Are New Hydrogen Cars Better Than Electrics?

Honda FCV concept

If cars ran on water, the price of H2O would probably jump to $4 per gallon, and filling our tanks wouldn’t be any less expensive than using gasoline. The good part, though, would be that we’d have an unending supply, and we could drive forever without polluting our environment.

Cars powered by water won’t ever happen, but cars powered by hydrogen, which emit only water, are happening already.

Much like electric cars, hydrogen-powered cars aren’t very practical, because there is no refueling infrastructure in place. Unlike electric cars, fueling up involves filling a tank with compressed gas, which can take a matter of minutes rather than hours.

Toyota and Honda are both big proponents of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, but owning one certainly won’t be cheap.

One article says,

From the onset though, hydrogen fuel will remain nearly twice as expensive as gasoline it seems, though the Department of Energy is funding research to accelerate price parity with gasoline. But from the onset, filling up a hydrogen fuel cell car is going to be costly, moreso than even gasoline.

Estimates are that it’ll take about $50 to fill up a tank with hydrogen. Add that to the cost of Toyota’s global fuel-cell vehicle, the $70,000 Mirai, and it’s obvious that buyers won’t switch to hydrogen to save money. They won’t do it for convenience either, as hydrogen refueling stations exist in only a handful of locations in California. The only real benefit right now to buying a fuel-cell car is the 100 percent clean exhaust, but that can also be had with the electric Tesla Model S, along with free unlimited fill-ups at Tesla Supercharger stations across the country.

Honda is also upping its involvement in the fuel-cell game with the FCV concept, which will launch in production form in 2016 in Japan, followed by the United States and Europe. Both the Mirai and the FCV will be available only in some parts of California, at least for now, and promise a driving range of about 300 miles per tank.

Aside from the benefit of saving time while refueling, I think the electric cars easily win this round. Maybe if enough early adopters hop on board with hydrogen and more refueling stations pop up in places throughout the U.S., cars like the FCV and Mirai will go mainstream.

It seems unlikely, though, especially as gasoline prices continue to drop and burning fossil fuels remains the cheapest way to get from one point to another.

Would you consider a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle over an electric or gas-powered car?


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  1. The question depends on cost and convenience. That is why we still have internal combustion engines now. Electric cars are OK for short in town trips, but they are not convenient to travel with, because they take a long time to recharge. Hydrogen cars should have the advantage of being able to travel longer between stops and being able to fill up (or recharge) faster. With gas prices going down, these technologies are going to have to wait.

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