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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles vs. Electric Plug In Vehicles


Even before when auto industry start introducing eco-friendly vehicles n L.A and other Auto shows around the globe, discussion on future of hydro cell cars was sparked.

Fuel cells combine the best of electric and gasoline cars without the downsides, the automakers say. They drive like electric cars—quietly, with tons of off-the-line power—but can be refueled just like gasoline-powered cars, writes Jerry Hirsch for the L.A. Times.

Honda believes that fuel cells will be “the ultimate technology for the future,” said Tetsuo Iwamura, president and chief executive of the Americas, Honda Motor Co.

BMW, General Motors, Nissan, and Tesla believe most strongly in battery-electric cars powered off the grid, though the first two are hedging their bets to some extent with a variety of range extenders and gasoline-engine assistance.

Honda and Toyota, on the other hand, clearly still believe in hydrogen as the primary zero-emission fuel of the future. Each has said repeatedly that battery-electric cars are suitable only for the smallest vehicles, used over short distances only in crowded urban environments.

Hydro has some issues with the refueling stations are at huge distance and consumers always want less headache and more options from the providers. Right now the technology is also very expensive and there is no refueling infrastructure as well.

Toyota’s North American Chief Executive Jim Lentz said he believes that hydrogen will “win” eventually but the Japanese automaker believes there will be a long time before automakers start relying on hybrid technology for increased efficiency and reduce emissions.

 “The superior range and fast-fill refueling speed of our Tucson fuel-cell vehicle contrast with the lower-range and slow-charge characteristics of competing battery electric vehicles,” said John Krafcik, chief executive of Hyundai Motor America. “We think fuel-cell technology will increase the adoption rate of zero-emission vehicles, and we’ll all share the environmental benefits.”

Volkswagen of America Chief Executive Jonathon Browning said the company chose to produce a battery-powered Golf hatchback that it displayed at the show rather than a fuel-cell car for one simple reason: “Most people know where to find a socket,” he said. “Not too many people know where to find a hydrogen fueling station.”

“Hydrogen is still a long way off from mainstream commercial vehicles,” Browning said.

General Motors has spent heavily on hydrogen fuel cell research but isn’t ready to jump in with a retail car anytime soon, said Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America.

 Consumers will gravitate to electric cars because “electricity is readily available in your home right now, but the infrastructure challenges for hydrogen are huge,” Reuss said.

Mercedes-Benz is leaning toward fuel cell but is keeping its options open, said Steve Cannon, who heads the automaker’s business in the United States.  

“Honestly, we don’t know what will happen and that is why we are in all of these technologies,” Cannon said.

“Looking long term, the fuel cell is the most in tune with the U.S. driver. It has the quick feel and it has the decent range that electric cars just don’t have, also it has the long charging time of battery-powered electric cars.” Cannon said.

 “No one is going to say, yes, I want to meet up with you, but I have to wait for two more hours for my car to charge,” Cannon said.

Hyundai aims to produce 1,000 Tuscon fuel-cell electric vehicles by 2015. (

Toyota, Hyundai and Honda have unveiled plans to debut hydrogen fuel cell cars for 2015 at a time when plug-in cars are gaining a degree of acceptance.

While the Japanese automakers may be better known in the U.S. for the hybrid technology that pairs a gas engine with an electric motor, all three think hydrogen fuel cells will be the fuel of the future.

Fuel-cell cars use a stack of cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen in the air to generate electricity, which powers the motor that propels the car. The only emission is water vapor and, with a 300-mile range can run 3 or 4 times longer than the most capable electrics, aside from Tesla’s all-electric Model S, which has a range of 265 miles. The Nissan Leaf has a 75-mile range. 

Hyundai plans to produce 1,000 of the FCEV Tuscon crossover by 2015. GM launched a fleet of hydrogen-powered Chevy Equinox in 2007. The 119 vehicles have since amassed over 3 million miles. Toyota’s FCV, which Jerry Hirsch said looks like a futuristic Prius, will debut in 2015.

The Honda FCEV, or fuel cell electric vehicle, will seat 5 and have a range greater than 300 miles. Honda developed a fuel cell concept in 2006 that became available on a lease-limited basis in 2008 as the Honda FCX Clarity, a four-seat sedan. About 200 are for lease for $600 a month in southern California, where there are hydrogen refueling stations.

Infrastructure, as much as cost, remains a barrier. The same was and still is true in many places for the nascent but growing electric vehicle industry, which started in late 2010 with the near simultaneous release of the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt.

California has approved more than $200 million in funding to build about 20 new stations by 2015, a total of 40 by 2016, and as many as 100 by 2024, according to Hirsch.

Some hydrogen stations in southern California are located beside gas pumps, and take slightly longer than a gas pump fill. The best fast-charging equipment for electric cars takes 20-40 minutes and requires a distinct and separate network than hydrogen stations, which can be installed at existing gas station infrastructure, albeit with major modifications.

Quick Comparison

Let’s check out the options available in both Hydro Fuel Cell & Electric Plug In cars

Fast Refill:  As we have discussed above electric charging will needs a lot of time so this simply goes to Hydro.

Price: Unfortunately, We cannot calculate the actual cost of both options. Although, Batteries will need to be replace after every six months to one year while the Hydro will need continuous refueling.

Price per Mile: Electric Plug in cars is clear winner in this area as it will cost only charging at once. On the other side Hydro fuel costs, at an average $2.28/km, are three times the costs of diesel, while maintenance costs $1 per kilometer, compared with 65 cents/km for diesel buses.

Maintenance:  Diesel busses need repairing after 5,000KM while Hydro busses will need maintenance after 3,000KM.

“It is expensive to maintain and expensive to fuel,” BC Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton said.

Convenience:  Electric cars are clear winner. Just park your car over a wireless charger. No need to visit hydrogen stations.

Wrapping up

It’s a huge talk and it is not going to be over unless we see both kind of cars running on the roads. Talking about the availability and convenience, Electric plug in had an edge over Hydro fuel cell because electricity is available everywhere and for Hydro station we need to put a whole big amount on setting up the infrastructure. Although electric cars have some cons like chargeable time will be between 3-6 hours and it will decide too how long and how fast you can move to your destination. Hydro fuel has some extra power for engine and has no problem in running continuously if you have filled full tank. Most of our Auto industry giants are working on both of them and we hope to see them completely in big amount on roads from 2015 to 2020.




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The only reason hydrogen is expensive it takes energy to produce energy in form of hydrogen. With increase demand, industry will find ways to produce fuel cell at lower cost perhaps using nuclear energy.
Posted on 5/3/14 2:59 AM.