Automakers Bullish Of Hydrogen Vehicles Despite Higher Costs

Some call it the perfect alternative source of energy that takes care of all the shortcomings electric cars currently face


Hydrogen Council at COP 23, Bonn, Germany



According to a recent study published by the Hydrogen Council, Hydrogen could contribute as much as 20 per cent towards reducing global CO2 emissions by 2050. The study was released at the 23rd Conference of Parties during United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and was compiled with help from McKinsey.

The study claims that Hydrogen could play a key role as we transition from fossil fuels to cleaner alternative fuels. The findings indicate that moving towards the lightest fuel will help create US $2.5 trillion worth of business and three crore jobs in the next 32 years. The council hopes to have about 1.5 crore passenger cars and about 5 lakh trucks running on Hydrogen on the road by the end of the next decade. The study suggests that large-scale Hydrogen production could contain as much as 6 gigatonnes of CO2 every year compared to today's greenhouse gas emissions.

Toyota Mirai Fuel-Cell Vehicle



Among major automakers, Honda and Toyota are two big names that have shown their commitment towards fuel-cell vehicles. Honda has the FCX Clarity, and Toyota has the Mirai. To give you an idea of their cost, the Toyota Mirai's starting price is about 10 per cent higher than that of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. In an attempt to promote the sales of fuel cell vehicles, Toyota offers three years/US $15,000 worth of Hydrogen, but the number of filling stations is minuscule when compared to electric vehicle charging stations.

Just like the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, it's difficult to gauge the Honda FCX Clarity's price as the two carmakers are absorbing some of the cost and only offer their FCV's on a lease.

Audi H-Tron Quattro



Among other automakers, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, General Motors and others have invested towards refining their Hydrogen-powered vehicles. Mercedes-Benz is working on the GLC F-Cell, Audi has its H-Tron crossover in the pipeline while BMW hopes to have one on sale by 2021. The US Army is currently testing Chevrolet's Colorado ZH1. General Motors has also showcased Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS) platform, which can accommodate a wide range of body styles.

Fuel-cell vehicles address the biggest issue with an electric vehicle: charging time. It takes no more than five minutes to refill an empty tank and hit the road again with more than 500km of range. As the Hydrogen combines with Oxygen to generate electricity, the only emission out of a fuel-cell car is water, in its purest form, either in a liquid state or as vapours.




Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, on the other hand, sees no future for Hydrogen vehicles and calls FCVs "silly" as it's not a source of energy but a way of storing and transporting electricity. Instead, Musk suggests that Methane would be a more cost-effective fuel requiring far fewer steps to take it from well to wheel.

It's easy to understand what he's trying to convey. Hydrogen, by itself, does not exist in our atmosphere. We first have to break water into Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules, get rid of the Oxygen and then compress the Hydrogen to more than 10,000PSI; all of which requires electricity. Then it needs to be transported in containers capable of handling such high pressures. At the filling station, the gas needs a safe storage and distribution infrastructure. Instead, directly capturing solar energy and storing it in batteries is far easier and something even a layman can do.

Tesla Solar-Powered Home



Since it requires a massive, purpose-built machinery to produce, store and distribute Hydrogen, this method puts the power to manipulate the final cost of the fuel in the hands of a few. Not unlike fossil fuels. You can't produce it yourself for personal use and save a few pennies on the side. Not to mention, the Hydrogen is only as green as the source of electricity used to produce it. The same could also be said about electric vehicles, but it's at least possible to generate your own electricity for domestic use from renewable sources without investing several crores of rupees.

Elon Musk also runs Tesla's subsidiary, SolarCity, a company that offers solar energy production and storage solutions for commercial and personal use. It makes Tesla the only carmaker in the world that also sells the means to produce free fuel forever along with its car. It doesn't get any greener than that.