What’s The Real Truth About Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles?

AUG 6 2018 BY EVANNEX 110


Most automakers have dismissed the idea of hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to battery technology. Tesla founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning considered many different alternatives to gasoline and diesel before deciding that batteries were the best choice. JB Straubel explained the technical superiority of batteries during a 2016 panel discussion. And as you’d expect, Elon Musk has been quite vocal about the issue, repeatedly describing the shortcomings of what he calls “fool cells.”

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Above: Comparing the simplicity of electric cars with the complexity of hydrogen cars (Image: InsideEVs)

We previously published a lengthy discussion of the hydrogen vs batteries debate, with links to arguments on both sides, so we’ll resist the temptation to repeat the list of objections to fuel cells here. Whatever the technical merits of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) may be, three Asian automakers – Toyota, Honda and Hyundai – have brought them into production. The first and most successful of these is Toyota’s Mirai, which has sold around 6,000 units globally since its 2014 launch.

“We’re going to shift from limited production to mass production, reduce the amount of expensive materials like platinum used in FCV components, and make the system more compact and powerful,” Yoshikazu Tanaka, Chief Engineer of the Mirai, told Reuters.

Now Reuters reports (via InsideEVs) that Toyota is planning a new generation of the Mirai (expected in the early 2020s), and also plans to expand its fuel cell offerings to additional models, including SUVs, pick-ups, commercial trucks and buses and trucks, and to increase production to build economies of scale.

The Mirai’s fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems currently use substantial amounts of expensive materials such as platinum, titanium and carbon fiber. Engineers have been successful in reducing the use of platinum, which serves as a catalyst in the 370 layered cells in the fuel cell stack. “We’ve been able to decrease the platinum loading by 10 percent to 20 percent and deliver the same performance,” said Eri Ichikawa, a fuel cell engineer at Toyota subsidiary Cataler.

The automaker has already developed FCV prototypes of small delivery vehicles and large transport trucks, based on existing vehicles. It’s currently testing fuel cells in Kenworth freight trucks in California, and Sora FC buses in Japan. A delivery truck pilot in Japan is to begin next year.

“We’re going to use as many parts from existing passenger cars and other models as possible in fuel cell trucks,” said Toyota’s Ikuo Ota. “Otherwise, we won’t see the benefits of mass production.”

Most industry observers seem to foresee an uphill battle (to be fair, the same was true when Toyota introduced the Prius in 1997). LMC Automotive predicts that FCVs will make up only 0.2 percent of global passenger car sales in 2027, compared with 11.7 percent for battery EVs. The International Energy Agency also predicts lower numbers of FCVs than plug-in vehicles through 2040.

However, according to Reuters’ sources, Toyota believes demand will grow as more countries, including China, become familiar with fuel cell technology. The company also sees FCVs as an insurance policy against a possible shortage of scarce battery materials such as cobalt.

“It will be difficult for Toyota to lower FCV production costs if it only produces the Mirai,” said Reuters’ unnamed source. “By using the FCV system in larger models, it is looking to lower costs by mass-producing and using common parts across vehicle classes.”

At the moment, Toyota is assembling Mirais by hand, a process that allows only 6.5 cars per day to be produced. The consulting firm Strategic Analysis estimates that it costs Toyota about $11,000 to produce each fuel cell stack (like the battery in a BEV, this is by far the vehicle’s most expensive part). If annual sales grow from today’s 3,000 units to 30,000 units by 2020, as Toyota predicts, that should allow the company to reduce costs to about $8,000 per stack.

Above: An inside look at hydrogen fuel cells (Youtube: Real Engineering)

Meanwhile, a temporary shortage in California has highlighted the challenges of building a hydrogen infrastructure. There are now some 33 hydrogen fueling stations around Los Angeles and San Francisco. Green Car Reports tells us that the hydrogen pumps around LA recently ran out. At one station in mid-July, drivers found a sign reading, “Be advised: Hydrogen delivery issues everywhere. Don’t take chances, top off frequently. Toyota hotline says dealers know, will comp you for rental car.”

Toyota told Green Car Reports that it has traced the problem to hydrogen provider Air Products, which “hopes to have restored regular hydrogen supply in the early days of August.”

“While the station operator works to resolve this short-term issue, we are working with our Mirai customers to help identify alternative fueling options, including as a temporary measure, opening our commercial hydrogen fueling station at the Port of Long Beach,” Toyota told GCR.

A new video from Real Engineering explains the process of producing and delivering hydrogen in a technical but easy-to-understand format.

In the US, most hydrogen is produced from methane using a technology called steam reforming. The process is extremely inefficient and produces air pollution. Considering that it also uses fossil fuel as a feedstock, producing hydrogen in this way more than negates the environmental benefits of FCVs.

A much greener (though even less efficient) method is electrolysis, which uses an electric current to separate hydrogen from water. Traditional electrolysis has an efficiency of around 70%, whereas a newer technology called proton exchange membrane electrolysis can reach 80%. By contrast, batteries have a charging efficiency of around 99%.

The transport and storage of hydrogen costs about 13% of the energy in the best-case scenario. By contrast, BEVs only have to contend with grid losses, which average around 5% in the US.

Once it’s in the vehicle, hydrogen has an efficiency of around 60% – much better than the dismal 20% efficiency of a gas or diesel engine, but lower than the 75% for a BEV.

So FCVs are less efficient than BEVs at every stage of the process: generating hydrogen; transportation and storage; and converting it back to energy in the vehicle. Considering all these steps together, in the best-case scenario, hydrogen is about half as efficient as battery technology. However, comparing the real-world costs of fuel, Real Engineering found that driving a Tesla Model 3 costs between 2 and 2.4 cents per kilometer, whereas the hydrogen to power a Toyota Mirai costs 17.7 cents per kilometer.

The relative inefficiency of hydrogen as an energy storage medium was enough to dismiss it as a viable solution for Tesla’s founders (and for most other EV-makers). However, in the real world of business and government, decisions are seldom made on scientific grounds. Automakers have convinced government policy-makers to support hydrogen vehicles by touting their advantages to the consumer – longer range and faster refueling times. However, these advantages will eventually disappear as battery technology improves, and with a variety of new 200-mile EVs, and 350 kW DC fast charging, in the pipeline, they’re already dwindling.

Above: Range and charging speeds are all improving — especially at companies like Tesla (Image: InsideEVs)

The advantages of hydrogen to Big Auto and Big Oil are the real reasons why the technology is likely to be with us for some time. Simply replacing gasoline with hydrogen would keep motorists tethered to a corporate-controlled network of fuel stations, and keep the existing top-down, centrally controlled energy system in place. And, while electrolysis powered by renewable energy is the greenest way to store energy in hydrogen, the easiest and cheapest way to do so is to make it from natural gas – and that’s music to the ears of the fossil fuel industry.


Written by: Charles Morris

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

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110 Comments on "What’s The Real Truth About Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles?"

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It’s just really hard to make HFCV economics work. For example: Mirai gets the same mileage from a kilo of hydrogen as a similar sized advanced ICE vehicle like Prius gets from a gallon of gas but since hydrogen retails at $16/kg it’s like driving a Prius on $16/gallon gas. Good luck finding a market for that.

Same for Toyota’s HFCV truck that gets 6 miles out of a kilo of hydrogen, about the same miles a heavy diesel truck runs a gallon of diesel. At $16/kg that’s not even remotely competitive.

So what’s needed is an 80% cost reduction of distributed hydrogen to be at least cost competitive with gasoline/diesel but it still wouldn’t beat the energy cost of BEVs.

The initial “benefit” of hydrogen was as a long term green-wash fuel. Where you should SHUT Up GreenPeace with the bogus claim that it was clean. No one is fooled now, except Toyota Management and the California Air Resource Board.
So, there’s no benefit now.

Secondly, there’s no consumer demand has hydrogen has no advantage over gas or electric vehicles.

The only thing left is possibly the Japanese Oil/Fracking Mafia has Toyota Management over a barrel, with bribes and extortion.

Otherwise, Hydrogen is Dead.

I definitely agree with the sentiment that HFCVs have always been a red herring, green washing to get policy makers of the back of a highly polluting industry without any chance of actually having to change anything anytime soon.

With Tesla killing it in the ZEV market one would assume this distraction has run its course but curiously some Japanese carmakers keep the hoax alive for reasons I cannot fathom. Maybe it is the domestic natural gas lobby, it has overproduction at home and is feverishly developing new markets. Tough sell from an environmental viewpoint though, CO2 emissions from hydrogen extracted from NG are pretty high.

I really think they should at least stop burning natural gas in gas power plants and use that to make the hydrogen. But I personally think hydrogen cars are were the steam cars were at in the 1900’s were they were seen as the future but didn’t do to well when it came to repairs and fuel supply.

My brother is working on a storyline were a man visits a planet where the alien society on a desert planet uses hydrogen fuels cells for everything for fuel. The punch line is they ban solar panels and batteries to avoid the population breaking away from the central control system that brings in the hydrogen and oxygen fuels from a near by gas giant.

Natural gas is currently displacing coal as a base load generating fuel AND it also works well for peaking needs as it powers gas turbines which can come on and off quickly. It’s the lowest carbon per unit of energy of all fossil fuels (1 C atom and four H atoms). Like all fossil fuels it’s temporary (another century?) but is critical in the hoped for transition to a very low carbon electrical generating system. So NO to your first sentence.

“Natural gas is currently displacing coal as a base load generating fuel ”

In California NG has fallen from over 60% to 33% in the span of a few years. I doubt it will take 100 years for it to be phased out.

Gasbag, That is a bad statistic. All that shows is California closed their in state NG power plants and instead bought power from the surrounding states power plants that burn NG and coal just so they could say they burn less NG.

My brother in law runs the engineering department in Farmington, NM power plant. He said California used to own a large chunk of that power plant but had to divest it due to the government mandating that California has to get rid of ownership of any coal burning power plants. The sad part for Californians is that they still get the same amount of power from the plant but now they pay much more as they no longer are entitled to the owners discount.

“Gasbag, That is a bad statistic. All that shows is California closed their in state NG power plants …” Sadly your brother in-law has deceived you. While it is true we are paying more to use cleaner energy it is not being replaced by out of state coal. The stats I cited are from The CEC which is legally obliged to provide accurate information ( unlike your brother in-law) and include electricity imports. Your bro may be bent that the coal plant you refer to, San Juan Generating Station, shut down plants 2 and 3 last year. California will stop buying coal sourced electricity from SJGS in 2021 and the units 1 and 4 are slated to shutdown in 2022 which is as soon as their coal contract expires. Coal sourced electricity for Ca will decline to less than 2% next year when Navajo Generating Station shuts down and Below 0.5% in 2021 when we stop getting power from SJGS. It will be 0% (as required by law) before Jan 1 2025. The last hold out will be Inter Mountain Power’s plant in Utah. CEC’s data is available on their web site for both in-state and out of state electricity.… Read more »

Methane (1 C atom and four H atoms) is a major global warming gas, more so that CO2, so lowest carbon but truly horrible for warming.

When a fuel is continuing to be promoted that has no environmental, social or economic benefit, the only thing left is to look at Corporate Bribes of the Political system. And that’s the only reason hydrogen is still on the table.

That’s a weak argument against CH4. If it’s so awful, it’s all the more reason to find as much of it as possible to turn it into less potent GHG like CO2 by burning or do idiotic things like make H for FCEV.

In reality, CH4 is consumed by nature pretty rapidly due to it being energy dense. By contrast, CO2 stays around for decades.

Yup, CO2 sticks around until it is adsorbed by the Oceans or until it bumps into the nearest tree. Just like a glass of cola sitting on the table, if extremely low levels of CO2 are realized, the Oceans will compensate by releasing more into the atmosphere, just like a cola glass goes flat.

Yeah but Methane fueled plants do not expel Methane, so what is your point?

They shouldn’t — but according to some sources, methane leakage is unfortunately quite high in reality.

Which ‘sources’? I doubt it – even at the CIVIL WAR era Steel plant I used to work at they’d ‘light’ any leaks – converting the methane into heat, water, and CO2. Most new Natural Gas power plants are a bit more antiseptic than that.

Some homes may have very small gas leaks, but it is standard gas company policy to look at the test dial of the gas meter and see if it changes while waiting 30 minutes. In other words any ‘undetected’ leaks are a very very small fraction of 1% of the gas supplied.

And Today, Solar & Storage is cheaper than natural gas.
Also, Wind & Storage is cheaper than natural gas.
And grid battery systems have millisecond response time vs. natural gas multi-minute response times. Carbon is dead, and the corollary: Hydrogen is dead.

Natural gas peaker plants have a response time of under 10 seconds. I’m all for batteries when they finally get production ramped up. We still have a few years-decades of needing them.

Years, no doubt; decades… Let’s hope not.

This is not remotely true for 24×7 electricity. The cheap solar+ and wind+storage PPAs have very little storage, just enough to smooth out minute to minute fluctuations.

It’s also very location-dependent. Southwest for solar and Midwest for wind. New England? Not even close.

I’m no fan of fuel cell vehicles, except in certain niches, but this article and many of the comments are full of lies (e.g. 99% charging efficiency).

Everyone puts their own experience into the slant they take. People live in California and seem to believe solar is economic everywhere else, it’s not. People live in windy locations and believe wind power is available everywhere else. It’s not. A mixed energy system is what’s needed, and NG is going to be part of that mixed system for a couple of decades or more. Much better than Coal, or oil powered plants. Eventually (probably a few decades from now considering the required battery production) we can transition to fully renewable, but at the moment we at the very least need backup for renewables if Nuclear is taking the base load. The same with cars. If you only ever really use your car to commute to and from your town/city house to your town/city job then your perspective is going to be different to if you work in mining, or in remote locations, or regularly travel long distance, and realise not everyone can (or will be able to in the next few decades) have an EV because of the practicality constraints. Is HFV a good option for small town cars? No. Is HFV a good option for long range vehicles,… Read more »

Many Model 3 owners already claim that they have virtually no practically constrains for long distance travel — and with ongoing improvements to charging infrastructure and battery sizes, this is only going to get better.

For transporting energy ad hoc, if it happens only occasionally, sustainably obtained bio-fuels should do fine. If it’s needed regularly, a battery truck might quite possibly be a more economic option. Also, in many cases quick-deploy solar arrays can be an option — militaries are already eyeing these as an alternative to maintaining fuel supply lines, for example…

Having said that, there *might* be good use cases for hydrogen fuel — just not in road transportation.

They may claim, but that very much depends on where they want to go. Which goes back to the point I made in the first and third paragraph. It works for their trips so it will surely work for others…? Except it doesn’t, and is unlikely to do so for a lot of people that live in and travel more remote areas (most of Canada for example). As described in another comment, battery trucks would be significantly heavier than hydrogen tankers, increasing costs by requiring more drivers and vehicles for the same required fuel. That could easily make them uneconomic, even with current Hydrogen fuel change. Mobile solar arrays are definitely an option too, but again they have very defined usage requirements. Great if you’re in the middle east, not so great if you’re further from the equator. Do you want most of your vehicles to run on solar generated electricity and find you struggle to recharge them if you’re fighting/training in a sunny location? Obviously this could all change with massive breakthroughs in “batteries” – super capacitors and systems that have energy densities multiple times higher than we have now, but currently there’s nothing realistically on the horizon to… Read more »

No, combustion engines definitely have to go as a mainstream option — there are just not enough sustainable sources for biofuels. But for niche uses, biofuels are fine.

Hydrogen doesn’t help in remote areas, since fuelling infrastructure will be even worse there than EV charging infrastructure. And the hypothetical better ranges don’t work out in practice for typical road vehicles, as I already pointed out.

You’re confusing things here. Infrastructure for fueling will be brought in on the back of a truck, as with the fuel, in those remote locations. I’m not talking about having a permanent gas station parked out in the desert.

Currently you can drive a fuel tanker out into the middle of nowhere, then physically refuel directly from the tanker. Something like that is going to have to be available in future. With current and (nearish future) battery tech that’s just not possible without massive extra weight issues.

But your solution is basically to continue using ICE in these instances, which may well be the future if Hydrogen isn’t an option.

It’s true that with rising renewable penetration, more load shifting will be necessary. However, demand response should actually help with that quite a bit. Charging EVs preferentially during midday for example is a zero-cost option that should have quite a big impact once most cars are electric. Another fairly low-cost option is heat and cold storage. Certain industries should also provide significant capacity.

All in all, even with pessimistic assumptions, I’m pretty sure load shifting should be required for far less than a third of total energy generation. Solar with that amount of storage is already close to new fossil generators in many situations. With rapidly falling costs for solar and especially storage, it should become cheaper than new fossils in the vast majority of cases just a few years from now; and in a couple more, it should become cheaper than running *existing* fossil generators.

Actually, using natural gas to create hydrogen for a fuel cell vehicle produces *more* CO2 than burning it in a combined-cycle power plant to produce electricity for charging an EV…

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Do not of anywhere else but here in California an HFC Station with 1 or 2 “Hoses”, it cost ~$900K to 1.2Million to prop up a licensed/certified station and depending if it’s Gaseous, Liquid or onsite production can go up to $3.8Million..

If you research closely, Shell is the dominant stake holder for the newly popped up / proposed stations. They use a partnership name like “Equilon Enterprises LLC”.

The money for an HFC station could pop up a sh|tload of DCFC’s………..lol
But then again, It’s Shell’s money so they want to keep you tied to their liquid fuel.

The Truth, “You can’t handle The Truth!”


Silly Rabbit, “Fool Cells” are for Kids!

Articles like the above are disappointing, since the unstated conclusion at the end – which many BEV purists would rather ignore – is, “Anyone for whom charging is unworkable should stick with gasoline.”

If you are going to make a comparison article, the more relevant comparison is FCVs to ICEs, not to BEVs. FCVs are designed to complement BEVs and replace ICEs, while BEVs will not be able to fully replace ICE tech any time in the foreseeable future.

And finally: 2018 cost comparison is a rather underhanded attack coming from EV advocates, who should be aware that 10-15 years ago the oil industry attacked EVs using the same tactics: “Any savings you get from gasoline are going to be lost in the expense of the car and the batteries.” Of course FCVs and H2 are going to be more expensive before we invest the money to develop the tech.

While FCVs are all essentially range extended BEVs – where do you think BEVs won’t fully replace ICEVs?
The thing is that FCV tech is advancing much slower than BEV tech in terms of cost and availability – how on Earth can the catch up like that? Not saying that FCV don’t have applications but as far as I can see they simply serve R&D and fringe purposes at those levels.

Well, it’s not like hydrogen research just started last year, it’s been going on for decades, billions have been spent and both the cars and the fuel are still prohibitively expensive. Unfortunately all the research in the world can’t change the unfortunate physical properties of the highly reactive hydrogen element so any attempt to harness it will always come at a price, a price that is extremely likely to always remains much higher than alternatives like batteries.

There is hope though for those for whom home charging is not an option, after supercharging, hypercharging will be the next big thing making using public chargers that much more practical. And affordable.

Well said Chris. It’s obvious even now in 2018 that battery technology has a lot of improvements and costs reductions ahead. I would definitely expect that 200-300 kW fast charging will meet the needs of many apartment dwellers in the coming years. I’ll be watching this closely, as around 1/3rd of households in the US don’t have access to a plug where they park, and very close to 1/2 don’t in Europe.

EVs have been around since the mid-1800s, but that isn’t the same thing as consumer-mass-market-level R&D, which has mostly only been in place for the last 10-15 years; the EV innovations that predated 2000 generally apply to technologies that are not being leveraged now. So a simple statement of how long [technology] has been around for can be misleading.

Furthermore, 30 years ago the idea that we could fit a 300-mile battery into a car with the same approximate dimensions of a consumer ICE car would have been complete nonsense. The primary cost from H2 comes from generation, not storage, and the ability to generate it cheaply is something that can certainly be improved with more research.

Actually the problem with hydrogen cost isn’t so much generation, it’s distribution. H-stations are very expensive to build and maintain and have limited capacity so the exploitation cost weighs heavy on every kg of hydrogen that is dispensed. That’s why I it’s a good idea to say the cost of distributed hydrogen when discussing the hydrogen cost conundrum.

Not to mention the on-board storage cost (metal-organic frameworks in the storage tanks aren’t going to be a panacea) and just how fricking dangerous dispensing, storing, and transporting hydrogen is.

This statement is somewhere on the order of “look how dangerous EV batteries all with all the fires!” It’s fearmongering.

Are you making a statement about the safety record of FCVs? Whatever that record is, I’m sure it’s a lot better than the safety record of cars with gasoline tanks, which (just like EV batteries) is the standard we should be comparing to.

Since H2 doesn’t (necessarily) need to be pumped out of the ground and can hypothetically be generated anywhere that has water and electricity, the cost is effectively in generation. I see it as an issue of R&D on driving down the costs of H2 generation to (at least) parity with gasoline, which will necessarily become easier as oil prices rise… but the more we delay on H2 R&D, the farther off that point is.

Problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a promising path towards such cost improvements in sight. Sure, there *might* be some path that just hasn’t been found yet — but using a “might” as a pretext to hold off on more serious EV investments, is not excusable.

No one has suggested “holding off” on EV investment. It is not a zero-sum game, any more than investing in wind generation means we have to forego advances in solar panels.

It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game — but many hydrogen advocates (including Toyota for example) are trying to paint it that way.

Every effort to produce FCV car delays production of BEVs. Every H2 refueling station means that 10 fast charging stations haven`t been built. H2 fraud has to be stopped without mercy.

There`s no need to waste electricity on H2 generation if you can immediately charge battery with it.

Actually, the problem is both generation *and* storage — along with usage. And it’s *not* certain that it can be improved with more research: currently, nothing suggests that it can become competitive, without some major unexpected breakthroughs. By the time these breakthroughs might happen — if they happen at all — combustion cars will already be largely displaced by battery EVs.

It is not that battery research just started last year, it has been going on for over a century!!!

And within a decade or so autonomous driving will alleviate charge point concerns. If the car can the charge itself, you don’t have to worry much about how long it takes or how close it is to you

The first electric car was built in the early 1800’s. People had been trying to produce practical economic electric vehicles since then, with the last couple of years being the first time in over a century where finally that seems to have been achieved. I’m sure for that century or more people were saying exactly the same about BEV. With innovation and time that changed however. Batteries became smaller and lighter and eventually we got a practical vehicle – it only took 150 years. The few decades hydrogen fuel cells have been developed seems like the blink of an eye in that timescale. The additional uplift in price isn’t necessarily an issue. Perhaps it is for you, but price and practicality go hand in hand. Some entities would be happier to pay more if it meant more practicality, some don’t need that practicality and would rather pay less. Choice is key here and as Spider-Dan said, FCVs are competing against ICE, not BEV. What’s the issue to you if people have a choice between BEV and FCV when they buy their vehicle? Did you complain that people had a choice between Petrol, Diesel and LPG before more practical BEVs came… Read more »

Eh….you do realize that Model 3 LR is actually lighter than Mirai , has the same range and with supercharger support a lot more long range practicality than Mirai will have for a very long time to come, most likely for the indefinite future? I’m all for choice though, if there are people who will happily pay $16/gallon equivalent for the privilege of driving a hydrogen car than it’s great that they have that choice. Of course such people don’t actually exist, Toyota is footing the immense fuel bill and will continue to do so as long as Mirai is showered with enough ZEV credits to make it worth its while. After that it will pull the plug on hydrogen, you can bet the farm on that.

…and who knows, maybe in another 150 years or so hydrogen is where batteries are today. Of course battery tech will keep on evolving as well…

You’ve missed the point there. I’m talking about energy density, not vehicle weight. The energy density of Hydrogen at 5,000psi (including the weight of tank it’s stored in) is around 4x higher than the Model 3 battery (different to the 10x i mentioned because it comes from a different source and is measured differently). To put that in perspective a “fuel tanker” carrying hydrogen could carry at least 4x more energy than a “tanker” carrying electricity. Realistically it would be more as the tank would weigh less per unit volume of hydrogen as you get to larger volumes. To use your Model 3 and Mirai comparison. The tank and fuel (10,000 psi) to get 300 miles in the Mirai weight 85kg. the battery for the Model 3 to get 300 miles on a battery that weight 375kg. From a practicality point of view, if you need to carry more fuel with you, or if you need to refuel away from a stable electricity grid then Hydrogen is going to be a lot easier (and possibly cheaper when transportation and battery purchase requirements are considered) than BEV. For the average consumer it’s probably not worth it, but for commercial and industrial… Read more »

“The energy density of Hydrogen at 5,000psi (including the weight of tank it’s stored in) is around 4x higher than the Model 3 battery”

Does this include the whole powertrain?

– electric motor
– inverter
– big battery with TMS

– H2 fuel tank
– Fuel cell stack (with TMS and other management)
– electric motor (same size as the BEV)
– inverter (same size as the BEV)
– small/medium sized battery (probably with TMS)
– piping + fans for air-intake, piping for H2 and piping for the water byproduct
– filters for the air intake

While H2 has fairly high energy density, the full powertrain makes it loose a fair amount of it when calculated on the system level.

Could you give me a link to those calculations? I have a strong suspicion that H2 has minimal energy density advantages on the system level in a Model3 sized vehicle.

Again, that’s not particularly relevant to the point at hand. I’m discussing energy density and the ability to increase range/refuel away from a stable energy grid, rather than overall energy density of a single vehicle with a single charge/fuel load. However, discussing weight of the vehicle: I honestly don’t know what the difference in weight for each powertrain is. Presumably the powertrain (excluding fuel and tank/batteries) is more in the Fuel cell vehicles as the Mirai is 100kg heavier than the Model 3 for the same range, however (and the is the point I’ve been making), to go from 300-600 miles of range you need to add another 85kg to the Mirai, whereas you need to add another 375kg to the Model 3. If you want to refuel a vehicle away from a stable electrical grid you need to carry 375kg of extra weight to refuel the Model 3 (assuming 100% efficiency in charge), but only 85kg for the Mirai. Multiply that, for example, by a couple of dozen vehicles and this is where the benefit of Hydrogen lies. You could refuel at least four times more vehicles with the same weight (i.e. one lorry) of “fuel” with Hydrogen. How… Read more »

The fact that the Mirai could *theoretically* double its range with just 85 kg more in hydrogen tanks is not very helpful in practice, when it’s *already* rather cramped with its two or three bulky tanks, and would become impractical with another set of them…

Sure, there might be other uses where the theoretically higher energy density might actually be turned into practical advantages. It just doesn’t look like road transport is among these uses.

Say, putting it in a 4×4, or a lorry, or many other transportation systems that aren’t a small sedan. I agree though, literal road transportation (i.e. driving on graded, surfaced roads) is probably not somewhere that it could outshine EV, except perhaps in certain situations. If there’s that sort of road, there probably is some grid electric power somewhere along it.

Many of the uses I’m discussing above aren’t necessarily going to be using roads, and if they are then they may well be heavily damaged or dangerous. Hydrogen has a much more realistic chance of creating a system that can truly replace the Jerry can/tanker system used by a lot of people/organisations now. Battery (at least without that step change in tech) is just impractical to do this (due to the weight).

It’s not the same kind of “long range practicality.” The advantage of chemical fuel systems like ICE and FCV is that refueling is hundreds of times faster than charging. Ultimately, there is a need (or, very strong desire) for a fuel system with a similar usage profile to gasoline. FCVs can potentially meet that need; BEVs do not seem to be able to.

Nobody cares about the fastest speed of refueling of chemical fuel system if speed of recharging EV battery is fast enough. 150 KW charger provides 200 km of BEV range in about 10 minutes. And it doesn`t need transporting or cryo storage for electrons it uses.

Sure, batteries needed another century before new breakthroughs made them an attractive choice for road transport again; and maybe in a century, some breakthrough might turn hydrogen fuel cells into an attractive choice for road transport… I’m all for continued research on hydrogen fuel cells, and deployment in niche uses where they might be a viable choice today or in the foreseeable future — just don’t try to *force* them into road transport, which they are clearly not ready for, until and unless the required major breakthroughs happen first.

I forgot to add, I’m not at all opposed to more options. The problem is that the hydrogen option is right now being touted as an ecological one, where in truth hydrogen production right now and in the foreseeable future is not ecological at all. What’s worse, the prospect of hydrogen cars supposedly becoming viable at some point is actively being used as a talking point to derail calls for BEV investments. So it’s not just providing another option — hydrogen lobbying as done today is actively harmful.

I think this is a little disingenuous. One of the main backers of hydrogen for road transport is the Japanese Government. Japan has a relatively unique place among developed countries in that is has virtually no fossil fuel reserves and has to import almost all of it. They want to move away from fossil fuels, because it’s expensive, and hydrogen is one option for them to do so.

See this article as an example. https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/in-hydrogen-japan-sees-the-next-lng#gs.w8LdEbA

Not everyone pushing Hydrogen is doing it to preserve the natural gas industry. It actually looks like a practical option for many with a longer term view. To compete against small road going vehicles, yeah, perhaps it has a long way to go, but to compete against larger/non consumer vehicles and other modes of transport (such as ships) it may pretty much be there.

Yes, I think ships *might* be one of the niches where hydrogen makes sense… Can’t really tell though, since I don’t know how relevant energy density is in this area. (If it isn’t too important, flow batteries might be a better option.)

As for Japan… They actually aren’t expecting to switch to sustainably produced hydrogen before 2040. Until then, it will produce more CO2 than efficient combustion cars. This is not acceptable, when BEVs can completely remove emissions from road transportation way before that.

Toyota backs hydrogen. And what is good for Toyota is good for Japan, they think.

FCV have problems on every stage of H2 fuel cycle: manufacturing (costly, complex, inefficient), transporting of H2, storing, refueling, use in cars (about half of energy is lost as heat). And there is no need to try to solve them if you can simply plug your BEV in any available electric outlet.

‘“Anyone for whom charging is unworkable should stick with gasoline.”’ This is a temporary problem. Very few people with cars don’t have electricity. If society can run wires to houses, businesses, stoplights, streetlights, and parking meters, it can run wires to cars. Why develop a new more expensive infrastructure instead of running wires. Fuel cell vehicles also require going to a station and filling up to keep your car going. Who’s going to be willing to put up with that kind of inconvenience?

The benefits of Hydrogen (for me anyway) are that you can have a portable station. Currently you drive a large tanker full of hydrocarbons to a location and fill vehicles up directly from it. That’s also a possibility for hydrogen. Currently (and for the foreseeable future) that’s just not an option for BEV’s Instead, for BEV’s if there’s no energy grid nearby you need to use a portable generator (burning fossil fuels) to generate electricity to charge your vehicle. Possible applications, before people jump on it as a tiny niche (which in itself points out there is a need for it) are; exploration, mineral/resource exploitation, emergency service, aid work, military exercises and active warzones, alongside locations where the electric grid isn’t particularly strong, or stable, or uses tanked in hydrocarbons to generate it. Yes, they are niches, but together they make up a significant requirement that probably wont be able to use BEV for at least the next couple of decades. Consumer hydrogen stations are probably never going to be a success, but for industry use they may well have a future. Whether that’s portable stations for the above, or fixed stations in haulage depots or military bases. It’s that… Read more »

Unless and until we find a way to generate hydrogen in a sustainable fashion, at costs that aren’t prohibitive — which is not the case now nor in the foreseeable future — sticking with fossil fuels for these use cases is indeed a more ecological option…

Also, most if not all of the uses you described, can also work with quickly deployable solar arrays, which in most cases is more desirable than hauling any kind of fuel.

I think you’re underestimating just how much energy is needed in those types of application. We’d be talking about MWh solar installs covering acres of land, just for a week or two in some case, and that would be just for smaller camps, not including energy needed to run the living quarters. Flying/trucking in that much equipment may be an option in some instances, but in many, especially in quick/short deployment situations there’s just no chance of that happening.

Your portable station will blow your neighbourhood. And by the way how are you going to power this station without electricity?

It would actually be a lot cheaper to develop H2 refueling infrastructure than it would be to install chargers for every car parked on the street or on a surface lot. A world in which L1/L2 are still the primary charging methods is a world that’s still tethered to gasoline.

As far as who will be willing to “put up with the inconvenience” of going to a fuel station and spending 3-5 minutes to fill up their car for a few hundred miles of travel… well, literally everyone who has ever driven an ICE is well-acquainted with that model. It is the status quo.

That’s a baseless claim. Independent studies show that a hydrogen fuelling infrastructure to support all road transport would be *extremely* expensive; while ubiquitous charging at parking spaces is viable not only in theory, but in fact reality in Norway.

Are we talking about overnight charging? If so, trenching electrical new runs everywhere in the U.S. that cars are parked on the street (or in surface parking lots like apartment complexes) would be FAR more expensive than adding H2 to existing gas stations. Electrical trenchwork is incredibly expensive, ranging from $25/ft on the low end to $100/ft on the high end; even if you completely ignore the cost of the charging hardware, a single curbside EVSE installation costs over $7k. And this isn’t the type of cost that can be driven down with R&D; we’ve been trenching electrical runs in this country for over a century, and we’re pretty damned efficient at it. (The market for electricity generation at the utility level is similarly mature, so the prospect of driving down electricity costs is also not very likely.) But more importantly, in the case of H2 stations there is at least a potentially viable business model: the energy company selling the H2 pays for the station and its upkeep. In contrast, the curbside EVSE model simply doesn’t work, especially since electric utilities have shown zero interest in creating charging networks. So who is going to pay for these EVSE installations?… Read more »

Again, ubiquitous curbside charging is *already* reality in Norway — so don’t tell me it’s not realistic.

A hydrogen station costing several millions can only fill a few dozen cars a day at best. That’s hundreds of charges by the costs you claim.

You could fill many bookshelves with books and reviews and descriptions of prototypes devoted to the subject of fuel cells. When I passed on a job offer from GM’s electrochemical division in 1986, they were working on fuel cells. Hydrogen storage, the dangers of dispensing same, and the net thermodynamic inefficiency (as compared to BEV’s) make fuel cells extremely implausible. I predict that Toyota will hang in for a while and then quietly close this white elephant down about the time that Tesla or some other BEV manufacturer starts making big trucks the fuel savings for which start driving big diesels out of the market.

CNG-fueled ICE makes much more sense than carrying H2 around. Burns clean in the cylinder, byproduct isn’t water but it’s not half as bad as gasoline/diesel.

If I could design any vehicle for my own use it would have a CNG-fueled (or perhaps LPG) ICE powering the back axle with on-demand BEV motor on the front, also handling braking duties via regen.

Mitsubishi’s PHEV comes closest to this I guess, but I’d want 5X the BEV range.

FCV vs. ICE vs. PHEV is more accurate for anyone who can’t/won’t buy a pure EV.

A good PHEV is the clear winner.

If you can’t charge a BEV, a PHEV isn’t going to provide a whole lot of value. The old Plug-In Prius usage case of “buy and rarely/never plug in” is not a significant environmental gain, and ultimately just signs us up for more gasoline consumption.

If there are really use cases where neither BEVs nor PHEVs work today or in the foreseeable future (I doubt that), these are so niche that sticking with combustion engines for them is not really a problem. For such niche usage, sustainable production of biofuels is actually viable — much more viable than trying to deploy a hydrogen infrastructure just for that…

Roughly half of Americans do not have access to overnight charging, so it’s not as niche as you might think.

That’s not hard to change. It’s much easier to change than the lack of hydrogen fuelling infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is that for anyone for whom charging is unworkable, an efficient combustion car is indeed better in terms of CO2 production that a fuel cell car using hydrogen from steam methane reforming… (Though admittedly hydrogen it’s better in terms of local air pollution.)

What’s more, “unworkable charging” is mostly a red herring. Already today, most people are only *afraid* that charging wouldn’t work for them; while in truth it would often work perfectly fine — and even when not, it’s usually just somewhat of an inconvenience, rather than a deal breaker. With further improvements in battery technology and charging infrastructure, the number of people for whom charging is unworkable, will be virtually zero in a not too distant future — long before fuel cells become remotely competitive with combustion cars.

FUEL CELL RANGE EXTENDERS make sense (and cents) right now if they run on common hydrocarbon fuels such as methane, methanol, ethanol, gasoline or diesel. There are two ways to make it work; first, REFORM HYDROGEN from the hydrocarbon fuel and then use the hydrogen in a PEM FUEL CELL, or second, REFORM HYDROGEN from the hydrocarbon fuel directly in a (high temperature) SOFC (Solid Oxide Fuel Cell) which then converts the hydrogen into electricity. There are several companies working on REFORMING HYDROGEN from HYDROCARBON FUELS including Nissan (in Brazil), PowerCell Sweden, and Bloom Energy has been selling/installing it’s methane (natural gas) ‘Energy Server’ for several years. A mid-size sedan consumes an average of 20 hp (15 kW) at highway speed so a 15 kW Fuel Cell Range Extender would sustain the Li-ion batteries 3 ~ 4 times longer than an ICE Range Extender on the same amount of hydrocarbon fuel (gasoline or diesel).

Certain fuel cells can reform hydrocarbons in high temperature, but the same high temperature also means that cycling on and off is difficult, and it is required for typical automotive application, unlike for stationary plants. So you end up with low power always on ethanol FC range extender like Nissan is experimenting in Brasil. It is interesting and may find its niche, but it is not what the final solution is about. It isn’t about providing few high tech toys to enthusiasts or virtue signalers.

The final solution is make intermittent renewable energy dispatchable just like any fossil fuel, to have reliable season long energy storage just like we have now thanks to fossil fuels, and to be able to change whole economy in the long run. Not just few cars that are drop in a bucket anyway. Heating, steel production, fertilizer production, shipping, etc. Hydrogen FC cars are just one piece of the puzzle and should be judged as such.

How did you arrive at the “3 ~ 4 times” figure? Unlike a pure combustion car, a range extender can always work in optimal conditions, which supposedly gets around 40% efficiency with the best engines. The best fuel cells AFAIK get 70%. That’s not even a 2 times best case improvement…

If the gutting of the CARB regulations by Trump goes through, how fast do you think that Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai will dump FC cars completely?

Not extremely fast, they are getting some delivered in Europe and Japan and especially in the latter, they have high support, potentially even more than from CARB.

Pretty sure the ZEV mandates and fuel economy mandates are different.

Yeah, CARB should change the ZEV rules to disallow FCVs. Considering they are using methane or natural gas, doesn’t rally seem emissions free.

Not favouring FCVs (nine credits vs. four for BEVs) would be a start…

Yelp it’s a terrible tech but it’s better then gas, so I’m on board . The better tech wins

Unfortunately, it’s not even better than gas in terms of CO2… (Unless using electrolysis, which is even less competitive.)

The simple truth: FCEV will die a slow death in obscurity despite stubborn effort from Toyota. BEV will make sure the process with be a little quicker.

FCVs are a dead in the water technology with no actual benefits. EVs will soon have better range than FCVs and while EV range continues to improve, FCVs have little room for improvement as that requires higher compression.

Even in the refill rate they try to preach only work so in theory, until you find the pump running at 5k psi instead of 10k psi as seen in california. Then you end up with half the range while taking longer to fill. In comparison, EV charge speeds will continue to improve.

Here’s the real question. Environmental issues aside. Assuming you could actually make a FC vehicle cost-competitive with a gasoline vehicle (which I highly doubt) exactly how would you convince the average American consumer to buy them? besides being green they don’t really offer any benefit to the consumer. You still have to drive it to a fueling station regularly. And those stations are still going to be few and far between and the fuel very expensive.

So, to make this viable as a mass market product several miracles still have to take place:
1-Reduce the cost of the vehicles
2-Reduce the cost of fuel
3-build nationwide infrastructure
4-convince consumers to buy them over a gas car, EV, or PHEV.

So, even if one of these miracles is accomplished (like the article suggests) then you still have 3 more miracles to go.

This. Unless there is some real advantage over ICE any technology is unlikely to win. As it is, with their projected improvements FCVs will cost like a model 3, performs like a Prius and possibly pollutes more and cost per mile like a Hummer. Where do I sign up /S

In a universe where BEV batteries cost, say, $5,000.kWh, FCVs with a big push to build fueling stations “might” make sense. But in our universe they’re the automotive equivalent of 3D TVs: A solution in search of a problem.

And again, I ask: What happens when the number of FCVs on the road starts to dwindle and the companies running the refueling stations at huge cost want to shut them down, stranding motorists with no local station? The unwinding of this boondoggle will be very nasty.

You have an extra zero in there I’d say. If battery costs were stuck at 500 $/kWh, fuel cell vehicles might be more or less competitive with long-range EVs today. In a bunch of years, they might even become competitive with 200 $/kWh batteries…

Of course actual battery costs are, and will be, maybe a third of that.

I like the idea of the video but not if the guy is going to be fast and loose with the truth. Anyone who has been an EV owner for any length of time KNOWS that battery charging at times is rather inefficient – certainly not 99% as shown in this video.

My ELR which normally charges in 4 1/2 hours @ 3 kw will take 7 hours to charge if parked in the hot summer sun.

Anyone who fast charges a BOLT ev knows the air conditioner is running full tilt trying to remove heat as fast as it can.

Anyone at a Tesla Supercharger knows the car itself is racing to expel heat from itself, of course, then there is also the large amount of heat billowing from the Supercharger Corral.

All this heat is non-productive (wasted) , but spins the Revenue Meter of the Utility just the same.

Even at 99% efficiency, fast charging at 120 kW means 1.2 kW of waste. That’s a lot of heat to disperse.

The heat dispersed from the Supercharger is for generating DC at the right voltage level, which is needed both for battery charging and for electrolysis, and is accounted for in the video as “rectifier”.

That’s heat at the rate of 4,000 BTU/Hour. That is less than the smallest burner on top of my cooker in my kitchen, in other words, almost nothing. The loss from the Revenue Meter to what actually goes in the battery is more like 20kw or 68,000 btu/hour – more than enough heat to heat my whole home in the coldest weather.

Both the video and your point are nonsensical since my cars wouldn’t have to run refrigerated cooling (which works on SOLELY battery generated heat) – the ‘rectifier’ is cooled using non-refrigerated glycol and is relatively independent of the ambient temperature, which the total battery charging function is not.

But you are obviously woefully misinformed, and additionally have no ‘gut sense’ for heat levels, since if you even saw the puny amount of heat coming from a 1200 watt heater (less than a hand-held hair dryer), you wouldn’t make such an obviously silly claim.

Having walked past a 60 kW radiator, I can say with absolute confidence that supposed 20 kW waste heat during supercharging is totally absurd.

(Not even going into what that would mean for EPA efficiency ratings, which are based on power needed for recharging, rather than power coming from the battery…)

Look, admit you don’t have the foggiest idea of what you are talking about. I’ve been at a supercharger installation where the revenue meter was on the power company’s green pad transformer. A relatively new model ‘S’ was just charging and I asked the owner how fast he was charging and he said 115 kw. I turned on the ‘stopwatch’ function of my phone, and seeing as the meter multiplier was 300, and the ” Kh ” (watt-hour constant) was 1.8 (both figures clearly labeled on the meter) allowed me to calculate the draw FROM THE REVENUE METER was 135 kw. This is the rate electricity was taken from the power company, and included all facilities PAST the utility’s company transformer, since any losses from the green transformer itself are not measured, as the electric is metered PAST the transformer in this case, same as at your home. Since the “S” was the only car charging at this 8 station facility, it is the plain truth that a car which ‘seemingly’ was drawing 115 kw was drawing 135 kw from the utility. And the battery in the car itself OBVIOUSLY was not being actually charged at 115 kw, since refrigeration… Read more »

Fuecel vehicles will benefit only the natgas companies and not the oil companies.
The whole reason oil companies are supporting Fuecel vehicles is to distract and stop people from buying electric vehicles.
Once people stop buying electric vehicles, then the oil companies will start a similar campaign against Fuecel vehicles and kill them as well.

The aim of the oil companies is to keep the entire transport running on petro fuels like gasoline, diesel, kerosene.
If anyone buys FCVs, we can still support them because those vehicles run on same motors as the electric vehicles.

Recently someone wrote in a blog that vehicle can run the 1st 30 miles (50 km) on electricity and then take over on Fuecel and that is also a good concept since both the technologies share the common motor. Hope Toyota, Honda and Hyundai are listening.

Exxon is heavily invested in natural gas. They use natural gas reserves as “oil” reserves. Hydrogen’s main purpose today is to fool environmentalists into thinking it’s a “green” fuel, where it’s only green as in Profit to an Oil Company.

Time to bring back the: Hydrogen Summary of Failure Hydrogen stations make excellent explosive terrorist targets. Hydrogen stations are very expensive, cost per station: $1.5 Million, who is going to be forced to pay for this? Hydrogen stations not pumping at the 10,000 psi required, you’re only getting Half Charges! Difficult to make hydrogen and store it.   Hydrogen isn’t a source of energy, you can’t mine it, you can convert something else to hydrogen, like methane, but then you lose energy in the process.   Hydrogen from water( in a global drought? ), is extremely inefficient.   Hydrogen from methane gives you No Help with global warming, it actually makes things worse.  As methane wells typically leak like sieves Hydrogen must be supercooled and compressed to 10,000 psi to store sufficient energy, which requires lots of energy. Burning it as a fuel is less than 50% efficient. The energy to do all this could be used to directly run an EV from a battery, and get you Twice as far. Hydrogen likes to leak. Hydrogen has a general problem of metal embrittlement, so you need special tanks. – Hydrogen tanks only certified for 15 years??? Hydrogen leaks as an… Read more »

The “drought” argument is rather silly. The amounts of water needed for making hydrogen are insignificant compared to what you need to keep a place inhabitable.

Using the fuel cells in trucks is smart, reform renewable methane using contracts at point of use.

There is not enough sustainable methane to power a significant number of trucks. (Methane from dedicated crops might be “renewable”, but it’s *not* sustainable.)

Of course that’s only *one* of the reasons why fuel cell trucks are not really viable. (The enormous costs of fuel cells and hydrogen tanks being the other big one.)

Fuel cell is a great technology, with a great potential!
I just don’t get FCV, to much infrastructure must be build, BEV will win and Battery and charging infrastructure will improve for long distance travel. The problem with Toyota FCV is it cant generate Hydrogen by charging it with electricity though electrolyse , you have to refill it on the Hydrogen station every time.
If you really want to get the full potential out of Fuel Cell, make a system for the house that has the solar panel on the roof, most energy during the summer can be stored in a battery and the excess power can be converted to Hydrogen though electrolysis and stored for wintertime, even if you lose 50% energy during this conversion, it will still make sence, if you look at what the electric company pay for your electricity production.
price for this system just need to come down

I don’t think that a hydrogen generating & storing & car-filling system could be made safe enough for home usage (for average customers).

Handling hydrogen is extremely dangerous due to it being invisible and burning with no visible flame (by the time you notice the burning you may already suffer lethal burns).

It is not a coincidence that companies handling industrial gases like hydrogen need to be licensed in most developed countries and must have highly trained workforce. (This contributes to the high cost of H2 refueling stations)

Ignoring other practical issues, there is no indication that costs will ever come down sufficiently to make this viable.

Why is EVANNEX writing articles discrediting HFCVs? Why don’t they stick to their day job – selling after-market parts for Tesla?

Because FCVs are being used as a red herring to lobby against BEV adoption.

That was a really informative video. I learned a lot about the whole production/manufacturing, cost, and efficiency of hydrogen. Unfortunately, my understand was still correct that it’s just not as effective as batteries.