A FCEV uses the same electric motors as BEVs but gets its power from chemically reacting H₂ with O₂ from the air in a way that produces an electric current - a fuel cell. None of this is new technology Fuel Cells were a mature and reliable power source by the time the Apollo program was landing people on the moon. The issue with fuel cells is the same as with Enteral Combustion Engines(ICE) they are most efficient in a very narrow energy band great if the goal is to power the life support on a space craft, but not for the extremely variable loads needed to drive a car.
For this reason, FCEVs are hybrids with the same Li batteries as BEVs and ICE Hybrids like the Prius. Like ICE Hybrids they use the battery to accelerate and as storage for regenerative breaking with the fuel cell providing a constant recharge.
Why I’m skeptical of FCEVs
1) Greenwashing Hydrogen. FCEV advocates will point out that the only tailpipe emission is water vapor. The question is where does the hydrogen come from. By far the least expensive way to produce hydrogen gas is to crack the hydrogen atoms off of petrochemical hydrocarbons. As a mater of basic chemistry it takes far less energy to crack hydrocarbons than it does to electrolize water. And unlike the electrical grid where technologies like solar, wind and nuclear are already deployed and becoming an increasing share of our electric grid. Processes to produce hydrogen from water at anything close the the cost to strip it off fossil fuels is in the same development stage as cold fusion. at least for the next decade green hydrogen will be a premium product only available to the wealthiest buyers.
2) Hydrogen storage is hard. To fit enough hydrogen on a moving passenger car for it to have a 300 mile range requires pressures of 10,000psi (700 bar). The kinds of pressure vessels that can safely handle that pressure are expensive, and need regular inspection. Having had to keep a compressed air tank of just 200 psi in a fixed certified, I can tell you that there will be significant costs to regularly inspecting a 10,000 psi tank full of flammable gas that needs to survive a collision with one of the 2023 lineup of full sized puck up trucks.
But that is just the start. Hydrogen leaks. No matter how good you think your valves and fittings are the smallest molecule in the universe stored under huge pressure will find a way out. Ask anyone who has experience in the space industry where hydrogen is already the fuel of choice and they will tell you that hydrogen leaks are just a fact that has to be engineered around. On a vehicle this will be a small annoyance but at a fueling station this will be significant. The farther Hydrogen is transported and the longer it must be stored the higher the losses. There is also the energy factor of compressing that gas. To the best of my knowledge the prodigious amount of work done to pressurize the fuel is never recovered
FCEVs and BEVs both started to be produced about a decade ago, and while Tesla has scaled out its supercharger network world wide in that time. Hydrogen has less than 100 filling stations all in California. While these stations can fill a car in 5 minutes, they can only fill 2 to 5 vehicles before spending an hour refilling their high pressure storage tanks. One could argue that all Hydrogen needs is an eccentric billionaire ready to lose money for a decade building out infrastructure, however I think the infrastructure challenges with hydrogen exceed even Musk levels of ambition.
3) Cost. My M3 already costs noticeably less per mile that the equivalent ICE vehicle. Baring a huge technological leap, hydrogen will always be more expensive. because the least expensive hydrogen is processed out of the same fuel that runs ICE cars and provides less energy per molecule than those hydrocarbons when reacted with O₂ hydrogen cannot help but be a more expensive fuel.
So why are hydrogen FCEV still a thing? Well the vehicles are lighter, fueling times are comparable to gasoline, and the petrochemical industry is desperate for them to succeed. The oil industry can see the writing on the wall as states like California will ban new ICE vehicle sales in 2030. While holding out hope for a green hydrogen future a generation away, they can continue to have a market for their product as gasoline and diesel phase out. “Hydrogen will become the green fuel of the future” explain their sock puppets knowing that dirty hydrogen from their product will always have a price advantage. And to be fair, turning a mobile source into a point source of emissions does provide the opportunity for carbon capture (so called Blue Hydrogen), but all this still add even more cost while BEVs already have a price advantage in their fuel - not to mention that every home in the developed world has the infrastructure to charge BEVs.
Why write all this? Because when you get down to it most of the #FUD being spread around #EV s is coming from FCEV advocates who are trying not to let hydrogen become the betamax of the transition away from ICE transportation. In doing so they are making it harder than necessary for the world to move away from ICE transportation.
This is a very well thought out and written examination of the proposal to use hydrogen for transportation. Electricity can come from myriad sources, while hydrogen has only one competitive source – the fossil fuel industry.
Why on Earth would anyone want to choose to lock themselves into a single supplier that needs to fight oil wars all over the world to maintain their supply, when you can just use electricity which is available literally anywhere on Earth?
@Pat @antares @richardknott You're regurgitating BEV propaganda here. H₂ can also be made from many sources. It is identical to electricity. BEV companies are doing all they can to make you not realize that, because it would represent a disruptive threat to batteries.
Remember, it is the battery that is the fundamental weakness of the BEV. Anything that removes the batteries and replaces it with something more plentiful is a potential replacement for BEVs. And that is what H₂ cars represent.
>"You're regurgitating BEV propaganda here. H₂ can also be made from many sources..."
I'm not regurgitating anything, I figured this out on my own long before this even became an issue, using fundamental scientific principles.
This is why I've driven an electric car for many years now. It works much better than using fuel from the fossil fuel industry.
If you want to drive a hydrogen-powered car, nobody is stopping you. But make sure that all of the costs -- the oil wars, oil spills, oil industry subsidies, air pollution -- are all paid for by those who choose to use that fuel.
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