Home Electric Vehicle Here’s why hydrogen vehicles are not the future.

Here’s why hydrogen vehicles are not the future.

1. From start to finish, hydrogen vehicle is inefficient compared to BEV:

As of today almost all of the hydrogen is generated from natural gas. In order to be a green energy source, hydrogen has to be produced from water. However, converting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable energy such as solar is not economical from an energy perspective. Here’s why – you have water. In order to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, you need electricity. You are using electricity produced by renewables’. We can’t create energy. We can only convert energy from one form to another. Here we are storing electrical energy inside hydrogen and oxygen by splitting water. You need more electrical energy to compress this hydrogen gas. Now we have to transport this hydrogen gas. It also requires electricity if the truck is electric, or we need a gas pipeline to transport hydrogen gas. You store this hydrogen at the gas pump and dispense it to the hydrogen vehicle. Inside the vehicle, we need another process to combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce/release electricity we stored in the first step. This hydrogen fuel cell which extracts electricity from hydrogen and oxygen works at around 55% efficiency. Finally, we use this electricity to recharge our vehicles’ onboard battery and power electric motor.

Apart from the hydrogen fuel cell, we also have a hydrogen combustion engine. But this is a poor idea. The engine efficiency is at around 25% and in real-world scenarios produces nitrogen oxides(too bad) and water.

Here is the full process for hydrogen vehicle:

Electricity -> Water -> (energy loss) Hydrogen + Oxygen -> Compress hydrogen (energy loss) -> Transport hydrogen (energy loss) -> Gas station -> Fill-up vehicle with hydrogen -> Hydrogen fuel Cell (55% efficiency, 25% for hydrogen combustion engine) -> Electricity -> Motor

If we combine all of the above energy loss, we don’t know what will be the ultimate efficiency for a hydrogen vehicle.

Compare this whole process with battery EVs like Tesla:

Electricity -> EV battery -> Motor. This whole process from start to finish is more than 70% efficient.

2. Hydrogen vehicle operating cost:

Hydrogen vehicle operating cost is 4x more expensive than electric vehicles. Let’s look at an example. Toyota Mirai vs Tesla Model 3 long range. 

Toyota Mirai:
Price: $58,000
Range: 312 miles
Operating cost: $0.20/mile [source: link 2 below]

Tesla Model 3 long range:
Price:  $48,000 (excluding autopilot)
Range: 310 miles
Operating cost:  $0.06/mile (depends on where you live, the same goes to hydrogen. But EV is the winner)

3. Hydrogen fuel cell life cycle:

Hydrogen fuel cell stacks are designed to last 150,000 to 200,000 miles. Reality is different. Hydrogen fuel cell efficiency reduces significantly before reaching this high mileage. On the other hand, Tesla model 3 motor is rated for a million miles. Tesla also developing million miles battery.

4. Hydrogen refueling stations vs electric charging stations:

Almost every neighborhood in the world has electricity. All the infrastructure for the delivery of electricity is already present. Building an electric charging station is very easy. If you want, you can even charge your battery electric vehicle at your home.

Even if we assume that production and delivery of hydrogen is not a big deal, we still have to make new hydrogen refueling stations. If there are not enough hydrogen vehicles on the road then building a hydrogen refueling station is not economically viable. Also if there are not enough hydrogen stations, most consumers will stay away from buying hydrogen vehicles. It’s a tricky situation to solve. If any company wants to build a massive refueling stations all by themselves like Tesla supercharger, it’s quite impossible. In order to succeed they have to build hydrogen stations not only in the USA but also in Europe at first. Producing hydrogen and delivering all over the US and Europe will be quite challenging.  

Final Note:

The process of hydrogen production, storage, and transportation is not easy. On top of that, hydrogen fuel cell technology is also very complex. Whereas electric vehicle is very simple and easy to maintain.

Few References:
1. https://www.edmunds.com/toyota/mirai/
2. https://cafcp.org/content/cost-refill
3. https://ssl.toyota.com/mirai/fcv.html
4. https://www.tesla.com/model3
5. https://cleantechnica.com/2019/08/05/how-much-does-owning-a-tesla-model-3-save-you-in-fuel-costs/
6. https://www.wired.com/story/tesla-may-soon-have-a-battery-that-can-last-a-million-miles/