s FCEV and H breakthrough that makes FCEV more economical than equivalent BEV, that will effectively kill BEV. People vote with their wallet, and despite BEV more convenient for most use due to home charging, cheaper will win.

But based on current trend with $30K EV at 240 miles per charge and increasing, it will take a miracle breakthrough for H to compete. Subsidized H fuel might be cheap, but that’s not sustainable. Sure, anything’s possible, but it doesn’t seem likely.

A remote possibility might be H used for very high energy demand applications at far higher cost and limited scope, such as long distance trucking and construction. But even then, I don’t see why companies will opt for higher cost H instead of simply using gas (gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane, etc).

You can easily charge an FCV at home, all you need is to increase the size of the battery from the current 1.5-2 kWh to 5-7. Then for the average commuter they can charge at home for daily commute.

I fully agree. As battery costs and weight decrease, manufacturers will be able to make better decisions about the balance of hydrogen power and battery power. We currently see this in the recent proliferation of plug-in hybrid vehicles. When the economics are right, not only will we see greater range, but better performance too. Hydrogen/BEV hybrids can offer the best of both worlds. I don’t think it will be too long before the economics of manufactureability make this possible.

ACTUALLY, it isn’t one or the other. It is both technologies in the near future, as we see large investments by GM, BMW, Mercedes, as well as Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai in hydrogen technology. Right now, its anybody’s guess as to whether BEVs can recharge within five or ten minutes, and manage their weight adequately, within the next five years. Why try to shut down the discussion now? Certainly, BEVs are more efficient overall, and that plays largely into their long-term advantage. But calling out hydrogen technology in 2017 is analogous to calling out hybrid technology in 2005. Efficiency and market forces will eventually decide, but both of those are ever-changing. Certainly, the cost of hydrogen will fall over the next few years, even without subsidies. The main problem with these “free-market” analyses is that they are neither free nor pure. Just try to analyze the true cost of petroleum, without all the hidden associated costs. And try to do the same with electricity. I fully agree with Elon Musk that all energy subsidies should be eliminated; but that won’t happen in our current political climate. In the meantime, all we can do is advocate for as many alternatives to… Read more »

The key problem in all comparisons is “recent bias”. If BEVs is in it’s infancy, Fuel cell vehicles are even more so. And the advancements in fuel cell vehicles is greatly exceeding advancements in battery technology. Eventually I think both technologies will prevail for the short time though the potential for Fuel cells to overtake BEVs is inevitable. For heavy cars, trucks, buses, fuel cell cars will be an obvious choice, and the fact that energy generation and storage happens at the same time as consumption will always be the main advantage of hydrogen fuel cells.
Ironically, Musk calls his company “Tesla”. His attack on Hydrogen fuel cells cars remind me of quotes targeted once on a person with the same name:

There is no plea which will justify the use of high-tension and alternating currents, either in a scientific or a commercial sense. They are employed solely to reduce investment in copper wire and real estate. … I have always consistently opposed high-tension and alternating systems of electric lighting, not only on account of danger, but because of their general unreliability and unsuitability for any general system of distribution. – Thomas Edison.

Nothing substantive whatsoever.

If you are looking for substantive debates in the comments section, please look elsewhere. If you are sincerely interested in the technologies, do your own research.

I completely disagree with this assessment! The MAJOR hurdle to hydrogen use isn’t technology, it’s EASE OF IMPLEMENTATION and COST(especially when you start talking electrolysis) of the technology! One could wire entire blocks with charging stands or wireless pads(Don’t need to be that fast either) for the expense of ONE hydrogen fueling station. Hydrogen has ‘things’ you HAVE to do to acquire it before you ever even utilize it, in addition to having available electricity. Batteries can be utilized directly, only requiring available electricity. Therein lies the ‘rub’. Big difference once the cost are added up.

Tesla seems to be making your statement about fuel cell advancement outpacing battery development, look like simple wishful thinking. Add to that, the pace of development and implementation of large BEVs(buses, trucks, farm vehicles) versus hydrogen powered ones, and you start to get a clearer picture of where this is headed.

Yeah, cost, ease of manufacture, availability, rapid improvements and deployment, dropping price points, increasing longevity, increasing power and range and modular utilization potential far beyond just vehicular transport, all point to BATTERIES as the clear winner going foward!

Actually, the MAJOR hurdle for FCEVs is that they they suck as cars. Slow acceleration, expensive, small interiors and limited cargo space, very pricey fuel, extremely inconvenient to refuel due to basically no fueling stations existing in most of the country…

As Elon Musk says, companies bringing new technology to market need to have some compelling reason for consumers to switch. Compared to ICEs, hybrids, and EVs, FCEV is a long list of worse. Less fuel efficient and worse for the environment than two, more expensive than the other three for what you get, slower, more cramped…what are the actual selling points for cars made with this technology? That if there was a fueling infrastructure they would be slightly more convenient to drive on long trips than EVs? Not going to drive mass adoption of FCEVs.

Bring an FCEV to market that has a compelling advantage over the other three technologies and maybe it will be a niche player. But hard to see anything that FCEV is actually better at.

This whole comparison is really flogging a dead horse.

Also the comparison is based on current developments, and we don’t really know what advances will be made in the future that could change the outcome of one over the other.

Could it be that the fuel cell adherents simply refuse to accept that they made a mistake? Then they’d simply hope to cover it up by getting the government to subsidize more and more H2 infrastructure, so that they can point to it and say “See? They wouldn’t have built all of this if we were wrong.” The risk, of course, is that outside of Japan, the emperor will be seen to have no clothes, and the fuel cell cars will be ridiculed, and Toyota and Honda will suffer financially.

In 2010, 69% of the 49.7Mtoe used in transportation was used for cars (http://www.isi.fraunhofer.de/isi-wAssets/docs/x/de/publikationen/National-Report_Germany_November-2012.pdf), or 3.99e14Wh.

In 2010, 22.4% (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Germany) of 590TWh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Germany) of Germany electricity was from nuclear, or 1.32e14Wh.

So if/when Germany manage to replace their nuclear power plants with renewables, they will have to do it about three times over again to power their cars.
Coal and gaz power lobbies can sleep soundly for decades.
As they did in the previous decades (http://www.nytimes.com/1970/01/11/archives/coal-power-gets-assist-from-youth.html?_r=2)

Honestly, I don’t really understand how anybody can even remotely be in favor of that hydrogen nonsense. Hopefully the lack of demand will show them better.

Simple questions, not counting home charging, how long would it take to build a Hydrogen infrastructure equal to the size of the electrical charging infrastructure?

Or which will get to 10% the size of the gasoline infrastructure first?

“Moter”?! Did Eric make the infographic in the middle of the page?

There is a rather substantial elephant in the room hiding behind the African violet in the corner. Every comment so far has overlooked this. Look up the electricity demand to run a refinery turning crude into gasoline/diesel, and then look up the electricity cost per gallon and the 20 to 55 mpg possible from that gallon. Then compare the range possible in a BEV from using that same electricity to charge batteries directly. This almost universally overlooked metric is rather startling. Various modelling studies indicate that switching entirely from ICE based on refined crude oil to BEV would not result in more electrical capacity,and generation, but LESS, up to 10% less, when managed TOD use and other load shifting (Powerwall type storage for charging use later, et cetera) is factored in and applied. Overlooking the incredible high electricity usage of refineries is as wrong as overlooking the total pollution/energy costs of delivering hydrogen via either reforming natural gas (so not clean carbon free in the least) or ‘clean’ electrolysis of H2O using only renewable electricity–which is extremely costly in electricity use compared to charging batteries directly. 3-4 to 1 is about it., at a miles per kilowatt hour used comparison.… Read more »


the word separate is misspelled on the graphic.

How do I know that H2 is nothing more then a diversion/stalling tactic on the road to sustainable transportation?

Because as I drive around in California, there are NO, NONE, ZILCH H2 station being built by the Big Oil companies.

All the stations are being built by California subsides to companies like the corrupt First Element company:


Insideevs level is dropping below a tabloid with these moronic EVANNEX reposts, aimed at fanboys with intelligence of vegetable.
Don’t we already have Electrec, Telarati, etc., for people who want to worship more and think less?

Well it give a place to complain how strong your thinking is.
Oh wait, where are your thought in your comment?
BTW, vegetable are a very advance form of life if you compare them to bacteria.
Even bacteria fot that matter.

Well guess what “anonymous” or whatever existing shill, shorter, hater you are?

You can CHOOSE not to read this article!

Why the big deal about which is best – Fuel Cell vehicles or Battery powered vehicles.

We have a current mass transport system with two very different propulsion systems; they may both be based on internal combustion engines but one runs on petrol and the other on diesel.

We certainly need the development of both Fuel Cell and Battery driven vehicles so as to drive competition amongst the respective Technology developers and that may continue for decades and will give us the best sp;ution to meet our individual needs.

It concerns me greatly that Mr Musk is trying very hard to undermine that competition at this very early stage of the process. Is he already just scared that the competition is too much for him!!

Personally I have huge admiration for Toyota as a developer of vehicles of all types be they petrol, diesel, hybrid, Battery or Hydrogen Fuel Cells…I also have huge admiration for Tesla in bringing serious competition to the old petrol heads and and moving the game forward. I look forward to the way the industry develops.

I assure you Mr Thomas, that Mr Musk has absolutely NO intention of undermining competition! In fact he welcomes clean technology competition! It is why he is trying so hard to show that electric cars are BETTER cars.

If you’ll notice, he often speaks of things in terms of how efficient they are. In other words he’s an efficiency proponent. He’s critical of fuel cell technology, not because he’s afraid of competition, but because the technology has such LOUSY efficiency as an electric vehicle. In fact the efficiency is SO bad in some cases, that you may become ‘upside down’ in your energy use!

Meaning, you wind up using more energy just to GET your fuel, than you actually GET FROM the fuel itself! NOT a good spot to be in from an efficiency standpoint. Especially where taxpayer money may be involved.
Although, those creating the fuel may not mind so much if you pay them more.

But again, though Elon may be extremely critical of fuel cell technology, he is NOT attempting to undermine those who attempt it.(Except by selling a much better car!)

I can’t seem to find out really how much energy is required to make a Tesla 2170 battery.
Specifically, what it its energy stored on energy invested???