Video: Motley Fool Discusses the EV Versus Hydrogen Battle


The plug-in versus hydrogen battle has reignited with Toyota and Hyundai both promising to launch fuel cell vehicles soon.

These Are the Two Who You'll Hear Discuss EVs Versus Hydrogen

These Are the Two Who You’ll Hear Discuss EVs Versus Hydrogen

Hyundai’s FCEV will hit the market ahead of Toyota’s, but both automakers attempt to make the same claims: FCEVs are the future, while EVs are the present.

We of course see EVs as the present and the future, but surely others disagree.

What does Motley Fool think of this EV versus FCEV battle?

In this video, Fool contributor Travis Hoium discusses the emerging battle. As Hoium points out, hydrogen vehicles may actually be dirtier than electric vehicles.  May actually be dirtier?  Is Hoium being too kind to FCEVs?  Shouldn’t he say that FCEVs are dirtier than EVs?

Check out the video to see if you agree/disagree with Hoium’s take on FCEVs/EVs.

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59 Comments on "Video: Motley Fool Discusses the EV Versus Hydrogen Battle"

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EVs are the present and future for consumers. Fuel Cell vehicles are the future for oil companies, who are banking on supplying hydrogen to fuel stations at a rate about $2 – $3 more per gallon equivalent MORE than regular unleaded.

The future of EV fueling is tied to wind and solar power that can cost the consumer nothing, and is limitless.

I am sure the Ford C-MAX Energi Solar Concept freaked the oil/fuel cell and electric power suppliers out. A small canopy with an inexpensive solar concentrator and just 3 small solar panels can collect 8kWh of power daily. Enough for 21 EV miles. No gas needed. No Grid.

6 panels = 16kWh or 40 EV miles (Volt)
9 panels = 24kWh or 100 EV miles (Focus Electric, Leaf, etc)
12 panels – 32kWh or 140 EV miles….Daily!

Connecting the inexpensive solar concentrator and solar panels to a battery storage unit, can collect enough power for daily EV charging via plug and powering a home. And this is what’s available today.

Right on Bloggin! There is the cost of solar and wind up front, but you are going to get 25-30 years of free energy with solar after that. With today’s incentives your investment is most likely going to give you big returns especially if you eliminate the soft costs of labor by installing the system yourself. For the Fools report, I think people need to start stating “battery storage vs an on board hydrogen generator” because as we all know both vehicles are EVs. They both have electric motors that propel them and even the hydrogen vehicle is going to need a smallish battery to store the energy gathered from the regenerative brakes that all hybrids and EVs depend on to increase their efficiency. Hydrogen is just a range extender. Now I am a fan of range extenders through the next decade. Extenders can come in any form, from gasoline, diesel, hydrogen, and even another battery possibly of a different chemistry than the main battery. As people start to adopt EVs, they are going to learn that they really don’t need the extender all that often so the market for the energy that powers the extender is going to drop… Read more »

I’d give a thumbs up for that!

while I think the Ford C-MAX is a dumb idea, the gist of your post is spot on!


Perhaps you would explain why hydrogen is the future for oil companies, and not battery cars.

We are talking about natural gas, not oil, and the overwhelming majority of NG is used for generating electricity, and since it is by far the easiest and cheapest way of making up for the intermittency of renewables, that is not going to chance.

Any market for natural gas in converted to hydrogen for use in cars, and that is far from the only way of producing hydrogen although it is currently the cheapest, is tiny and will remain dwarfed by the electricity generation market for many years.

It is a strange conspiracy which has as its goal an attack on their biggest market.

Converting natural gas to electricity in a modern combined cycle power plant is more efficient than converting natural gas to hydrogen then converting hydrogen to electricity in a fuel cell. Therefore less natural gas is needed to travel a given distance.

Also, the video drives it home with “why would you want to deal with limited hydrogen refueling infrastructure instead of installing a $1000 EVSE in your garage?” With hydrogen you are still “filling station dependent,” even more so than with gasoline.


What has that got to do with what I was asking, which is why the oil companies should prefer hydrogen to using natural gas, as it is massively used at the moment, to provide electricity? Actually, by the by, your notions that high efficiency of combined cycle gas turbines are the critical element omit several factors. They hit a top efficiency of around 60%, but there are also lots of single cycle gas turbines with an efficiency in the range of 42-50% about as they are cheaper. There will be more of them, not less in future as gas is increasingly burnt to make up for the intermittency of renewables. Single cycle turbines at least in the US with low gas prices make more economic sense for such peaking use. Then of course you have distribution and transmission losses, the later at a staggering 7% in the US according to the DOE. Overall to the wall you are talking in the US of an average efficiency of around 33%, and that number has not moved much for decades, and won’t much in the next 20 years as renewables hit that figure too. For natural gas converted to hydrogen, even where… Read more »

Interesting all those losses in the distribution of energy. As @Bloggin noted in the top comment, solar energy is an increasing practical option to charge batteries that doesn’t require distribution.

To the inverter and motor, there’s no difference in where the electrons come from. Some vehicle owners however prefers knowing the source and the costs. The cool thing with EVs they can easily plug into many sources of energy.

DaveMart – why are you allowing the recovery of heat while converting natural gas to hydrogen, and not giving the same advantage to electricity generation from natural gas? It seems you’re comparing the best case future scenario for hydrogen with the status quo for electricity generation (42-50% instead of 60%, no heat recovery). Best case future scenario for the electricity fuel path is distributed, solar and wind generation with distributed storage – reduced transmission losses, negligible waste heat, and no dependence on limited fossil fuels.

If we don’t have district heating around central station plants already, I fail to see the imputus for district heating centered around the corner gas station, whose main profit center these days are the convenience store attached to it such that the gasoline is an incidental product luring customers into the convenience store.

Won’t happen in my lifetime.

These pro-fuel-cell sites claim 60% efficiency. I was under the impression that not too long ago the real world efficiency was 33%.

So when they claim 60% conversion efficiency, please cite a Real world fuel cell generation system with amount of therms or CCF going into the unit, and the wattage coming out, after factoring in all auxiliaries.

Unless you live in Spain where they are starting to tax ‘unapproved’ solar installations. Before you say that can’t happen here, I never thought my home town of Kenmore, NY would institute a $1000 APPLICATION fee for each and every Amateur Radio antenna, (CB, TV, Shortwave, and satelight dishes are exempt). Then the silly village board gets to decide whether they’ll approve your proposal, even if its just a whip in a flower pot. Of course, in their infinite wisdom, if your proposal doesn’t fit with the ‘character’ of the village, you are DENIED, and yes, they keep the $1000. That effectively kills ham radio in the village.

So which Oil Company is going to try to institute the solar cell ban first?

If Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai are “betting big” on FCEV, I’d like to know what their line of thinking is as to why they are going to be better. I mean, we’ve had any number of discussions around here and I think most of us are on the same page as to why hydrogen will never get off the ground (no pun intended) but I am curious what these car companies know or think they know that gives them a different opinion.

The established OEMs(except Renault-Nissan) always say that long term battery pack durability is not good enough for the majority of new car buyers nor are EV refueling times acceptable.

Tesla says 1 mile per second( or 300 miles in 5 minutes) is achievable by 2020-2025 without miracles just marginally better battery design, thermal management, and better software through real world feedback . But the big OEMs disagree.

Actually the American Chemical Society has stated that a well managed battery from our current technology could last 20 years
As for the fueling time, that is a paradigm shift

I don’t agree with Toyota, GM et al.

I am just telling what I have heard and read them say.

BTW Wireless charging addresses marginal time for home charging.

When OEMs talk about charging times they are talking about absolute charging time as when driving long distance. How long does it take to recharge in Fresno when driving from LA to SF not overnight home charging.

But I think you knew that.

And Tesla is working hard on addressing the issue.

If that is what the OEMs really think, then most of us know from the experience of owning an EV that they are wrong. Trickle charging is more than enough, and in fact very convenient (no detour to the gas station), for most needs, and quick charging or range extenders are adequate for longer trips. The issue I do see is with people who can’t charge at home, or perhaps work. If I were parking in the street, and knowing what I know, I don’t think I’d have an EV, even with fast charging stations around.

The OEMs are betting on hydrogen as a tactic to stall CARB zero emissions mandates. Just like last time.


I remember watching a TV program in 2000 about how hydrogen was going to take over by 2012 and how they where going to build 10,000 in 2012 but that never happened.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

What is their cost per Watt for their fuel cells?

+1 Dr.

I remember it being celebrated for $1 per Watt. For the device to be able to deliver full power to a motor that’s say 80kW like the LEAF, we know how much Fuel Cells add up to.

As our electricity supply gets cleaner (something we’ll have to do no matter how we fuel vehicles), EVs that are already in service will automagically get cleaner.

FCEVs will very likely be fueled with H2 from natural gas (look up NG reforming), which winds up emitting (you guessed it) CO2.

The only way H2 FCEVs make sense is for all of the following things to happen:

1. Advances in battery technology suddenly stall.

2. Someone finds an absurdly cheap and fast way to build an IMMENSE H2 production, distribution, and fueling infrastructure.

3. FCEVs come down dramatically in price. Notice how no one is seriously talking about a $20,000, 200 mile FCEV, yet that’s a very reasonable milestone for EVs in the next 10 years?

I kinda doubt that a $20K 200 miles EV is reasonable in the next 10 years. Possible . . . but I doubt it.

It’s possible and that it could happen with existing batteries and batteries and tech where to stay the same and keep going down slowly much in the same way that flat screen TV’s dropped in price to the point that they are cheaper then the big bulky tube TV’s. Such as if you have a 60 kilowatt battery pack start at $20,000 dollars but drop down to $8000 dollars in the next ten years do to production and mining and shipping supply systems working up and getting sorted out.

Here in Bulgaria 100% of TAXI drivers use natural gas as a fuel. All you need is regular gas powered car to be converted to use methane. The conversion cost about 800-1200$. So what is the point to spend billions to create FCEV that use hydrogen that comes from natural gas if you can use the same fuel in the regular ICE.

Fuel cell cars use the natural gas twice as efficiently even after reforming losses as burning it in a combustion engine.
They are also zero pollution at point of use, which NG cars even though cleaner than petrol or diesel ones aren’t.
Since both are electric cars with only the source of the electrons differing plug in fuel cell hybrids are also far simpler than any PHEV using a combustion engine.

Please document the energy losses from Methane to Hydrogen, and then Hydrogen to Electricity. Your statement otherwise is hard to believe.

I’ll be happy to see some sort of well to wheel efficiency.

Who would listen to Motley Fool clueless people on a technical subject.

And I’m tired of the fuel cell debate. They can put up or shut up. When they put something on the market for sale (not a subsidized lease) then it is worth talking about. Until then, it is pie in the sky.

Oh, and EVs are not subsidized?

Lol. This guy thinks we need a 500-1000mi AER?? Why?

Do either of these talking heads even own a car? They don’t seem to know much about them!

Bottom line:
1kWh into a battery EV gets you 5 miles, 1kWh into hydrogen gets you 1-1.5 miles.
Battery EVs are 3-5 times more efficient, and have 3-5-infinite times less emissions.

You are ignoring generating and transmission losses, and wall to battery losses too.
Both fuel cells and batteries use around 1MJ/mile, well to wheels, at the average efficiency of the US grid and assuming the hydrogen comes from natural gas.

hehe “these automakers know what they are doing”
yeah right : )
never mind that toyota says they will launch it and nissan says it can’t be done. so which one knows what they are doing..

That guy actually does say, “…are actually cleaner than hydrogen vehicles.” At least quote the guy accurately. But I agree that EV are better for personal transportation.

The video mentions that some sources of electricity are cleaner than converting natural gas to hydrogen and using that. Conveniently this omits that around 40% of electricity comes from coal, which is an awful lot dirtier and omits much more CO2. It also omits that 33 % of hydrogen in California is mandated to come from renewables, way, way more than the average mix of the US grid. Putting the numbers together with the two times greater efficiency per mile driven even after reforming of using hydrogen in a fuel cell over burning NG in an ICE or using petrol then at the average efficiency of the US grid including generation and transmission losses fuel cell cars reduce CO2 emissions way less than battery electric cars. Of course battery only advocates assume not only massive increases in battery density and even larger falls in cost, but also that the present less than 1% of US electricity magically increases to something approximating to 100%, and not only that but that the near zero numbers of people who actually do charge from solar as it is not very sunny at night or in the winter increases to very large numbers due to… Read more »

Hahaha. Very funny!


A highly intelligent and well reasoned critique.

Yes, but that is why solar to car is not a panacea. What we are moving to, actually quite
rapidly, is a majority natural gas driven grid feeding electric cars, mostly charged overnight. That’s not a bad solution at all, and allows renewables to proceed, since natural gas complements renewables (can be generated around the clock, on demand, using small, localized generation plants like this one:

Why hydrogen will NEVER become the mainstream fuel for electric vehicles:

1- Hydrogen, with the atomic number of 1, can easily leak through fittings including solid metal embrittling it in the process.
2- It is the most abundant element in the universe, but chemically bound requiring significant energy to free it.
3- Once obtained, it needs to compressed or liquefied adding substantial weight for a cylindrical tank not easily incorporated into a vehicle.
4- The production process and transportation is inefficient and costly with a high CO2 footprint as compared to electricity.
5- The fuel-cell utilization of H does not approach the efficiency of a battery-powered electric vehicle.
6- The fuel cell itself is very expensive to manufacture, a delicate instrument, and it hates cold weather.
7- Hydrogen requires an extremely expensive storage and distribution infrastructure.
8- It is extremely explosive…need you be reminded of what happened to the containment dome at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan as the result of hydrogen buildup.
9- Bottom-line…would you rather drive an electric vehicle with a battery or a tank of hydrogen?

I not even going to bother with taking apart the misconceptions and lack of knowledge of the field in this. Try reading the massive studies by the likes of the DOE written by experts in the field who come to a different conclusion. Perhaps the 500 engineers, many of them the same folk who brought us the Prius that Toyota have currently working on fuel cells can also perform basic arithmetic, and have assessed things differently. It is really staggering the number of people without any relevant qualifications whatsoever who assume that what they have fudged up on the back of an envelope is the real, absolute truth, and that all the experts are clearly morons. I am no expert, but have at least read the relevant documents from people that are. They don’t predict clear winner, but see both technologies as playing a part, with the balance between them to be determined by what no sensible person presumes to predict, how fast both technologies evolve. You should write to the engineers at the DOE, Toyota and Hyundai to tell them that you, geezer on a blog, have worked out that they are wasting their time. Alternatively you could try… Read more »
As someone that is actually working in fuel cell development, I can provide a few comments. On the technology side, PEMFCs and the hydrogen storage systems associated with them have significantly improved in the past 20 years. Many of the key technical issues such as volume, power to weight, cold weather start, water removal, transient operation, rapid and safe refueling (to name a few) have been solved. It is already fully possible to have fuel cell cars with equivalent or better range than internal combustion cars. Given all this, there are still major challenges that I haven’t seen solved. Number 1 is cost. A few years ago at a conference, I heard a chief Toyota engineer state in a major address that even with economies of scale, they are still 10 times too high on the cost of fuel cell systems. This is actually an impressive number as currently I’d estimate the number to be closer to 30-50 times too high. But I could be wrong, I’m an engineer not in finance, but I do know how much the materials and basic processes currently cost. Another major issue is lifetime. Cost and lifetime are at odds in fuel cell development… Read more »
Indeed. That is pretty much what Toyota and the DOE have been saying. Toyota however add that they have been somewhat disappointed by the progress in batteries, hence their decision to make the iQ a compliance car instead of mass producing it as they originally intended. They have been pleased and touch surprised however at the rapid progress in fuel cells, which as you note are surprisingly good. Toyota have not by any means given up on batteries, and continue to spend a lot on trying to improve them, as do others. The bottom line is that no-one knows, and no-one can possibly know, how things will pan out, as that depends on perfect knowledge of what everyone is doing in both fields, and they certainly aren’t saying, and also perfect foreknowledge of how fast both fields will develop. It is only guys on blogs who know that! 😉 I will though stick my neck out, and claim that barring real breakthroughs in battery technology, at least a fuel cell range extender is way better in any chilly climate than batteries alone. A 5-10kw fuel cell RE can double real cold weather range, and keep occupants toastie. Much more is… Read more »
As for hydrogen costs, no one is suggesting it will drop to levels comparable to electricity. It is suggested though that the lifetime costs of fuel cell and battery vehicles including depreciation and fuel may drop to comparable levels. To do that the extra system costs of fuel cells, hydrogen storage etc would need to drop faster than battery costs. They certainly are at the moment, but they are on a much earlier stage of the development curve than batteries so whether they will continue to do so is an open question. As for hydrogen costs, the critical thing is surely that you get around three times the miles per gallon equivalent than you get from petrol, or twice if you get the hydrogen from natural gas after reforming losses. With that in mind the DOE seems to put the costs with production in volume per mile at something like a third to around the same as gasoline costs: The level of costs depends a lot on how much of the hydrogen you get from renewables, as they cost more. Of course, if fuel costs really are a problem the next generation, with more compact fuel stacks and also… Read more »
8- Hydrogen is actually safer than gasoline. The Hindenburg would have exploded the same way with helium since it was the skin that had the catastrophic failure first. Also, unit 3 of Fukushima Daiichi had a “prompt criticality” event since the explosion was a detonation and not a deflagration, which is the only thing possible with Hydrogen combustion. 4- When I was a kid the concern was about Global Cooling (what we’re experiencing now), and CO2 was considered a building block of life. I find it interesting that 2 ‘global warming’ research ships got stuck in both the Arctic and Antartic ice this year. They apparently are not-so-brilliant if they didn’t realize there’s no Northwest Passage this year as there was 108 years ago for Amundsen. Your other points seem fine. One basic observation…… If H2 cars are so compelling, how come I’ve been told in Popular Science ever since I learned to crawl that the Hydrogen cars are “just around the corner”, and the only thing I find at dealerships is electric cars? There has been, after all, no shortage of largess toward making (some would say, me included -> Forcing) this technology to work.

If you go to the only fuel cell site with any relatively recent (2013 at least) activity, here:

You don’t see much going on. Certainly no cars being sold, discussed, rolled out, etc. From that perspective I think fuel cells are dead.

The other point that I’m not has been mentioned here and I think sometimes is glossed over … is that hydrogen is just an energy carrier, not too unlike a battery. It is not a real fuel that can be mined, extracted, or grown (ethanol) and then consumed. To get hydrogen you have to break down another fuel (natural gas) or use a chemical reaction (like electrolysis) to break it up – both of which are terribly inefficient as compared to using those primary inputs (natural gas or electricity) to drive a vehicle. So, I suspect that the intelligent folks at Hyundai and Toyota are just experimenting to keep their “technology” credibility (with perhaps a legitimate need for such vehicles) and perhaps to delay the competition (BEVs). Until this year the number of patents granted in fuel cells was the highest of any field, way higher than batteries. This is often taken as a proxy for interest in and speed of development of areas of technology. This year they have been overtaken by solar cells, but are still a solid second. It is not a reasonable expectation in any case that at this stage of development there would be new announcements every day of new fuel cell cars. That has only happened in battery and PHEV cars recently. The distinction you are seeking to make between fuels and energy carriers is not only untrue by meaningless in any case. Untrue, because it is now clear that the decay of olivine into serpentine amongst other reactions leads to substantial formation of hydrogen, which outgasses particularly at thermal vents in mid ocean. That is not to suggest that this source will ever be tapped, but it is as near as you can get to abiotic oil. Irrelevant because lots of things are energy carriers, for instance fossil fuels, which carries the energy of the sun, made into chemicals by photosynthesis. Hydrogen can also be made by from… Read more »

What advantage does a hydrogen fuel cell electric car have over a battery powered electric car other than range which will soon be a non-issue?
Hydrogen fuel cells got us to the moon…I was 20 when I saw Armstrong step out of the LEM.
Here it is 45 years later and H passenger cars are barely beyond the concept stage…BEV’s are blowing them out of the water.
And bye the way, 150 college credits 34 of which are in chemistry qualifies me to speak about hydrogen.

Once again you are making firm predictions of what ‘will’ happen in progress in batteries when even the experts don’t know. The guys at the DOE who have written the studies on the field have rather more than 34 credits. The nonsense you wrote above spreading FUD about hydrogen cars exploding perhaps shows that you might have been paying more attention in college. Have a look at the umpteen safety tests that have been performed. Those of us who have been following the technologies know that things have not moved on as fast as we had hoped, and it is proving difficult to increase energy densities at the same time as getting good durability and, most important of all, reducing cost. BEV cars with better range are a great idea for people like me who advocate a massive nuclear build. Things are not so rosy for those who want a heck of a lot of renewables, as everyone who is serious about that are planning on using a lot of hydrogen in the system to cope with intermittency. In cold climates a battery car with at minimum a fuel cell range extender doubles the range in the cold. Since including… Read more »

Those of us who have been following the BATTERY technologies know that things have not moved on as fast as we had hoped, and it is proving difficult to increase energy densities at the same time as getting good durability and, most important of all, reducing cost.

You make a good argument…hydrogen has extreme value in space, industry, and miscellaneous niche applications. I stand by my conclusion, however, that H-fuel cells will NOT achieve a mainstream role in powering EV’s. It will be passed over for passenger cars because the efficiency and cost effectiveness
of batteries are better…market forces will see to that. I’ve driven a BEV for 2 years collecting data on electricity in & out which allowed me to calculate the car’s overall efficiency at 85%. A fuel cell vehicle will not achieve that. When I actually see a fuel cell car on the road, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

I will reply to you more fully later when I have more time and address the points you raise. I read your first post, saw the bit about the supposed dangers of hydrogen in cars, and didn’t bother much with the rest. Anything which packs enough power to move a car is going to have dangers which need engineering around. I don’t care if it is batteries or capacitors being punctured or the frequent petrol fires. In the case of hydrogen the characteristics of the gas are somewhat more favourable than petrol, as petrol pools, whereas hydrogen will vent upwards. That is exactly what Hyundai make use of, venting the gas in the event of fire, in a rather spectacular video of their testing. The petrol car when up in a ball of fire in the same test, the fuel cell car had a jet of flame shooting upwards, away from the passengers, for 20 minutes which then went out – no big bang from the high pressure tank. Sure, hydrogen can be dangerous like any other fuel, but the risks are no greater, and likely less, than petrol cars. There is a large amount of information on 20 years… Read more »

You’ve actually substantiated my quibble by saying these two things about hydrogen:

“… That is not to suggest that this source will ever be tapped,” and ” … although currently that is uneconomic.”

Hydrogen can’t ever be as efficient (or have a smaller carbon impact) than its primary inputs. Anytime you make such a conversion, you lose something in the process. Add to that the other problems with containing and moving hydrogen as well as the cost to build the vehicles to use it and the huge infrastructure to fuel it, and I just don’t see why smart people are even considering it. Am I just too dumb or practical to see how these challenges could ever be surmounted when much less daunting challenges to build, market, and sell BEVs are still viewed as impractical for most Americans?

After reforming losses fuel cell cars use the fuel twice as efficiently as burning it in a combustion engine. They are inherently much more efficient. There are also a host of other sources for hydrogen. California is mandating that 33% of hydrogen for transport must come from renewables. They currently use biogas from landfill. Korea will be able to fuel the first 100,000 or so cars from hydrogen made as a by-product of other industrial processes, and currently vented into the atmosphere. Petrol pumps and stations don’t last forever. Replacing them now that proper regulations are in force against leaks and ground contamination approximates the cost of a hydrogen station at volume. Since hydrogen in a fuel cell gets three times as many miles as petrol ( reforming losses are not relevant here ) then fewer pumps will be needed. Other than to start up the system until volume is reached there is no reason there should be any net cost. I could deal with your other points in detail, but if you look on the DOE website you will see that a lot of very smart and highly qualified people have been considering all the issues, and find them… Read more »

Last time I checked, it is not a “battle” if one of the contenders is a no-show.

Here’s a clue. I’ll bet there are far more vehicles powered by cow dung than hydrogen.

“If Tesla can increase their range to 500 or 1000 miles”… Where do they find people this
illiterate? Why are you guys copying what they write? They have no idea what they are talking

“most of your electricity actually comes from natural gas” (yes, he really said this).

I’d like to make a request. Please post these videos with a reference to the transcripts, if possible. I’d like to compile how many wrong and misstated “facts” they give.