DOE Spending $20 Million For $4 A Gallon Hydrogen, But Why?


The Department of Energy has announced a round of grants totaling $20 million with the goal of bringing hydrogen fuel costs down below $4 a gallon equivalent. That’s frankly a stupid idea, because consumers will end up paying the same (or more!) for hydrogen as they do for gasoline. So like, what is the incentive to “go green” if you can’t even pretend like it’s saving you money?

The first round of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are just starting to roll out, with the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell leading the way. And if you thought EVs were expensive, wait until you get a load of fuel cell vehicles.  The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell leases for $599 a month, and the Toyota FCV will be somewhere in the $75,000 range when it goes on sale next year. While the Hyundai will come with free fuel (at least at first), Toyota hasn’t mentioned a similar scheme for its hydrogen vehicles.

While it’ll all depend on specific fuel economy, if hydrogen fuel goes mainstream, consumers will end up with the same monthly fueling costs as before. Meanwhile, drivers of pure electric vehicles can save, literally, hundreds of dollars every month by filling up on cheap electricity. The Nissan Leaf is rated at 73 miles, and costs between $2 and $4 to fully charge. Split the difference at $3, and you’re still cheaper than a gallon of gasoline.

You can also plug in at home with EVs, or even better, get your power from roof-mounted solar panels, essentially refilling your car for free. The difference is even more pronounced on a long range EV like the Tesla Model S, which if charge during off-peak hours, can be fully recharged for between $4 and $10. A comparable car would need between $60 and $80 of gasoline.

I know Obama is suddenly hot for hydrogen, but it’s a dead-end technology that doesn’t benefit the customers except for one way, and that’s faster refilling, and that gap is closing thanks to the Tesla Superchargers. Oh, the government is throwing cash at that experiment too. At best, hydrogen fuel cells maintain a cost status quo for consumers, and where it comes down to dollars and cents, EVs have a major advantage. Too bad the DOE can’t figure that out.



Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.