Forget hydrogen and buy a hybrid. That’s what the editors of MIT Technology Review recommend. Though they agree that fuel cells have no emissions, researchers worry about where the hydrogen for the fuel cell comes from. Right now, natural gas is the source of most commercially available hydrogen, and today most natural gas comes from fracking, a method of extraction so damaging to the environment it is almost as dirty as burning coal.
Some time in the future, solar energy could be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. That would solve the environmental issue, but not the cost of hydrogen, significantly. For now, the editors recommend getting a hybrid vehicle. They point out that an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows producing hydrogen from natural gas for the Hyundai Tucson fuel cell vehicle emits about as much carbon dioxide as a car that gets 38 miles per gallon.
While that’s better than the gasoline-powered version of the Tucson, which only gets 25 miles per gallon, a hybrid Toyota Prius V gets 42 miles per gallon and is far cheaper than the Tucson FCEV. The Hyundai leases for $499 per month, which includes the cost of hydrogen fuel, but you can lease a Prius V for as little as $159 per month. With the Prius, you can drive anywhere there is a gas station. If you get a Tucson FCEV, you won’t be able to drive more than 150 miles from home because there are only about a dozen hydrogen refueling stations in the entire country and most of those are in Los Angeles.
Whether you are out to save the planet or save your wallet, the choice is clear, says MIT. Forget hydrogen and buy a hybrid instead. Good thing Toyota makes both, right?