The controversy over electric vs. fuel cell cars is about many things, from driving range to charging/refill times. The battle between these two alternative fuels is infrastructure, or rather who is going to build it and who is going to pay? That question has led to a heated exchange between representatives of Hyundai, which has invested heavily in hydrogen fuel cells and the world’s foremost EV maker, Tesla Motors.
Tesla is forging ahead with the roll out of its SuperCharger stations across America and in foreign markets. The photo above shows where those stations are located as of this moment, with over 100 SuperChargers already open and more coming. While it looks like there are a lot of red dots on it, compared to the roughly 110,000 gas stations in North America, it’s more like a drop in a very big bucket.
Meanwhile the first Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell has been leased to a paying customer in southern California, where there you can count the number of refueling stations on the fingers of one hand. Michael O’Brien, head of U.S. product planning for Hyundai, says they expect there to be a total of 30 stations by the end of 2016. Well, gosh, that’s wonderful news if you live in SoCal, but what if you want to visit your family in Phoenix some time?
At a recent press conference, O’Brien took a shot at Tesla, suggesting that a lot of the money to build their SuperCharger stations came “from grants and loans from the government.” No one has helped poor Hyundai construct hydrogen refueling stations though, and that does seem unfaur, doesn’t it?
Well that little rant drew an angry response from Tesla’s Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of business development. When asked for a response by Green Car Reports, he had this to say.
“I am furious at any allegation that any public money was spent on the Supercharger network. Those sites have been paid for entirely by Tesla Motors–which continues to spend money in expanding the network. This stands in stark contrast to certain foreign carmakers, including Hyundai, who have no manufacturing presence in California but expect the state’s taxpayers to spend up to $200 million to set up hydrogen stations for their future fuel-cell vehicles.”
O’Connell has a point. Last fall, California approved a plan (Assembly Bill 8) to spend $20,000,000 a year for 10 years to construct public hydrogen refueling stations throughout the state. Toyota and Honda have recently announced plans to build fuel cell cars, rather than electric models, so they stand to benefit from California’s plan as well. That’s a huge investment of taxpayer money, and while it’s true that Tesla received a substantial green loan, it has since repaid the $465 million loan with interest. Then again, Tesla vehicles also benefit from private and public investment in thousands of EV charging stations stretching from coast to coast, so there is something to be said about the government seeming to favor electric vehicles.
Putting aside the war of words between Tesla and Hyundai, the question remains, “Who should pay for electric recharging stations or hydrogen refilling stations? Should taxpayers be fronting these costs? Or should private enterprise be doing it? Let us know in the comments section below.