Why Hyundai Pursues Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars


Are hydrogen cars a pipe dream? Hyundai says no.

Last week we took our first spin the 258-mile Hyundai Kona Electric. But that wasn’t the only Hyundai electric vehicle we drove. We also spent an hour or so on the road with the Hyundai Nexo fuel-cell electric car. I can already hear the loud, collective groan from EV fans wondering why Hyundai continues to bother with hydrogen. So we put that question to Hyundai folks.

Before we get to their answer, I should mention that – if you put aside the broader, real concerns about EV versus hydrogen technology and infrastructure – the Nexo was the nicer of the two vehicles. The Nexo is a muscular, efficient small crossover with sharp lines, a striking floating canopy, and a high-tech but accessible cockpit. The Nexo was noticeably quieter and more refined than the Kona Electric.

So why power the Nexo or any vehicle with hydrogen? Dr. Bo Ki Hong, a Hyundai fuel-cell research fellow, in his technical presentation, argued that a hydrogen power plant is better suited for larger, longer-range vehicles while battery-powered EVs are a better match for smaller, shorter-range cars. The Nexo has 380 miles of driving range and can be refueled in about five minutes. Dr. Bo said there will be 59 hydrogen stations in operation in California by the end of 2019.

The Hyundai Nexo at a hydrogen-fueling station

I asked Mike O’Brien, Hyundai’s vice-president of product planning, to elaborate on the question of vehicle size and electric powertrains. “A battery-electric vehicle is good for any personal vehicle the size of the Kona, a midsize sedan, or smaller,” he said. “But it becomes an issue when you get past a full-size SUV or full-size pickup.” He argued that Class 8 trucks, like the Tesla Semi, can carry up to 80,000 pounds. “When you think about the volume and weight of batteries, it’s quite immense,” O’Brien said. But with a liquid fuel or hydrogen, there is no engineering limitation regarding the volume it takes to deliver an adequate amount of energy for a Class 8 truck.

“There’s no doubt that battery technology is advancing,” said O’Brien. “But we know today and from back-of-napkin calculations, that hydrogen has higher capabilities for the foreseeable future.” He said that hydrogen is scalable for any type of vehicle, including buses and trains. Keep in mind that Hyundai also manufacturers commercial vehicles.

A wise play?

Gil Castillo, senior group manager for alternative vehicle strategy for Hyundai, rode with us in the Hyundai Nexo. He echoed O’Brien’s point. “As batteries get better, they make sense for small and medium cars and eventually slightly bigger cars,” said Castillo. “But at some point, especially when you get into heavy-duty vehicles, batteries run into limitations.” He said that the cost, size, and energy curves for both batteries and fuel cells are always changing, so it makes sense to consider both technologies for the full range of vehicles in use.

The Nexo’s cockpit

“It takes dedication from a high corporate level to say that we need to develop both technologies,” said Castillo. “It’s a wise play considering that everything is still in flux.”

Castillo explained that the Nexo fuel-cell SUV and the Kona battery-powered crossover are both electric vehicles. And they share many of the same power electronics. “It takes resources to develop both technologies, but it’s not a zero-sum game,” he said. “The things you develop for one are used in the other one.”

You can serve the majority of consumers with an EV but not 100 percent of them.

Castillo said that consumers buy a lot of full-size SUVs and pickups in the United States. “You can serve the majority of consumers with an EV but not 100 percent of them,” said Castillo. He said that many people who live in multi-family dwellings don’t have access to charging. “We have to develop battery technology because it’s going to play a major role,” he said. “I think fuel cell will not play the major role, but it will be complementary. The goal is to fill the whole spectrum across the entire transportation ecosystem.”

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80 Comments on "Why Hyundai Pursues Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars"

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Fool Cell comments in 3… 2… 1…




Predictable comments.

Chris O

Fool cell shills arriving on the scene in 3…2…1

They have got it backwards. The higher cost of fuel (or rather energy carrier) will make hydrogen a non-starter for long distance trucks and larger cars being used often.

For small cars, like the Hyundai i10, that are rarely used it might make sense because fuel cost will be a small part of the equation. And possible for trucks that have very unpredictable routes but yet low total mileage.

And all hydrogen cars or trucks should of course be of the plugin hybrid type.


I agree that all FCEV’s should be plug-in.

We don’t know whether FCEV’s will become mainstream, or whether those would be hydrogen FCEV’s. What I do know that Hyundai is developing the whole palette of vehicles with electrical propulsion: hybrids, PHEV, FCEV and pure BEV – all the while manufacturing millions of ICE vehicles every year. I think it’s an expensive, but a safe strategy for success.


Except you have it backwards. Battery weight and charge time will make EV long distance trucks a non starter. Why would truckers want to carry an extra 2 tons while driving cross country? And what everyone forgets is that you can’t tax energy. You can tax a fuel. When we start moving away from fossil fuels, how are we going to replace the money we generate from gasoline to help with road maintenance?


“But with a liquid fuel or hydrogen, there is no engineering limitation regarding the volume it takes to deliver an adequate amount of energy for a Class 8 truck.” – Hyundai should take another lessen in physics:

People tend to get confused between “specific energy [J/kg]” and “energy density [J/L]”
According to wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density,

Hydrogen at 700 bar has about 240 times more “specific energy [J/kg]” compared to Li-ion batteries.
However, it has “only” about 4,5 times more “energy density [J/L]” (Before efficiency is to be considered)

Hydrogen people tend to only talk about the first property. So sure, it may travel very far without much added weight to the vehicle. However, as the specific density [J/L] is the limiting factor. Manufacturers doesn’t have enough space (inside the vehicle) to store the hydrogen for longer ranges.


“Hydrogen at 700 bar has about 240 times more “specific energy [J/kg]” compared to Li-ion batteries.”

Yes. The fuel weight for a FCEV is a tiny slice of the full stack weight.

You need to compare the following FCEV-specific components:
– fuel
– composite tanks and fuel delivery systems
– fuel cell stack
– assist battery including packaging, onboard charger if any

vs the following BEV-specific components:
– traction battery including packaging, onboard charger

There’s a reason the larger, heavier Toyota Mirai has less passenger + cargo volume than the Tesla Model 3. A skateboard battery pack is easy to package, cylindrical 10k psi hydrogen tanks significantly less so.

So here’s the comparison: The Tesla Model S needs a 100 kWh battery to make similar range as a Honda Clarity/Toyota Mirai. Tesla’s 100 kWh battery weighs 1200 pounds. To mitigate this massive weight problem, Tesla has to make extensive use of aluminum. The Chevy Bolt does the same – and is 20% shorter than the Mirai. BEV and FCEVs are identical except for how electricity is delivered to the motor(s). A fair comparison need only examine these different components. 500 km BEV: (Battery) A 100 kWh Tesla battery weighs 1200 pounds. 500 km FCEV: (Fuel cell, two hydrogen tanks and a nickel-metal hydride/li-ion battery) The approximate weights are: Honda Clarity fuel cell (114 lbs) Toyota Mirai fuel cell stack (123 lbs) The Mirai tanks have a combined weight of 87.5 kg (193 lb) We don’t have exact weight for the Mirai regenerative breaking batteries (can someone please supply?) However, the battery for the older, larger Hyundai fuel cell SUV was 103 pounds Full tank of hydrogen 11 lbs A reasonable weight estimate for the FCEV components (with a full tank) is 430 pounds versus the Tesla Model S 1200 pounds. If we have made a mistake, we will happily… Read more »

The Mirai has the battery of a regular hybrid, somewhere around 2 kWh – ideally, it would be 10 times larger at least, with a plug, so as to better capture the energy while traveling downhill etc.


Model S – 120 ft^3 interior volume – is a larger vehicle inside and outside than Mirai and Clarity – 99 and 114 ft^3.

Model 3 has similar passenger + cargo volume – 112 ft^3 – to Clarity and more than Mirai, while also being several inches shorter.

Model 3 is lighter than both, without carbon fiber and limited use of aluminum body panels.

Its battery pack weighs in at a reported 1054 pounds. Still quite heavy – so why are the final curb weights for Clarity and Mirai so much heavier?



If you are using a weight argument to blow smoke, then “bravo”. You have, however, failed in looking at the efficiency between BEV & FCEV and you know that BEV is easily three times as efficient with the energy (kwh) involved in the whole process.
I won’t even get started on the fossil fuel origins of the H2….

Chris O

Elaborate weight calculations but meanwhile in the real world Mirai is actually heavier than Model 3 with similar range with less interior space to boot.

Anyway, weight isn’t the issue it’s the immense cost of driving on hydrogen that’s the real killer.


“Auto manufacturers take every effort to reduce vehicle weight.”

Really, do they? Especially for EVs with advanced regenerative breaking some 100kilogramms are a minor problem.


Now go back and revise your post with a Model 3.


It doesn’t matter which generation of BEV and FCEV you choose.
The issue is still the same, you compare apples and oranges until you have suitable batteries or supercapacitors to match refueling time. Too often for BEV average range in good conditions would not be the limit, the limit would be minimum range in adverse conditions. E.g. -20 C, snow, strong front wind. People want predictability and ability to rely on their cars no matter what, taking care of other things in their life.

For refuelable cars only average range matters, as you can refuel in 5 minutes anyway and go on without trying to plan your life around chargers.

Once you solve 5 minute charging issue to be able to compare apples with apples, we can discuss mass production cost issue. It will take next generation of battery technology to get close to something workable, and weight is major part of the issue.


so make a FC-PHEV! an FCEV has a battery anyway, upsize the battery, add a 3.3kw charger, AND reduce the fuel-cell stack to just 33kw (instead of 95kw) for 75mph cruising.
You’ll benefit from similiar powertrain costs AND lower operating costs.


That’s a possibility in the future, but in the short term, a FC-PHEV has the shortcomings of both an FCV (needs access to H2) and a PHEV (needs daily access to charging).

If H2 starts to get penetration approaching that of gasoline, FC-PHEVs will be quite viable.


It only needs H2 for the corner cases, and only convenience suffers when it isn’t available, you can still charge…. But any series-hybrid with a BEV-sized pack has the same advantage – it can be a BEV nearly all the time.

H2 has a big energy density advantage, but a huge cost disadvantage that more than negates this for anything on land, where charging is easy to provide. At sea, where weeks of autonomy is needed, H2 is much more competitive. Aviation also benefits much more from high energy density and may some day use H2 – it’s roughly four times more energy dense than kerosine, but unfortunately the extreme pressure required to make it compact combined with the fact it is the smallest molecule — just two protons and two electrons! — means the tanks must be heavier.

Get Real

And…we are still waiting for the Big Oil companies to start installing at their expense the H2 infrastructure necessary.

Instead, virtually all of these ridiculously expensive H2 refilling stations have been subsidized by us the taxpayers, makes me wonder why the incredibly wealthy and profitable Big Oil companies are not putting their own money into these stations and the associated H2 manufacture and distribution?


The “Needs daily access to charging” may sound like a chore, but if you reframe it into “Can be conveniently and cheaply charged at home overnight, or at work during working hours etc.”, all of a sudden it looks like a benefit, doesn’t it?


One of several reasons why fool cell cars (and/or trucks) will never be practical, is the scarcity of the vehicles means low demand for H2 fuel, which means few fueling stations, exacerbating the problem of extremely high cost (per vehicle served) of construction for those stations.

Using FC-PHEV would lower the demand for H2 fuel even further. With reduced demand would come fewer H2 fueling stations, making fool cell cars and trucks even more of a non-starter than they already are.


Some thing just will never be practical, will they …



That’s right, there are many things which will never be practical. It’s 2018; where is my flying car?

Good luck with “inventing” a more practical, less pernicious hydrogen molecule. The fact that many famous men have made predictions which turned out to be foolish, doesn’t mean that fool cell cars are not foolish.

There might be a future in FCEVs… if they start using a practical fuel to power them. So long as they foolishly keep trying to use highly compressed hydrogen as the fuel, they will remain fool cell cars.


It would make more sense than an FCV. But if you reduce H2 use only to the corner cases where batteries are a limitation, you reduce its use by 98% and the already-terrible price goes up even more.

A range extender type PHEV with a linear generator and 40 kWh pack would be better. Even on dead dinosaurs it is much more efficient than a conventional ICE, and it can operate as a BEV 95% of the time.


I thought this was a smart article. Hyundai has the right idea: the goal is to eliminate petroleum, both for environmental and political reasons.

The events of the last week should make it clear why we need an “all of the above” approach to ending our dependency on oil. We need to stop sending billions of dollars to prop up undemocratic thugs in the desert.


Hydrogen for transport other than to space is a non-starter. Hydrogen refuling stations are extremely expensive to build. Hydrogen is corrosive. Hydrogen is derived from fossil fuels. Even if hydrogen we’re produced via electrolysis of water, it would make much more sense to use batteries.

Makes more sense just to use natural gas without going through the additional step of stripping hydrogen from it, then trying to transport, and store, corrosive and explosive hydrogen.


“other than to space”

You’re being overly restrictive here. Hydrogen has the potential in every case except as urban commuters where EVs have a clear advantage.


Hydrogen fuel has no realistic use case where the cost of fuel is important. It has a use case for large booster rockets, for use to power fuel cells onboard spacecraft, and in underwater drones. But certainly not in any widespread application such as passenger vehicles or freight trucks.

Claiming that some magical future tech will somehow get around the laws of physics and basic economics, making H2 fuel practical, is nothing more than wishful thinking. You might as well wish for perpetual motion, which is no more impossible. Both would require rewriting the laws of physics.



Why do you expect the cost to remain at current levels? Everything becomes cheaper when it’s done at scale.


I agree that using (desulfurized) CNG or, even LGP in a fuel cell is probably an easier route than hydrogen, but let’s keep in mind that gaseous petroleum products are also explosive, when mixed with air.

Also, what kind of H2 corrosion are you concerned about? The embrittlement, or corrosion, caused by impure hydrogen?

Finally, FC’s are intended to replace the ICE, not the batteries. All FCEV I can think of are hybrids.


So why haven’t CNG powertrains went anywhere? Serious question.

Bill Howland

Agreed… Home fueling by now would much easier, and is a much more direct use of Methane – since most homes in the states are ‘pre-piped’ for it. But Whirlpool and GE development of a cheap refueler has stopped dead in its tracks……

I think the powers- that-be have miscalculated on H2, since with CNG they could easily sell it. But doesn’t look like many H2 buyers in the States, at least.


Because of short range and CNG tank taking too much of trunk space.
Then you need costly adoption of ICE to work with CNG and it doesn’t pay off for regular passenger cars. Although CNG got track in trucking during oil price bubble, and many trucks still run on CNG, but there is much less expansion of the market. It isn’t just about fuel cost.

LPG is widely used in many countries (not US) in cars. Aftermarket tank also takes trunk space, but some fuel taxation breaks help enough to offset conversion equipment cost if you do enough miles. And equipment is simpler than for CNG.

H2 is standardized on higher pressure tanks than CNG, and fuel cell with electric drivetrain is more efficient, and it is clean factory design, so it is a totally different ball game.


No Japanese auto maker is going to publicly admit the real reason they continue to throw money down the rathole of fool cell cars. Here is the real reason:

“Japanese Government To Offer $20,000 Subsidy On Fuel Cell Vehicle Purchases”



But then, it would have been good of me to check my facts before posting, in which case I would have noticed that Hyundai is a S. Korean auto maker, not Japanese!

I wonder how much of their fool cell car production goes to Japan?


Pushmi, you often make well-reasoned arguments which I occasionally disagree with but always appreciate. Which has me wondering why you resort to essentially name calling. An intelligent discussion on the topic doesn’t need to parrot the “fool cell” moniker from Elon.


I go into detail about why promoting the “hydrogen economy” is nothing but a hoax in the first two posts in this thread:


It’s hard to give a brief summary of all the many reasons why trying to use compressed H2 as a widespread fuel for transportation will forever remain utterly impractical. But here is an attempt at that:

comment image


Game, set and match.

Recently I had read in a french magazine, a duel between the Kona Electric and the Nexo, both from Hyundai.

The result, is that Kona is cheaper to run, but most important, produces less emissions. The test was in France. This country has a lot of nuclear and non-CO2 sources to produce electricity.

In this case, the Kona produces 8,2 gr CO2/km, and the Nexo 125 gr CO2/km. There are ICE cars with less CO2 emissions than Nexo.


In USA, with a lot of fossil sources, maybe the Nexo is more reasonable than other countries, with less coal, gas and oil dependency.




Still the Japanese government needs only a small amount because only a few hundred Hydrogen cars will be sold — or actually all are leased and used in test-fleets, as nobody will pay $100k for a Mirai hydrogen car.


They’re not selling them for $100,000. They wouldn’t be in the game if they didn’t expect to be able to lower the price further.


Sadly, it has been widely reported that more than 3000 Mirai have been sold in California alone, and presumably even more in Japan.

Apparently there are a lot more fools than we thought. 🙁


Chris O

That’s because this is not about demand but about compliance. Toyota will move the HFCV compliance metal at whatever price the traffic will bear so selling all HFCVs Toyota wants to sell (well, subsidized leasedeals including free all you can eat hydrogen) is a foregone conclusion.

Chris O

Don’t forget CARB play: HFCV’s get triple the ZEV credits and with the elimination of the travel provision for BEVs but not for HFCVs those HFCVs become real heavy weights in the compliance game.

M Hovis

It would be incredibly expensive to build the infrastructure to support hydrogen along major highways but could be done. What is highly improbable is to expect hydrogen everywhere you see a gas station today. EVs alone will cut into the existing gas stations long before hydrogen gets out the door.

A 200-300 mile EV is totally different than a 350-mile gasoline auto, let alone a 350-mile hydrogen vehicle. The first paradigm that must be overcome is that most 200-300 mile EVs will be “full” every morning.

Lastly and most important, EVs will be charged in the future by renewables waaay before hydrogen stops being reformed by fracked natural gas aka “frakogen”.

“The first paradigm that must be overcome is that most 200-300 mile EVs will be “full” every morning.” Yes. Consumer closed-loop hybrids like the Nexo, Clarity, Mirai are DOA. Hydrogen infrastructure is suffering from the “chicken or egg” problem – someone that drives 1500 miles/month would need to fill a ~350 mile tank at least 5/month. And the infrastructure is so horrifically expensive that it relies exclusively on subsidies to build out in consumer-friendly . locations and provide energy. However, consider a PHEV with a fuel cell range extender – similar to the BMW i3 REX or Volt. A battery sized for the majority of daily driving requirements would require little monthly fuel use. And the fuel cell stack and fuel tank can be smaller, since they will be used only for range extension between filling stations / DC quick charge stations on the interstate – say 200 miles. Mercedes GLC F-Cell is at least a step in this direction. “Lastly and most important, EVs will be charged in the future by renewables waaay before hydrogen stops being reformed by fracked natural gas aka “frakogen”.” Maybe. If renewables become dramatically less expensive than “conventional” energy – like 2-3x cheaper than… Read more »

Utilizing hydrogen produced via electrolysis is the same as charging a really inefficient battery. So, in this case it makes much more sense to use batteries.

Utilizing hydrogen produced from natural gas also makes little sense. It’s much more efficient to simply use natural gas to power a vehicle.

The only thing hydrogen makes sense for is space travel. Period, end of discussion.


Ok what happens if you try to make a container ship sail from Rotterdam to NY powered by batteries? It will sink. Good luck.


When steamships first appeared, they could not undergo ocean-crossing journeys on steam power alone. It took later developments, more efficient steam engines, before they could go the distance without using sails, and even longer until stops at remote island coaling stations were no longer necessary.

There will be a similar situation with using batteries in EV propulsion ships. Batteries will continue to increase in energy density and continue to drop in price, until ocean-crossing ships with EV powertrains will be practical and widespread. There may well be an interim period where stops at remote island charging stations will be necessary on long voyages.

We’re already seeing short-range ferries powered 100% with batteries.


M Hovis

” If renewables become dramatically less expensive than “conventional” energy – like 2-3x cheaper than natural gas and coal – then maybe overproduction into large fuel cells will make sense to “bleed” excess energy.”
It is also important to put all technologies on the same timeline. Fuel cell arguments jump timelines all the time like comparing excess renewable fuel in the “future” to “current” EV charge times. Jump 20 years into the future and charges times will no longer be an issue. If you charge 90% of the time at home, it barely makes a difference now. By the time the hydrogen infrastructure arrives, it will be a stranded asset.

Super cheap renewables will benefit EVs as well, while the people who own the expensive hydrogen infrastructure will always be looking for a profit. And then you are back to the fact that the infrastructure only makes sense along US interstates and highly populated areas. Might work in Japan, but it doesn’t equate in rural America. When EVs reach 30% penetration this will start to eliminate gas stations, let alone providing the profit needed for more hydrogen stations.


Good points M Hovis. Wasn’t I5 on the West Coast going to be the “Hydrogen Highway” about 25 years ago??
Economics and greed kept that from happening.


2-3 times cheaper? We are at that point now already. Solar energy is available at rates below 2.5 cents/KWh now. One contract is signed with <2 cents/kWh. I am expecting the below 2 cents/kWh market to expand rapidly with crashing module prices and continuous improvement. If large parties start making hydrogen directly from solar energy it may be cheaper than electric energy. Stupid example but in the Netherlands you may pay anywhere between 15-30 eurocents/kWh for charging your electric car.

I fully support Hyundai's explanation. It is the balance which is best.


Seriously? Even if the H2 gets cheaper, through using cheap renewables for electrolysis, that same cheap electricity placed into a battery still has 75% fewer losses due to conversion and further undermines the H2 argument.

Leo B
Olaf, There is a Dutch study that shows that hydrogen production from electrolysis is not competitive against steam reforming natural gas. The study shows it can be competitive only, if -electrolysis plant scale is scaled up by a huge amount (about 100x today’s plants). -the proces efficiency is improved by 50%. -electricity prices are close to zero. The report (in English) is here (price discussion from page 45): https://www.topsectorenergie.nl/sites/default/files/uploads/TKI%20Gas/publicaties/20180514%20Roadmap%20Hydrogen%20TKI%20Nieuw%20Gas%20May%202018.pdf I did a quick calculation on the Mercedes F-cell PHEV fuel cost for the Dutch situation, which means electricty 0.25 €/kWh and hydrogen 10 €/kg. At these prices fuel cost for this car would be 4.8 €/100km all-electric (consumption: 19.4 kWh/100km) or 11.3 €/100km all-hydrogen (consumption: 1.13 kg/100km). No sane consumer is going to pay that difference. [consumption numbers derived from NEDC in Mercedes press release: AER 49 km, battery 13.8 kWh, 9.3 kWh usable / Total range 437 km / H2 range 388 km, 4.4 kg tank] Furthermore needs to be considered: -Electricity price is really 0.06 – 0.07 €/kWh. Everything else is environmental duty and VAT. -Hydrogen price is for H2 from natural gas. Green H2 is currently at least 5 €/kg more expensive. -Hydrogen price does include VAT… Read more »

Why do you take 10 euro per kg of hydrogen? I didn’t have time to read the whole report but at electricity prices of 2 cents per kWh you end up at 2.5 euro per kg. Hydrogen can be produced at the location with lots of sunshine and then transported by bulk carriers. (Just like LNG). Even taking into account 50% higher prices no sane consumer would pay for electricity…

Efficiency says nothing it is costs that matter.

Leo B

€9-12 is the price you pay at the fuel station, so I took €10 as an average.
The report says the cost of H2 as delivered at a fuel station is €5 (of which €1,50 production and the rest transport). Then there is energy cost for compression, costs for running the station, margin and VAT. Total about €10.
On site production is currently more expensive, but may reach parity in the next few years. Again, this is for steam reforming natural gas (in essence, fossil H2). Electrolysis is about 5 €/kg more expensive now and not projected to be anywhere near gas-H2 in the forseeable future.


Thanks for the interesting report btw. 🙂


“If large parties start making hydrogen directly from solar energy it may be cheaper than electric energy.”

Well, science isn’t for everyone. 🙄 Or, apparently, basic economics either.

Joe Martin

Why would you pay $0.125/mile to drive a Class 8 truck down the road when you could do it for $0.550/mile instead? If you don’t understand why it’s better to spend 4x as much as you need to then you probably need a $10MM grant from DOE or NEDO; then you’ll understand the hydrogen economy!


There was this guy selling/transferring his Mirai lease. Making a calculation based on his fuel card and the miles driven i concluded that hes cost of fuel was $273 per 1000 miles!!! Yeiks!!!! My Lexus ES is at $105!!! WTF?!!!


Obviously Toyota takes a loss on each Mirai leased; they’re paying for free fuel for 3 years, and likely even fool cell car drivers are not foolish enough to keep the car past that.

I understand why Toyota sells the Mirai in Japan, where each one receives an astoundingly high government subsidy. I don’t understand why they sell it in the U.S. Even in CARB states where it earns them more ZEV credits than an equivalent BEV, it still has to cost them more money to make the cars and buy fuel for them than they can sell them for.

I get the impression that the anti-BEV attitude among the top Toyota execs is so entrenched that they’re willing to spend… hundreds of millions? billions? …of dollars to promote the “hydrogen economy” hoax, in the hope that will stop or at least delay the development of the BEV market.

But here we’re talking about a S. Korean auto maker, Hyundai. Unless they are aiming at the Japanese market, I don’t understand why it’s worth the cost for them to put a fool cell car into production. So far as I can tell, Hyundai has no auto assembly plant in Japan.

We’ve been through this many times already and Hyundai didn’t bring up a single point that hasn’t already been dealt with many times before. The hydrogen stack is a terrible solution for anything on land. Even if batteries didn’t improve they beat it – it’s going to be much cheaper to accept having to take some time for charging than using hydrogen. If you have a big renewable surplus in summer and a deficit in winter, letting the windmills make hydrogen beats shutting them off. Batteries with sufficient capacity to be charged in summer and discharged in winter would cost even more, but with 40 kWh per kg H2 can do that job quite well. But we are very far from making this much renewable energy (the challenge now is to keep the grid stable with any significant part of production being renewable, and this is solvable by buffering a few minutes worth of supply, not months – a job batteries perform much better than slow-reacting FC stacks). Aviation and shipping (on sea that is) might have to use hydrogen (or nuclear, if the proliferation issue is taken care of, e.g. by using thorium). But on land it’s far better… Read more »

Well, I suspect that these fuel cell programs will all be cancelled within a few years. That is unless some major breakthroughs happen that drastically reduce the cost of both the fuel cells and the hydrogen fuel itself. 5 years ago I could see possibly keeping both programs alive, not knowing which technology would be the winner. But I think in 2018 the winner should be obvious.


FC’s are intended to replace the ICE, not the battery, and hydrogen fuel cells are only one type, and I am not convinced they are the best …. Consider the SOFC and zinc-air fuel cells for example …


it would be nice to have both, like a 30kw battery and a fuel-cell for the top up if needed

EV Ter

It exits. Its called Volt. since 90% driving is in EV, the 10% can be changed when hydrogen is cheaper. i.e. 60 years


It must be big oil is backing the H2 play, to keep humanity suckling at their poison teat, or else this fuellishness would have died out about the time the first 100kwh battery showed up.


Big Oil & Gas companies are full partners in the California Fuel Cell Partnership, and I think it’s pretty well established that Big Oil lobbyists are bribing lobbying California politicians pretty hard and pretty successfully, to maintain the “hydrogen economy” hoax there.

Fool cell fanboys have been claiming that as more H2 fueling stations are built, the price of H2 will come down. But in the past three years since the CaFCP started building public H2 fueling stations, the price has if anything only gone up. Eventually all but the most wishful of wishful thinking, most science-denying fool cell fanboys will face reality, and realize that the “hydrogen economy” will never work in the real world.

I just can’t see hydrogen ever happening. Batteries are getting better and better every year. My bet is that by the time they even get around to being serious about creating a usable hydrogen infrastructure, battery technology will squash the remaining ways in which they are inferior to hydrogen. With upcoming ranges of over 600 miles for vehicles like the Tesla Semi and Roadster 2.0, that should easily dominate the range aspect. Tesla super chargers are already fast enough to allow for fairly fast travel, with the occasional break for a meal or other pit stops. With increased battery sizes, charge rates will also go up. In the next few years there will be cars with 15 minute charge times. I suspect the 5 minute re-fuel of ICE or hydrogen vehicles will be passed up within the next decade. When batteries excel in those 2 areas over hydrogen, all you have left are a lot of reasons why not to use it: much lower efficiency from fuel extraction to miles driven, likely fossil fuel industry dominance, conflict metals in fuel cells, fuel cell poisoning, much easier to create electricity than hydrogen, etc. Gee, seems like I’ve heard this from a… Read more »
Dani Silva

They forgot to mention how much somebody will have to pay when refueling a Hydrogen vehicle compared to an Electric Vehicle.

To me, that makes a HUGE difference…

Chris O

For hydrogen to start making sense in heavy vehicles for one thing the cost of distributed hydrogen needs at least an 80% drop from current $16/kg retail. Even that would only make it competitive with diesel, for competing with batteries further cost reductions are necessary. Hyundai does not have the laws of physics on its side to achieve that sort of cost reduction. Other cost problems include the cost of production and maintenance of HFCVs.

So the real question is: why is Hyudai persuing technology that really hasn’t got a hope in heck to become economically viable. Answers include subsidies, compliance, red herring to distract lawmakers and drag out the ICE age.


I think Daimler has the best approach for Fuel Cell vehicles, but even they are kind of afraid to sell it. In 2019 we will see 1000 FC GLCs, and only the major business customers can lease them.

We will see how the future of FC vehicles will be in within the next years. There are certainly some interesting use cases, but only when H2 is produced by renewables (and of course, battery powered cars will always use less energy).

Then the question “Who pays the H2 network?” is still not solved. People think you can fill your car in 5min, which is right. But H2 stations cannot fill your car as often as normal gas stations! So we will need definitely more stations.


Mr Castillo said both vehicles share parts, does this mean a 100% battery powered version of the Nexo will follow?


Excellent article and well thought out commentary from the Hyundai researcher.

Bill Howland

Other than these guys ‘talking their Book’, I think its more group think, or what we used to call “Emperor’s New Clothes”.

Easier for a PhD. to take a salary when he’s not rocking the boat.

But the Hydrogen World these guys constantly speak of seems to be much further in the future than these same people thought 10 years ago. So then we need to pay this PhD for several more decades for less than Stellar results….

Does he really believe his own tripe or is he just laughing all the way to the Bank?


We don’t need any more anti-intellectualism in the modern era. Do YOU have the brains to get a PhD in any field?



Could this be a possible use case for Hydrogen:

About 1 million square km land area covered with solar panels to generate a heck of a lot of electricity.

Use (a portion of) that electricity to produce a heck of a lot of Hydrogen.

Transport the Hydrogen to all the (major) sea ports.

Use the Hydrogen for (large) ships that travel long distances.

The result will be a drastical reduction of air pollution by ships.

How about that?