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Why Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology Might Be Better Than Battery-Powered EVs
It’s an exciting time for the development of vehicles with alternative sources of energy. As companies such as Tesla have shown, all-electric vehicles have a tremendous amount of potential and capability. What’s not as commonly known though by the general public is that electric vehicles don’t necessarily have to be battery-powered. There’s actually two main forms of electric vehicles, which are:
- Battery-Powered EVs;
- Hydrogen Fuel Cell EVs.
Battery-powered electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries, while hybrids use nickel metal-hydride batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have grown so much in popularity in recent years because they’ve experienced massive improvements in the range and performance that they can offer.
Another improvement has been that the price per kilowatt-hour of storage capacity has gone from $1000 in 2010 to $200 in 2017.
So What’s the Appeal of Hydrogen Fuel Cell EVs?
On the surface, hydrogen fuel cell EVs and battery-powered EVs are similar in that there’s zero-emission from their tailpipes, and they both use electric motors. However, the main appeal of hydrogen fuel cell powered electric vehicles is that just one tank can allow it to go at least 310 miles (500 km) before it has to be refueled.
Some of the additional benefits of Hydrogen Fuel Cell EVs (FCEVs) are:
- Fuel cells can more easily power vehicles of all sizes compared to battery-powered EVs;
- Hydrogen fuel is currently being subsidized in the State of California (see: this source);
- It’s able to be refueled in under 10 minutes, while battery-powered EVs can take hours.
Automakers have taken notice. Currently, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota are the only automakers with hydrogen-fuel cars available on the market, with the following models available:
- Honda Clarity;
- Hyundai ix35;
- Toyota Mirai.
Mercedes-Benz is also working on a plug-in hybrid SUV that uses a combination of a fuel-cell generator and a battery pack.
In addition, other automakers are developing various fuel cell vehicles for the future.
Infrastructure is the Main Holdup
In the debate between whether hydrogen fuel cell or battery-powered EVs are more viable, one of the major negatives that opponents of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles point out is that there is simply not enough infrastructure in place to support it.
Only California has put in place the infrastructure to support it, and right now, the success of hydrogen fuel cell EVs in the future will depend greatly on the amount of hydrogen fueling stations that are developed. No matter how good your vehicle is, if you can’t fill it up, it’s of no use.
In the United States, there are only 34 hydrogen fueling stations in place, with 33 of them being in California.
Momentum is Slowly Growing
The momentum for hydrogen fuel cell EVs is slowly growing. This past June, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $15.8 million in funding that’s designed to accelerate the progress of hydrogen fuel cell EVs in terms of lowering their cost and making them available to be mass produced.
South Korea is also planning to expand their total number of hydrogen fueling stations from the 16 that they currently have in 2017 to at least 100 fueling stations by the start of 2020. In many parts of Asia, air pollution is a major issue, and the zero emissions of hydrogen fuel cell EVs can alleviate it.
No matter if hydrogen fuel cell or battery-powered EVs win out, the competition between both technologies will lead to both consumers and the environment benefitting.
You can visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website on Hydrogen Fuel Cell EVs for more information here.