Why The Fuel Cell Now Has No Chance Against the BEV; Tesla CEO Has Choice Words About The Tech


Ain't No Fuel Cell Vehicle Gonna Challenge the Tesla Model S

Ain’t No Fuel Cell Vehicle Gonna Challenge the Tesla Model S

The fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) is DOA (dead on arrival), says both Seeking Alpha and Elon Musk.

The Tesla CEO recently remarked “Oh god – a fuel cell is so bulls**t” at an event in Germany on Monday, while adding, “hydrogen is quite a dangerous gas. Y’know, it’s suitable for the upper stage of rockets…but not for cars” and that fuel cells are more “a marketing thing” not equally today’s lithium-ion batteries.

No Thanks

No Thanks

Celebration time?  Absolutely…

According to Seeking Alpha, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are now proven technology with several years jump on FCEVs.  This lead, coupled with the fact that BEVs actually have proven their worth in the real world, spells the end of the FCEV.

Of course, Seeking Alpha is more of an investment site than an automotive site, so its interest is on whether or not there’s future money to be made by investing in FCEV technology.  No money in FCEV, says Seeking Alpha:

“Investors must be pragmatic when making decisions about which technology to back. The pragmatic investor understands the battle for market dominance is as much a race as it is a beauty contest. The further a leading technology gets ahead of its challenger, the “prettier” the challenger must be to unseat it. This is why a good enough product that delivers on its promise now often beats a better product that will deliver in the next five to ten years.”

“Today, many investors see the Battery Electric Vehicle locked in a battle for the future with the Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. With a massive head start in sales thanks to manufacturers like Tesla Motors, Nissan, and General Motors and supporting infrastructure players like Chargepoint, NRG Energy and Car Charging Group, the pressure is on the FCEV to deliver a substantial competitive advantage. With each BEV sold, the pressure grows.”

“Competitive advantage implies two things: First, being competitive implies that parity will not cut it. Second, an advantage is not really an advantage unless it is meaningful enough in the eyes of the mass market consumer to make a difference. Had the FCEV been ready for prime time a few years ago, we might have had a “Battle Royale” of competing standards on our hands. With sales of BEVs taking off in the U.S., there is just too much parity and too little competitive advantage for the FCEV to pose a serious threat to the BEV.”

Can’t we all just agree that it’s time to say goodbye to FCEV?

Source: Seeking Alpha

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32 Comments on "Why The Fuel Cell Now Has No Chance Against the BEV; Tesla CEO Has Choice Words About The Tech"

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Being that the same people that would have been likely to buy FCEVs (had they come out first) are the same early adopters that bought plug-in vehicles, it is highly unlikely that any of them would ever switch to a FCEV. This will be continuing trend. As more and more people try out plug-in vehicles, most of those people will get used to the idea of getting 99% of the fuel at home. Most will not want to go back to a paradigm that requires constant trips to a fueling station to keep their car working.

This certainly holds true for myself David. I used to follow Honda’s effort especially since they promised the same independence for producing hydrogen at home with a partial solar/LP gas powered unit. They promised and promised and promised. Now as an early adopter of EVs I will never buy a vehicle that I drive more than 8000 miles per year that is not electric. I still need a truck even if it only sees less than 2000 miles per year.

I look at fuel cells differently now. I simple see them as a range extender. When you look at them that way knowing you only need the extender a small fraction of the time then you have to ask yourself is it worth the money. I rarely say no to any new technology and I want throw it out for long distance cargo, but as an extender I have to say not practical.

David and Mark, +1

I’m not too sure that’s entirely accurate, because FCEVs can pack a smaller battery than an EV/PHEV, but for the most part you’re right.

And as a range extender, they will have to compete with a 30hp ICE+generator. I’m sure that someone, somewhere on the planet, will be making these for $2k each in a few years, and they’ll be used for maybe 2k miles per year. Fuel cells will take a decade to get within an order of magnitude of that cost.

I’m glad Elon has been getting on board with what I’ve been saying for 30 years. But pushing through a Bad Idea might just happen anyway (remember the Governator saying about all the Hydrogen Highways Kalifornia is going to have).

The 2015 CNG Chevy Impala (200 miles on NG, then on the fly transition to 300 miles of gasoline), along with a $500 whirlpool refueling appliance, along with currently cheap Natural Gas, might make some people nervous, since it truly is an efficient solution. And much cheaper than a Model S.

Well, Elon’s words could be more carefully chosen (no need to be so uncouth).

To the point. I don’t see people purchasing fuel cell vehicles because of the MASSIVE cost for a hydrogen filling station. There simply will never be enough of them. Crippled from the start.

Unless the gov’t mandates it. .Then all bets are off.

Free, gov’t built hydrogen stations are only half the uphill battle for fuel cell vehicles. They still have to get the fuel cell price down well below that of a battery, and will also have to deal with the bulk/cost of a high pressure tanks, which can’t be built into a nice skateboard platform and need as much volume/mass as batteries unless they’re built out of exotic materials.

BTW, at home CNG refill is unobtainium at the moment.

I’m pretty sure it costs a hell of a lot more than $500 to run a NG line to your garage and install the refueling station. This isn’t nearly as easy as running a wire.

Otherwise, you’re right. Natural gas is indeed serious competition to EVs on a cost basis, especially in bi-fuel vehicles where infrastructure isn’t an issue. It still needs a lot of space for the tank, but much less than that of hydrogen.

However, I think CNG/gas hybrids are going to have a tough time competing with EREV in lifetime cost, and it makes more sense to use natural gas resources for heating/electricity anyway.

I’m seriously considering the 2015 Impala. Eaton, Whirlpool, and a GE branded product supposedly are going to be on the market with a reliable, $500 Hydraulic Refueler. That $4500 PHILL unit breaks down more often than advertised.

I have a gas line in my garage for my gas-fired huge hot-tub. Buried it in the ground so it was actually easy to run. But then I’m used to running electrical conduit and, trust me, the skill sets are similar even if the taper isn’t. Natural Gas is currently under 1/4 the cost of electric in my area. Since electric is at best in my area 1/3 the cost of gasoline, natural gas wins the economy race. And as I’ve mentioned several times, since the bed wetters have banned coal, the only approved fuel for central stations is Natural
Gas, which the Impala CNG is more efficient than the Model S, in that scenario. In the wintertime, there is no comparison, since then the Impala becomes a defacto “COGENERATOR” since the heat is recooped for the cabin. It is an expense in the S.

Fuel Cells may still have a place in large power storage scenarios, but for vehicular transportation its time has come and gone.


The oil industry has promoted the hydrogen myth for decades. Glad to see their energy propaganda crumble before stripping it out of oil, became the norm. Go BEVs!

I wouldn’t mind a CNG fuel cell as a range extender for my EV. It would rarely get used, so filling up wouldn’t constantly be on my mind. There are quite a few CNG stations depending where you are in the country, but still this could be an issue.

However fuel cells are expensive. My bet is that battery technology will continue to move at a much faster rate and get cheaper than fuel cell technology will.

At a certain point of price, energy density, and charging rate, range extenders become obsolete anyway.

kdawg, early fuel cell vehicles had a bit of an issue with the hydrogen leaking out of the car’s storage tank. I wonder if they have licked that problem or if it is still an issue to keep in mind. I would bet that they have reduced the leakage rate significantly but I haven’t read anything addressing the issue in a couple years.

I wonder if hydrogen leaks more than CNG because the molecules (essentially atoms for Hydrogen) are much smaller?

Hydrogen atoms are the smallest there are.
CNG ist a molecule, a group or combination of more than one atom.
Four of the five atoms in a molecule of cng are hydrogen.

Exactly, kdawg. Hydrogen also makes steel brittle, so it can’t be pumped through conventional pipelines, making distribution problematic. That leaking and brittleness problem also makes the “balance of plant” parts in a car more expensive and difficult to source.

I already have grid power to my house for a moderate price. I can get *commodity* solar panels for bathroom-redecorating money. I will very soon be able to get a commodity storage system. What the hell does hydrogen offer to empower the individual homeowner? As of right now, 2 things: 1.) Jack and 2.) S#1T.

It is a commodity that Tesla should use fuel cells to power the Supercharger

I could probably find a decade old comment where I said Fuel cells where not for cars, but I would simply confirm, indeed BEV is way better than an hydrogen fuel cell.

This is also due to the fact that from the start they picked the very wrong fuel type, because a direct bioethanol fuel cell would have had a chance since it would still be interesting today as one kind of possible range extender.

Now on other applications like for planes or boats, perhaps trucks, a fuel cell could have interest because of the price per energy storage volume. So for a container ship or a long haul plane a fuel cell system might be interesting.

By the way, again, a high power short duration fuel cell might be interesting for an electric rocket. A thermal Hydrogen rocket might be beaten by a Fuel Cell Hydrogen rocket using a plasma electric system feeding on the electricity provided by the hydrogen. The energy of combustion is 100% but the lower level of electric energy coming from the same hydrogen might be applied in a more propulsion efficient way, which would finally mean a more efficient rocket. Obviously you need the electrofan plasma discharge engine development again but that will have to come someday anyway.

I wish the Sierra Club would have gotten the memo, instead of being a driver of CA’s upcoming $220 million build-out of hydrogen filling stations. This article claims Tesla was on board, too?


Wastes of public funds, like this, simply take away from the pot that could actually do something.

I agree. The hydrogen part featured in California’s ZEV report should send a chill up everyone’s back.

Hydrogen is much more safe than gasoline or CNG, because it’s very light weight and instantly escapes in case of an open leak, instead of flowing all over the ground.

Actually CNG is much lighter than air. I think you’re confusing this with Propane, which being heavier than air, pools and on a pretty regular basis, blows up houses for various reasons.

I think Toyota are going to unveil their ‘nearly production ready’ FCEV at the Tokyo Motor Show next month.

I’m not sure what good it will do them and I’d bet any money that the production version will be a plugin hybrid and not rely solely on hydrogen.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Fuel cells (either H2/membrane or gasoline/solid oxide) are a nonstarter if you can’t get at least 100kW onboard, for less than $10k per vehicle.

If they can meet those goals though, and be able to extract say 20kWh out of a gallon of gasoline (either onboard or via reformulation at a filling station), then you’ve got your 60+mpg transitional powertrain right there.

Welll, hydrogen is all, for practical purposes, stripped out of natural gas. As such, one assumes that the gas company could just do that for all natural gas and just start shipping that down the pipelines instead of NG. For most purposes it would be compatible (as in, it gets burned up in water heaters, furnaces and stove/ovens). It would then bring the pollution introduced by NG from “low” to nonexistant, and allow fuel cell generators to be installed cheaply as a backup to solar power. I’m guessing that idea is a non-starter because it would dramatically raise the costs of NG. As a car fuel, there was always the issue of what would be done with the stripped out products from hydrogen production (use as chemical feedstock?). Other than all of this, I think you can assume that fuel cell cars already exist, but in the form of CNG cars, the ugly cousin of the FCC. I still like the CNG car, I still want to convert my gas truck to burn CNG. That vehicle has to: 1. Go long distances. 2. Pull large loads (trailer). I’m guessing my 2025 that EV trucks and a charging support structure worthy… Read more »

I want to see some crash tests and how well these 10,000 psi tanks do.

Hydrogen might be econonmical and a viable fuel if generated directly from GEN 3 plus Nuclear Plants. But in view of this being the only technology that can destroy a country, I don’t see many additional fission reactors being built, except in China.

Fusion has more problems. Although the allure is great (finally, a nuclear power which WILL be ‘too cheap to meter’), the Neutron Flux is so great (and, being chargeless, its hard to ‘Steer’) that the metalurgy will only last 3 years. So unless youre a future fusion plant manufacturer, its still unaffordable.