The price of electric cars is quickly falling into the $30,000 range. The Nissan Leaf, the upcoming Chevy Bolt, and, presumably, next year’s Tesla Model 3, will all be available for about the price of the average new car.
Infrastructure for charging electric vehicles is becoming more common and people are getting used to their limited range. Part of the reason for less range-anxiety is because cars are going farther on a single charge and taking less time to recharge.
Amidst the looming mass-adaption of EVs by consumers around the country, another type of alternative-fuel vehicle is starting to hit the market.
But is it too late for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?
Honda will release the Clarity, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, in some California cities this year. The car will come with a $60,000 price tag and will initially be available only for lease at about $500 per month.
The Honda Clarity is basically an electric car, but the electricity is generated onboard by pressurized hydrogen that’s held in two different tanks, one in the trunk and one under the rear seats.
Here’s how Autoweek put it,
The Clarity’s powertrain is going to seem familiar to anyone accustomed to electric vehicles: Its electric motor supplies a maximum of 130 kW, or 174 hp, and 221 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. It’s actually powered by a lithium ion battery, which in turn is charged up by a fuel cell stack — which is why the motor’s 130 kW can be higher than the fuel cell’s 100 kW peak output. Here, the stack, which does the not-so-dirty work of converting the onboard H2 into electricity, is down 33 percent in size compared to its forerunners; it’s about the same size as a conventional V6 and sits just about where a gasoline engine would go on a conventional car.
There was a time when I was a vocal advocate for hydrogen cars, but now I have to wonder if that time has passed. Electric cars are less expensive and run without the added step of converting hydrogen to electricity. Doesn’t it make more sense to plug a car in to recharge the batteries directly, rather than stopping at a filling station for hydrogen, which is then converted into electricity that charges your battery pack?
The benefit, though, is that hydrogen is truly a zero-emissions fuel, whereas charging from the grid uses electricity generated from dirty coal power plants. As far as sustainability goes, hydrogen fuel cells are the way to go. Conventional electric cars, however, may have already been accepted as the next generation of transportation in this country.
Would you rather own a conventional electric car or a hydrogen fuel cell car?