Are Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Doomed — And Have Electric Cars Won?

Not so long ago, a large number of the world’s automakers were treating hydrogen fuel cell technology as the fuel choice of the future, often to the detriment of battery electric vehicles.

But in the past few months we’ve seen a noticeable shift away from hydrogen fuel cell technology, with once ardent supporters (like Honda and Hyundai) shifting their focus to include battery electric vehicles alongside hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Others (like Daimler) have ended all active hydrogen fuel cell development.

Which raises the question: are hydrogen fuel cell cars doomed? Have electric cars won?

Watch the video above, and leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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  • Martin Lacey

    H2 is dead as far as PLG vehicles are concerned. Honda and Toyota made a commitment to showcase FCEV’s at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and I wouldn’t be surprised if they quietly shelve their programs a year or so later and cite the demand for EV’s.

    As for Nikola, they stand alone with a technology no other fleet vehicle maker is developing. They will have to face the Tesla Semi and other EV wagons from the likes of Volvo and Mercedes Benz. I’m pretty sure EV’s will win that battle too.

    • I think there is case for long distance trucking to use Hydrogen vehicles. Batteries would have to be very large to allow for decent ranges. The number of truck stops is less than gas stations, the hydrogen infrastructure for trucking could be built at a more reasonable expense compared to the personal vehicle fleet.

      • Martin Lacey

        The cost of a plg H2 pump is around $2M. You need a much larger pump for freight vehicles. I don’t even know if such a station exists in the wild.

        • American Radical

          Cost is actually around 1 million, the same for creating a new gasoline station, give or take. JP is on to something and the only rational and intelligent person on this page. Hydrogen vehicles for long distance trucking would be the future for the industry. People believe the technology is behind schedule but just like electric and hybrid vehicles a few decades ago, American politics and Oil companies are spending millions to bury their competition without giving thought to what’s best for the public. CA is subsidizing infrastructure because the state of CA typically doesn’t have its head up its ass like the rest of the country. CA knows Hydrogen is the future and is willing put up money now so it isn’t playing catch up later.

          • Martin Lacey

            First Hydrogen has had $billions of government money over the decades and still is nowhere near mass production capability of the vehicles, which is needed to bring the purchase price to parity with gas cars.

            Second, the cost of H2 dispensing is way higher than gas…. we’re talking $2M per high pressure tank and pump. No-one has figured how to have multiple pumps run of the same high pressure tank yet. Even if you were right on the $1m price tag that’s $12M for the average highway setup, plus facilities.

            Third CA is fair handed in allowing alternatives to gain a foothold, however, for how much longer the support for H2 will exist is anyone’s guess.

            If H2 doesn’t make three significant breakthroughs within the next 10 years, BEV’s will eat their lunch and steal their wives.

            3 significant breakthroughs:
            Mass production of the fuel cell stacks (currently hand made and assembled.
            Global roll-out of fuelling infrastructure in every city, town and along all major and regional corridors.
            A move to 100% electrolysys of H2 production on location – which the big backers of H2 don’t want, as they include all the major oil and gas producers who simply want to continue to deep mine and sell their product as a green energy (which is total BS).

          • Ricardo Castel-Branco

            Though unfortunately… You are right at a great deal of your speech.
            Nevertheless, environmental problems may well be forcing governments to rule harshly against oil & gas companies… We can’t continue having 5 and 6 hurricanes in a row in the Caribbean sea… It means billions of dollars in losses, and a punch in the gut of insurance companies, not to mention the overall loss of market, since I don’t quite see insurance companies interested in making insurances for boats and hotels in Miami for much longer… Right?!

          • Martin Lacey

            The question posed by the article is whether H2 vehicles have failed and Battery electric vehicles won.

            I clearly think H2 as a transport medium is highly inefficient, uneconomical and overly complex. The fact that for more than 5 decades hydrogen has been touted as the fuel of the future says it all.

            The modern battery electric vehicle is less than 2 decades old and every major auto maker has production intentions. Charging infrastructure is much cheaper and safer to install and operate and most folks simply charge at home overnight. Battery packs are found in all hybrids and every FCEV. Yes every FCEV – why? Because no fuel cell stack can produce enough accelerative force for every day driving.

            In short I think H2 is dead and BEV’s are the future that’s available today!

  • Jeff Laurence

    The complications are just too numerous. The simplicity of EVs are too obvious to ignore. Electricity produced by hydrogen is too expensive and creates a secondary step that is unnecessary for personal transportation. It’s literally building an electric powered generation station in your car. Why?

  • Dan Brook

    Given that you can walk into a showroom and buy an BEV now but buying and using a H2 vehicle isn’t really possible I’d say BEVs have won. Maybe there is a future for the in the long term. Now and short term BEVs make a lot more sense.

  • American Radical

    The bias for EVs on this page is incredibly painful. If HVs were doomed then CA wouldn’t be spending millions on infrastructure. Neither would Oil companies and EV companies be spending millions to slander hydrogen at every turn. Every comment about Hydrogen Fuel Cells, especially from Musk are ignorant and bias. The man said that Hydrogen was dangerous and flammable when he should well know that hydrogen has been safely and successfully produced, stored, transported, and used in large volumes for over 50 years. For a hydrogen tank to explode like a H bomb, the temperature to perform this fusion reaction would have to be over 10 million degrees. EV batteries will also produced more waste in the future than hydrogen fuel cells. Tesla’s bias is simply American capitalism at it’s best and they in no way are thinking about the environment and benefit of the people. Germany already has an established infrastructure and know that hydrogen is the future of the auto-industry. Sadly the American public will be left behind because of their ignorance as usual and their constant need for simplicity.

  • donald99

    I would say it all depends on breakthroughs. If EV cars could ever get recharging down to under 10 minutes at a service station, they win. If the time is 30 minutes plus than it is impractical for a busy service station to have dozens of cars plugged in at a time, drivers waiting at the terminal or in line. Range is also a factor. I can see both technologies in play, EVs in the city where the driver never travels long distances and can recharge at night and FC for every thing else. Obviously FC is the answer for buses, large trucks, trains, ships and every thing else and for powering buildings and industry.

    Time will tell. Toyota is betting on FC and I like their arguements.

  • travel_lite

    Electric vehicles face a growing problem: the global shortage of cobalt which, currently, is an integral constituent of their batteries. Tech Giants and Hedge Funds are busily cornering the market and unless an alternative component is developed fast (unlikely in the short term given that battery technology hasn’t produced a suitable replacement during the previous 100 years), then Hydrogen may prove to be the better option.

    • solid state batteries use no cobalt; they are now the focus of interest of most of the industry

  • mike parker

    Hi Nicki, my only problem with electric is in london most people dont have a driveway and if we want to
    run a power cable from our house to the car we cant get a space outside our houses, id buy a tesla tomorrow
    if i could charge it

    • Ricardo Castel-Branco

      Yep… That’s one of the things about EV’s… FCV’s would probably solve that.

  • rampage2004

    though i support H2 cars more, is clear the shift is towards electric cars. Just wish california would sink into the ocean with all their libtards so the rest of the country could get some electric vehicles…

  • Ricardo Castel-Branco

    I don’t think that we should discard neither…
    Though the FCV concept seems more complex, the fact is that it’s a very valid idea.
    One of the main problems around electricity (above all… the renewable), is the issue of storing it.
    If we have a wind tower producing a 2Gw peak… it’s very likely that most of the times, this peak will not be used at all, since it may occur at night, a time at which the power-grid is demanding less energy… So…why not store it??…
    …Well… Surely not in batteries, since it would take monstrous batteries to do so… Maybe hydrogen will do the trick.
    Water is a rather abundant resource, and it takes 9Kg of water to produce 1Kg of Hydrogen (25L pressurized at 70bar) … storing about 56Kw… 5 large bottles of water in volume)
    A batteries weight equivalence means about 0,8 tons of batteries and 100 litres in volume.
    It seems that when we need larger autonomy, the weight of batteries becomes an overload for the vehicle, case in which FCV becomes more likely to solve the problem.
    If we’re talking about short range day-to-day travel, the EV technology appears to be a smart option, much due to the likelihood of finding a charging station near your workplace or household… otherwise, we should keep developing FC technology,mainly because it holds possibilities to solve many other problems.