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).

  • 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.