As Interest in Hydrogen Falls, Toyota Promises Cheaper Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car Will Launch in Just Three Years’ Time

Despite its best intentions, Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell revolution has been something of a damp squib thus far. Its first production hydrogen fuel cell sedan, the hand-built Toyota Mirai, is built by hand because Toyota hasn’t yet perfected mass production techniques for the costly, intricate hydrogen fuel cell or the mass of technology that lies at the heart of each Mirai. The fuel cell stack itself, it is said, costs Toyota somewhere in the region of $50,000 to make — and Toyota is currently selling each and every Mirai at a massive loss.

Toyota is readying a next-generation Mirai which will be cheaper to buy.

Toyota is readying a next-generation Mirai which will be cheaper to buy.

Then there’s the refuelling infrastructure needed to make hydrogen fuel cell cars practical on an everyday level. With no way to fill them up at home, customers must drive to a nearby hydrogen filling station in order to replenish their car’s 300-mile hydrogen fuel tank. Right now, only the state of California has anything approaching a useable hydrogen fueling infrastructure — and even then it’s only around the major cities — Los Angeles and San Francisco. Worse still, despite promising it would have plenty of reliable hydrogen filling stations across the Golden State by the time the Toyota Mirai began deliveries last October, there are only a handful of fueling stations reliable enough for Toyota’s customers to use.

Production costs are high for the current Toyota Mirai

Production costs are high for the current Toyota Mirai

The problems associated with building a hydrogen fueling network (massive cost, technical difficulties and reliability concerns) combined with the problems associated with building hydrogen fuel cell cars (expensive components, power constraints due to heavy cooling requirements and the performance issues associated with heavy fuel cell drivetrains) has meant that we’ve seen a gradual shift being made by other automakers away from hydrogen fuel cell technology. Honda and Hyundai for example, once vocal supporters of hydrogen fuel cell technology at the expense of electric vehicles, now seem to see hydrogen fuel cell cars existing alongside rather than instead of battery electric ones. BMW, Volkswagen and GM all seem to have cooled their own internal Hydrogen fuel cell research programs too, focusing instead on electric (or at least electrified) vehicles.

Toyota however, has remained steadfast in its goal to bring about a hydrogen fuel cell revolution. And now it’s eagerly touting a new, more affordable mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell car it says will hit the market in just three years’ time.

The car in question, a vehicle Toyota has hinted will also be called the Toyota Mirai, would cost at least ¥1 million ($9900) less than the existing Toyota Mirai and go on sale in 2019, just ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Why is this important? Firstly, the 2020 Olympics has long been set as the event at which Toyota will showcase its hydrogen fuel cell technology, shuttling dignitaries around in zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, powering team busses with hydrogen fuel cell technology and perhaps even using hydrogen fuel cell generators to provide power at certain olympic events. As one of the biggest sponsors of the 2020 Olympics, it needs its hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology to be sufficiently mature and cost effective to encourage the millions of attendees at the Olympics — and billions of viewers around the world — to adopt hydrogen fuel cell vehicles over battery electric ones.

A massive shortage in working hydrogen filling stations still spells trouble for Toyota.

A massive shortage in working hydrogen filling stations still spells trouble for Toyota.

With 80 hydrogen filling stations across the nation, Japan is certainly far better prepared for the advent of affordable hydrogen fuel cell cars than any other country. But with cars like the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt EV and next-generation Nissan LEAF expected to be on the market by the time Toyota launches its next-generation Mirai, time is running out for Toyota and its Hydrogen fuel cell revolution.

That’s because while the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt EV and next-generation Nissan LEAF may not match the claimed 5-minute refuelling time of the Mirai (or the 10-minutes or so most owners report in real life), they are all expected to cost between one third and a half of the cost of the Mirai. Moreover, at 200+ miles of range each and with no power restrictions caused by hot-running hydrogen fuel stacks, it’s becoming increasingly likely that customers will pick battery electric over hydrogen.

Add in the fact that each can be recharged overnight, giving owners a full tank every day and no gas station to queue at? Then top that off with the longer range offered by next-generation electric cars and we think hydrogen has lost the battle.

Do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInDigg thisShare on RedditEmail this to someonePin on Pinterest

Related News

  • William

    HFCVs aren’t zero-emission — they emit water vapor.

    I mean, that’s pretty clean, but still.

    • Bert

      And what of the emissions caused by separating the methane or generating the electricity needed to create the hydrogen?

      • nordlyst

        Come on. Only 96% of commercially available hydrogen comes from methane…

        • Bert

          Well, at least we can rest easy knowing that they’re going the significantly more expensive route a while 4% of the time.

  • pm

    All good points about why hydrogen is dead for passenger cars, but you forgot three more key reasons: safety (carrying around a tank of explosive compressed hydrogen) efficiency (you lose about 75% of the energy you use in creating H2) and GHG emissions (creating H2 by natural gas reformation emits more than a gas car). #3 can be solved by using solar or other clean electricity, but it’s not how most H2 is created today and all the other issues still exist.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      “you lose about 75% of the energy” – false.
      46.2% electricity is coming from natural gas right now (6:35am 10/05/2016)
      The grid use loads of natural gas.

      • pm

        I’m not sure the number is 75% exactly but if you use electricity to create hydrogen, you lose the majority of that energy in transporting it, compressing it, in loss due to leaks, and loss in the fuel cell converting it back to electricity, so why not just send that same energy down a wire to a battery and get 80-90% of it back for moving the car? About natural gas in the electricity supply mix, if you’re saying it doesn’t make sense to use “dirty” electricity to create H2, you’re right. Some hydrogen advocates talk about using solar power; I’m just pointing out that’s doesn’t make sense either due to efficiency and cost considerations. As for battery electric cars, they are cleaner than gas cars even if the electricity supply mix is dirty – see

        • Joseph Dubeau

          You can make it from wind

          Iceland uses geothermal.

          • pm

            You aren’t understanding what I said. Yes, you can make H2 from solar or wind or hydro or geothermal or any other source of electricity. A clean source would not create GHGs, but it would still not make sense because you’d lose most of the generated energy converting from electricity to hydrogen and back to electricity, before it gets to the point of moving a car. Any energy has a cost, so it would be more efficient to keep the electricity as electricity and send it down a wire to a battery in the car. In any case, cost/efficiency is just one of the problems with hydrogen cars – the huge infrastructure cost is the biggest. The article points out several other issues and I added some more above.

          • Joseph Dubeau

            That is not accurate.
            Give a link to whom you are using well to wheel analysis.

          • pm
          • Joseph Dubeau

            Those sites take a anti-hydrogen stance.
            Those aren’t Wheel to Well studies. Opinion is very different from facts.
            Anybody can publish on Cleantechnica. How about DOE study?
            That is math is wrong. I point out to a report from D.O.E, they ignored it.
            Politics is not science.

          • No Joseph, why assume people are making stuff up if reality isn’t what you would like it to be? It is pure science.

            The basis is found in this document, in section 6.2:

            The only system that provides the high pressure H2 needed for a fuel cell vehicle (Avalence: Hydrofiller 175) needs 60 kWh of electricity per kg of hydrogen. The Mirai travels about 75 km on a kg of H2. So that makes 1.25 km per kWh. An EV like the Nissan LEAF does 5 km on each kWh. So it seems to be even worse than I thought.

            Please provide supported evidence, no innuendo or vague accusations of bias.

          • nordlyst

            Actually, my LEAFs lifetime average (47 000 km on the odometer) consumption is 5.5 km per kWh. Hence the expected energy use if I’d driven a Mirai instead would have been 4.4 times as high!

          • Oh and another thing, CleanTechnica clearly doesn’t take an anti-hydrogen stance. Just two examples:

            Please do your research before leveling accusations at others.

          • nordlyst

            I’m sorry, but I seemed to have missed your DoE source saying the hydrogen system is energy efficient compared to batteries.

            Look, this isn’t a difficult question like “are carbs bad for you?”. The actual proposal from Toyota et al is to use electrolysis to make the hydrogen from wind and sun. As you can look up in any source you like, from wikipedia, physics textbooks used in high schools or at universities, this is 40-45% efficient. I don’t know the percentage loss involved in compressing the gas. I hear it is “substantial”, but I never bothered to look it up because knowing that the electrolysis step alone is several times more wasteful than the entire “solarpanel-to-wheel” chain for a BEV makes it irrelevant.

            Add in the ridiculous cost and complexity of a hydrogen solution and it all begins to look, frankly, a bit silly.

            I’m with Elon Musk on this one: “In a couple of years, it will be super obvious.”

          • Joseph Dubeau


          • Yeah, but I guess you’re missing the point pm is trying to make: using that clean electricity to power an EV, you get 3x the distance out of the same kWh of electricity. The whole chain of electrolysis, compression/liquefaction, transport, fuel cell is not very efficient. At the end of the chain, only 1/3 of the electricity that you put in, comes out again.

      • nordlyst

        How much of electricity today comes from natural gas has absolutely nothing to do with the efficiency of the hydrogen economy. The proposal is to make hydrogen by electrolysis using electricity from solar and wind. This first step is 45% efficient, wasting 55% of the energy. Then you need to compress it to make it more energy dense so it’s useful in a car, and this too requires a lot of energy. No storage and distribution solution exists that doesn’t leak anything at all, hydrogen being the smalles molecule in the universe, so there are further losses there. The fuel cell wastes another ten percent. At this point you have electricity again, so ALL of these losses should be compared to the losses if you instead distributed the original electricity from solar and wind over the grid, charged the battery in your car and discharged it during use.

        There are further losses in the alternator and the motor and the cabling, but these are identical whether the electricity in the car originates from a fuel cell or a battery pack.

        It is very clear: Today an ICE car is about one-quarter as efficient as a BEV in real-world use. A fuel cell vehicle is about one third as efficient. And the theoretical best case for fuel cell cars is half as good as current, commercially available BEVs (which are improving faster than FCEV btw, although that can’t continue for long since BEVs are very close to the theoretical limits).

        Even if you want to throw out all known methods for making h2, distributing it, and turning it back into electricity, it is STILL clear that, short of sidestepping the laws of thermodynamics, they can never be much better than BEVs. In fact, no technology can ever be much better than BEVs already are in terms of efficiency. How do we know that? Because BEVs are nearly 90% efficient today. And they are improving still! We have absolute certainty that we won’t invent something that is 100% efficient, because the laws of thermodynamics require that some energy is lost whenever it is converted from one form to another. Making a vehicle move involves exactly that – the conversion from one form of energy to kinetic energy (and, when we go uphill, potential energy).

        In order to avoid misunderstanding: There are many ways to solve transportation that can be much more efficient than driving around with a single person in a two-ton BEV. For instance, putting many people in one vehicle and making that vehicle long and narrow, like a train, means you need to overcome much less air resistance. If you remove most of the air and levitate the thing you can further reduce drag (dramatically) and eliminate rolling resistance too (think Hyperloop). But these are ways of reducing the amount of work that needs to be done, not ways of making more of the energy used go to cover that work and less of it being lost as heat. And in lots of cases, such as the shape of the vessel, this involves changes that are utterly unrelated to the choice of propulsion technology.

        • Joseph Dubeau

          No it’s not! Go get your facts straight.

          • nordlyst

            But it is.

  • Martin Lacey

    Hydrogen is dead in the water!

    (get it?)

    • Joseph Dubeau

      You mean water is made from hydrogen and oxygen.

      • nordlyst

        Water is burned hydrogen.

        • Electric Bill

          Sorry, nordlyst! Water is not burned hydrogen! A water molecule is made of one atom of hydrogen and two atoms of oxygen.

          • nordlyst

            Eh… maybe in American Chemistry Tests everyone’s a winner, but you are wrong, Oh So Wrong:

            “Water (chemical formula: H2O) is a transparent fluid which forms the world’s streams, lakes, oceans and rain, and is the major constituent of the fluids of organisms. As a chemical compound, a water molecule contains *one oxygen and two hydrogen* atoms that are connected by covalent bonds.”

          • nordlyst

            No. The reason water does not burn is exactly that it IS burned.

            Look, burning is oxidation. When hydrogen is oxidated it becomes dihydrogen monoxide… water.

          • nordlyst

            What did you actually think happens in a fuel cell??? It’s a slow, controlled burn and the hydrogen becomes… water.

  • Chris O

    Great article that makes a good job of listing the many downsides of hydrogen for those who weren’t already aware of them.

    It definitely does look like this announcement by Toyota must be seen against the backdrop of the revolution Model 3 has set in motion that spells the end of the hydrogen hoax as more and more carmakers realize that has been milked for its red herring benefits for all that it was worth and it’s time to prepare for the serious competition Model 3 is shaping up to pose for them.

    The only option left for Toyota to prove that hydrogen isn’t actually dead is to do what Tesla did: offer a good looking, spacious, high performance HFCV at a price that is not subsidized but incorporates the same gross margin as Model 3 does and open a reservation list for it. To level the playing field, no subsidized fuel, though Toyota is free of course to shell out the Billions needed to provide refueling infrastructure for it.

    If it turns out there is a decent amount reservations for such a vehicle Toyota has nothing to worry about, if nobody shows any interest because of the staggering price, the lack of infrastructure and the very high fuel cost it will have proven at spectacular cost that hydrogen was the dead end it always appeared to be.

  • Ayanda Makupula

    What a bad article, can’t even use this info for reference because it is clearly not a well-researched article. I would understand if this article was written about 2 years ago but so much has changed since then – a lot of European countries have opted in for hydrogen economy and many car manufacturers such as BMW, Daimler and GM have announced future HFCVs.

    The title says hydrogen interest is falling but nothing is said in the article to support that – and why? Because it isn’t true, hydrogen interest has in actual fact risen over the past 3 years especially ‘green-hydrogen’. Sure, hydrogen fueling stations are currently a hurdle but that is not the end of hydrogen economy, even though there are problems (massive cost, technical difficulties and reliability concerns), at least 1 hydrogen filling station is constructed every month.

    I personally never saw HFCVs being the only cars on the roads simply because no one fuel type can drive the entire world, otherwise we would run-out (as is the case with battery powered electrics, we can’t really expect the whole world to drive only these types of vehicles as we would face electricity shortages).

    Nice attempt in writing this article but I’m not convinced

    • Joe Viocoe

      Wow, uninformed commenting. You really think we’ll face electricity shortages. Talk about using 3 year old information.

      3 years ago more automakers were barking louder about their FCV projects, now, it’s gotten quieter.
      Toyota still trying, but had to stop sale in the U.S..

      So yeah, interest has fallen.

      • Ayanda Makupula

        Let me break it down to you using 2014 figures:

        The world produced 9,760TWh of electricity –

        Global auto sales amounted to 87million –

        And currently there are about 1.2billion vehicles in the world (95% are light duty) –

        The Tesla Model S requires about 99kWh for a full recharge (300miles) –

        Now let’s do the math:

        1TWh = 1000 000 000kWh, therefore 9 760TWh = 9 760 000 000 000kWh

        Say all the car sales in 2014 were all Tesla Model S – then electricity required would be 87 000 000*99kWh = 8 613 000 000kWh (0.1% of global electricity production for just a single charge or 300miles)

        On average, 12 000miles per car per year is a considered a norm – & – so you would have to charge the Tesla Model S at least 40 times in a year

        Then to charge the 87million new cars = 8 613 000 000kWh*40 = 344 520 000 000kWh (3.5% of global electricity production)

        Now if you take the 1.2billion vehicles this number reaches almost 50%.

        Now tell me, where is the latest info that says there would be enough electricity to support a 50% demand from just charging cars, seeing that my commenting is uninformed and riding on data from 3 years ago

        • Joe Viocoe

          “Say all the car sales in 2014 were all Tesla Model S”

          What a ridiculous scenario.
          You’ve wasted your time doing math and trying to impress people with so many links… Based on a unrealistic premise that never happened…Nor could it happen.

          “Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory calculated that the grid’s excess capacity will support over 150 million pure electric vehicles.

          150 million means that nearly 75% of the vehicles on our roads today could be electric and the grid would have the capacity to support them all.”

          • nordlyst

            As far as I can see there was nothing wrong with his math (multiplication, to be more specific). The problem lies instead with what he wrongly believe the implications to be.

            Grid capacity doesn’t say ANYTHING about how much electricity is currently produced (and consumed; the two match of course). It just says how much energy the grid is capable of transporting.

            But, as I pointed out in my own reply to him, it’s totally illogical to point to more electricity being required to realize an all-electric car park and then point to fuel cells as a solution! The hydrogen for these cars isn’t supposed to come from methane, but from electricity (via electrolysis). And that is MUCH less efficient than charging batteries. So if increasing electricity production is a problem for BEVs, it would be far more so for H2 vehicles.

            You are right however to point out that the assumption of an immediate switch to 100% BEVs is ridiculous. In fact, even if all NEW cars sold were BEVs starting tomorrow, there would be mostly non-BEVs on the road for another decade! It takes about twenty years to switch out 95% of a car park, and probably 30 to get to 99.9%. And since EV sales will at best grow very quickly to become most of the market by 2030, this is even less of a concern.

        • nordlyst

          If the world switches to BEVs as it should, electricity production will have to increase (more than if the world does not).

          That is in fact all you’ve shown. It is correct.

          But so what? It is much easier to do this than to switch to hydrogen! And the proposal is not to keep making hydrogen from methane, as is done today with CO2 emissions rivaling old-fashioned oil burners, but to make it from… electricity. At one third the efficiency of BEVs.

          So although I didn’t check your sources, if we assume you are right that all the worlds cars being BEVs amounts to an increase in the ballpark of 50% of todays total production, switching to H2 would instead require an increase of 150% – and all of it would have to be renewable.

          In fact, inefficiency is the achilles heel of fuel cells, or fool cells as I prefer to call them. It will take MUCH longer to green our energy mix if we do this.

          I might change my outlook on fool cells if we get fusion and suddenly find ourselves with massive amounts of emissions-free power. I *might*, but even that probably wouldn’t do it, because h2 has so many other drawbacks. To my mind, it is a bit like a mechanical watch compared to a quartz crystal watch. Very impressive technology, but a stupid way to solve the problem – it leads to much worse performance at an insanely inflated price.

    • Chris O
    • pm

      One simple and clear indication that hydrogen is dying/dead: go to and count how many working H2 filling stations there are, and count how many are marked as “old projects” – i.e. there used to be a station but it’s gone now. There are way more gone than active, and even after several decades of hype on hydrogen cars, there are still only about 40 active in North America, of which 23 are in LA or San Francisco.

      • Joe Viocoe

        And half are closed to the public

      • Ayanda Makupula

        This is what I found when I clicked on this link:

        Current number of database entries: 671

        Last Change(s):

        13.05.2016Beverly Hills Station
        Los Angeles – Beverly Hills (United States)
        in operation

        13.05.2016Mill Valley Station
        Mill Valley (United States)
        under construction

        13.05.2016Santa Barbara Station
        Santa Barbara (United States)
        in operation
        2 stations in operation, 1 under construction and all open to the public (not sure if this is what you wanted me to see but the point you’re trying to make just got crushed by your own source)

        • pm

          You’re saying 2 working stations and 1 under construction means hydrogen is alive and well? As I said, the vast majority of the 671 “database entries” at that site are former stations that are no longer in operation, and most of the operating ones are not open to the public. Here’s another source. Compare the US Department of Energy’s map showing 24 operating public hydrogen stations in the US, of which 19 are in the LA and San Francisco areas ( with their map showing 13,448 electric vehicle charging locations with 33,028 outlets ( And that doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of charging stations people have in their homes, something that will never happen for hydrogen.

    • nordlyst

      If we’d run out of electricity using BEVs, we’d do so sooner using fuel cells. You see, the way to make hydrogen without CO2 emissions is to first make electricity from solar and wind, and then use electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Unfortunately this wastes more than half the energy, and still the hydrogen gas must be compressed to make it energy dense enough to be useful in a car – and this wastes a lot more energy. Then the fuel cell in the car will burn the hydrogen, wasting another ten percent but turning the rest into useful electricity.

      But if you omitted all the electrical-to-hydrogen-to-electrical steps and replaced the hydrogen with another chemistry – lithium ion for example – you could use hardware that is a thousand times cheaper and waste less than fifteen percent of the total energy from those solar panels and wind mills – against wasting 70% using fool cells.

  • Webber Depor

    Its really good only japan knows what hydrogen offers. Other idiots are going to watch japan.Meawhile its illogical that toyota push california for hydrogen. They do not understand so what is the meaning.

    • Bert

      Japan can pursue the significantly more expensive alternative fuel if out desires. I’m happy that the rest of the world is currently giving more consideration to the cheaper alternative fuel.

  • Jeff Songster

    Proof of concept…yes car companies can build H2 powered vehicles. Yes crazy governments can subsidize the selling of them and building of refueling stations… now… at the costs and benefits level… why do we want to continue. The cells are crazy expensive… leak and fail… don’t really make enough power fast enough for modern driving… without monster battery anyway. SO let’s just make great BEVs and finish building out the public charging network so no one gets stuck anywhere. H2 needs to be put back on the shelf for another 5 to 10 years… and if the 200+ to 400+ mile EVs with massive supercharger style nets haven’t taken over by then… maybe try again to use the tech as a range extender if even that is worthwhile. Sorry fuel cell folks… the window is closed.

  • Paul Gracey

    The Hydrogen fuel cell car and major Auto companies research involved with them were doing so with government funding based on the oil economy, and possible future subsidies for hydrogen powered airliners. Just as automobiles subsidize the highway use of heavy trucks through fuel taxes, where the cost of highway repairs is borne disproportionately by private autos that do far less damage to those roads, I suspect this scheme was meant to distribute the costs of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure that would support cleaner air transport once the cost of oil rose high enough. I.E. it has been political manipulation of the market in favor of the present energy provisions players from the very inception.

  • nordlyst

    I totally agree! Moreover, I think it is really important that hydrogen does lose the battle!

    Fool cells mainly have one thing going for them: It looks really cool and it has immense marketing value that you can run the car and have only (quite) clean water come out of the tail pipe! But apart from that, they are terrible in every way. As mentioned in the article, they offer lousy performance compared to BEVs. But it doesn’t stop at that.

    This is an issue that has yet to fully receive the attention it deserves, but there is more and more talk about it. “Everyone” knows the biggest hurdle we have to clear in order to green our energy mix is that renewable energy is intermittent and the grid doesn’t have an energy buffer. The production of energy currently has to closely track consumption because of this lack of storage. BEV proponents and H2 proponents equally argue that their cars will not just lead to zero local emissions, but help solve the problem for energy in general.

    If we switch to BEVs, we will have a large energy buffer in the cars battery packs. Given that cars are on average parked more than 90% of the time, and that more than half of cars are parked at ANY time, this seems very feasible. And as the cars exit service (wear out or are crashed) a stream of used batteries with on average 80% or more remaining capacity can get a second life in grid or home energy storage. According to Tesla, one billion large (100 kWh) battery packs is enough for 100% of the worlds electricity consumption to come from renewable (mainly solar). A billion is a big number, but it must be seen in light of the number of cars – and about 100 million new cars enter service each year, a number that is expected to continue growing for decades. So if we actually made the switch and all those cars were BEVs, it seems plausible we could get enough storage for our grid in little more than two decades. That is remarkable. Of course, car sales won’t be 100% of the market any time soon, and there may be many problems with the number from Tesla, but still this gives a ballpark idea that demonstrates BEVs have the potential to dramatically reduce the intermittency problem and offers some serious synergies.

    H2 folks say hydrogen is also going to solve intermittency. They say hydrogen will be very cheap to make from renewable sources and can be cheaply stored in huge quantities in underground reservoirs (typically old oil wells). As far as I understand this has in fact been done and storing lots of hydrogen is technically not too difficult with this solution. But it leaves the question of how to get it to where it’s needed. Hydrogen is after all element number one! A single hydrogen molecule is just two protons and two electrons – the smalles molecule in the universe. It is so small, in fact, that under pressure it will leak out of any normal steel container. When mixed with oxygen, including low concentrations like in ordinary air, it becomes extremely flammable and tends to explode at the slightest agitation. When I ask hydrogen fans about the cost of storage they say we’ll just pump it into our used-up oil wells, but when I ask them about how to make cheap and terrorist-proof pipelines to move the stuff from there to my local filling station they say we’ll make the hydrogen locally at each station…

    But in my view, the achilles heel of hydrogen is this: There is only one known way to make hydrogen cheaply and without emissions, and that is by electrolysis. Unfortunately this isn’t energy efficient at all – only about 45%. So most of the electrical energy, which can of course be renewable, will be wasted in the first step. Then you’ll waste significantly more compressing it so it’s energy dense enough to be useful in your Mirai. The storage and distribution is as mentioned problematic, but even if these problems simply went away, the resulting system is fundamentally only about one third as good as the commercially available BEVs we have today. And even in theory they cannot be better than half as good. To me, that is the definitive word on the matter.

    Energy efficiency really matters because the world doesn’t have anywhere near enough renewable energy in the mix, and won’t have it for a long time to come. We will almost certainly not succeed in getting to 100% renewable electricity (ok, say 99.9% to exclude irrelevant edge cases) in this century. And that means that at least in this century, if we chose H2 instead of BEV, we would be having more non-renewable sources in the mix than necessary for all that time, since we’d be using a lot more energy in total. The climate problem is an energy problem. And the energy problem has all sorts of implications besides the climate. Even if I were a climate-change denier I would certainly not doubt that fossil fuels are non-renewable and that we therefore must find other, more sustainable ways to get our energy, or else the continuation of our comfortable lifestyles and freedom to travel simply becomes physically impossible.

    To me, these fundamental reasons are the most important, and I have yet to come across any h2 proponent who actually adressed them. That said, I think short-term “traditional” economics (i.e. the type that totally ignores the value of having an environment in which to have an economy and assumes the value of all naturally-provided services is zero) ALSO favors BEVs over H2. The cost of H2 infrastructure would be gargantuan. And nobody speaks of it replacing electricity in general, so it is a proposal to maintain both electricity and hydrogen infrastructure for centuries, even though the first can serve all of our needs.

    I believe big car companies like Toyota wants hydrogen to succeed not because they are evil or stupid, but because that would be very good for them. The technology is incredibly complicated and means the already huge barriers to entering the car-making industry would grow even bigger. High barriers to entry means fatter profit margins, and that is obviously a good thing for any company. BEVs on the other hand represent a change in the opposite direction – ICE drivelines with enginges with about 4,000 moving parts and complicated gearboxes and so on are replaced by very simple electric motors. Ever since Chrysler was incorporated back in the twenties, there have been only ONE new entrant to the US car-making business that has yet to go bust. It is no coincidence that this company – Tesla – makes electric vehicles.

  • Electric Bill

    There are actually several drawbacks for hydrogen vehicles not mentioned in the article or the comments.

    Hydrogen atoms are much smaller than any other atoms. This is very important. The larger the atom, the harder 80 is to squeeze out of any holes. Hydrogen is so tiny it is essentially impossible to really confine it in any container. Fill a vessel with it, and it will slowly leak out… so if you spend the energy to make some hydrogen gas, you had better be prepared to use it soon.

    Another problem is the enormous cost of a national refueling infrastructure: MANY billions of dollars. There is this cbicken-and-egg thing: if you consider buying a hydrogen vehicle, you will be afraid to do so if there is, not already a comprehensive network that will allow you to drive to any areas YOU intend to go. It’s not like an EV: if you drive somewhere remote in a Tesla or a Leaf, you are stuck with the horrid inconvenience of waiting for as much as a day to recharge from a 110 outlet at, say, 12 amps, just to make sure you are not overloading the fuse box at the farm house you are stuck in. But with a hydrogen vehicle, you really DO have to have a source of fuel EVERYWHERE you go… ABSOLUTELY.

    Whoever is thinking of building in an infrastructure for hydrogen has a very similar problem: they are going to be reluctant to spend MANY tens of billions of dollars building up an infrastructure if there are not many thousands of cars already on the road ready to buy the hydrogen you are generating! If you have tens of billions of dollars, are you willing to risk spending all of that to make that infrastructure knowing that by the time it is finished, the market will want to buy it? Will EVs already have swallowed up all the market for non-ICE cars, at an affordable price? Will batteries have already become so inexpensive and, with such impressive energy density that selling hydrogen cars will be impossible?

    To reiterate, it’s chicken-and-egg… somebody with deep pockets will likely have cold feet when faced with the prospect of not having customers to sell his hydrogen to; car buyers are going to have cold feet when considering buying a vehicle they will not be able to find hydrogen filling stations for. Buyers may be faced with the same situation drivers had in Israel with “A Better Place”: having a car that relied on a battery-swapping network, but then the network went bankrupt leaving car owners stranded unless they were fortunate to be able to charge at home or elsewhere, in some, convenient locations… except the problem is even more dire, because with hydrogen cars you HAVE to have a station to fill up.

    If that is not enough to make you hesitant, consider a worst case scenario reminiscent of the Hindenburg disaster: Soccer Mom with her hydrogen car all full of kiddies… at the station filling up… a semi is pulling in, and, maybe the driver has a heart attack, slamming into the hydrogen car and the mom and the kids and the station pump– KABLOOM!!! This .om has just become front-page news all over the world, seeing what happens when a hydrogen vehicle has a real accident. No one will ever again be willing to buy a hydrogen-fueled are when EVs are extremely safe in such situations– no explosions, no fires.

    There are actually more issues with hydrogen, but do you really need more to convince you that EVs are inherently better, safer, and less of a gamble of getting stuck with something with no fueling infrastructure?

  • DanFrederiksen

    So stupid

  • Robert Smart

    Hydrogen infrastructure is mega expensive, dangerous & slow, even an exotic materials 10,000psi hydrogen tank is orders of magnitude more expensive than it’s petrol/gas steel counterpart & needs to be certified pressure tested like a dive tank! Compare that to: Sun > photons > 8.3 minutes > Earth > photovoltaic cells > electrons > batteries/powerlines > people with devices that consume electricity 🙂