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Published on February 8th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown

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Some Automakers are Bouncing Back to Fuel Cells Out of Frustration, Is This Wise?

History repeats itself:  Frustration with the low volume of electric vehicle sales caused some automobile manufacturers to bet on fuel cell vehicles as they used to. Hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles have their benefits, such as the potential to achieve very long range per charge, and the ability to fill their hydrogen tanks quickly. But do we want to turn our backs on EVs so soon?

Several years ago, fuel cells were promising, and many research groups worked on reducing the amount of platinum they require, due to its extremely high cost and scarcity. They made some progress. However fuel cells were not expected to become viable for decades, if ever.

Is This Wise?

Battery electric vehicles were actually ahead of fuel cell vehicles several years ago, and they are now further ahead than ever. The latest electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Model S have been impressive demonstrations of the ability of electric vehicles to improve.

Battery electric vehicles require highly costly energy storage. Assuming a low-cost, sustainable energy storage system existed, battery electric vehicles would have absolutely no competition, nothing would come even close, which is why so many have dedicated so much to the concept of electric transportation. Another reason is the versatility of electricity, because it can be generated with any fuel.

Battery technology is certainly not ideal, however, it is improving. Electric vehicle technological advancement picked up in the past few years, and, despite its extremely slow advancement over the past 100 years, it is now actually moving at a fast enough pace to be noteworthy.

Fuel cell cars actually cost more than electric cars. Fuel cell cars cost far more than the transitionary hybrid cars as well, which are enabling us to reduce our fuel wastage, impact on the environment/public health, and the amount of money we spend importing fuel overseas in the mean time.

Fuel cell vehicles are also far less efficient than electric vehicles when the energy required to produce hydrogen, refrigerate, transport, and then convert it into electricity it is factored in. The electric vehicle industry is in its infancy because it only really got started a couple of years ago, and it will take time and effort to get it off the ground.

The concept of EVs has existed for a hundreds years. However, it is just getting serious attention this century, and EVs have already come a long way. Do we really want to turn back now?

Source: Forbes


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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.



  • Toes

    Fuel cell vehicles are not far less efficient than electric. Natural gas is just a transitional source of hydrogen. Modified photosynthesis has the potential to make hydrogen far less energy intensive. Craig Venter found an organism that emits hydrogen as a byproduct and Exxon purchased the tech but the point is when there is a hydrogen market less energy intensive sources will make themselves available.

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