Can Hydrogen compete E-cars?

Can Hydrogen Cars compete with E-cars?

In the body of the study it becomes clear that FCVs do not beat internal combustion engines (ICEs) by much in equivalent fuel economy, And they are not much better in greenhouse gas emissions either, particularly in the liquid hydrogen versions, because of the energy required to transport and compress the hydrogen.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars appear to be making a comeback. But is this real? The comparison in question includes discussion of:

  • the wider process behind producing hydrogen fuel
  • the production itself
  • the compression/storage
  • the transportation of the fuel
  • associated factors

The future is a bit cloudy for hydrogen fuel cells (HFC), as electric vehicles have developed quickly and taken significant market share. However, Honda still intends to offer the new Clarity by the end of the year, Toyota is currently selling the Mirai, and Chevy introduced a new HFC truck intended for military use.

Hydrogen is not an energy source

Many industry insiders say that H2 produces no emissions. Hydrogen is not an energy source. It’s an energy carrier. It’s a form of storage. You need primary energy sources like the sun, coal, natural gas, or uranium to generate the power needed to extract Hydrogen from a source material like natural gas or water. (Source: Tony Seba).


Assuming that at some point fuel-cells will be cheap and hydrogen production will reach critical mass, it will still be at least three times more expensive to power an HFCV car than an EV.

Hydrogen vs Electricity

This figure from fuel cell expert Ulf Bossel explains how wasteful an HFCV is compared to electric vehicles. (Source:

But not all HFC vehicles are made alike. You can use compressed or liquefied hydrogen. You can also use either internal combustion engine of fuel cells to power the car. The following chart shows that whatever choice of type of hydrogen and engine results in the electric vehicle going three to six times more miles for the same energy when compared to hydrogen-powered cars.

Hydrogen versus Electricity

Source: BetterPlace


HFCV delivery infrastructure

To build an Infrastructure you need large factories/refineries, pipelines, trucks, storage facilities, compressors, hydrogen gas stations, and so on.

Electric vehicles, on the other hand, have a ready infrastructure: the power grid. Everyone who lives and works in advanced economies has access to electricity.

How clean is Hydrogen?

Still about 95% of hydrogen in the US is made from natural gas in large central plants, according to the Department of Energy. But there is an interesting business case in Europe going on.

During the summer 2016, the Dutch Energy Delta Institute published a study concluding that it could be financially attractive to produce hydrogen at unemployed oil platforms in the North Sea with wind energy that is extracted at sea nearby. (a simulated wind-and-gas-energy-conversion pilot project in the North Sea)

Water is an issue

If we use solar or wind power as the source of the electricity for hydrolysis then you could have ‘clean’ and technically ‘renewable’ HFC fuel. Technically because the world is already pumping water at non-sustainable, non-renewable rates and the massive amounts of water you’d need for hydrogen would just contribute to the world’s water crisis.

Powering EVs using solar and wind would use no water.

Hydrogen is also a battery

It’s likely that a HFC car also can be used as a battery. Just as the electric car can. That’s because you can make it in two ways: steam-methane reformation, which means that it is a fossil fuel, and the source for 95 percent of water or electrolysis of water, which makes it essentially a battery storing electric power.


Electric cars do not have significantly longer driving ranges and lower refuelling times than comparable HFC cars. But with your own electrical charging station in front of your house, it’s comfortable. And – if hybrid – the EV can also be used with an amount of petroleum.

achievements, Can Hydrogen Cars compete with E-cars?

In fact, when you look at the overall summary table, electricity performs not so much better on many criteria than HFC.

Now it is true that there are new technologies in the hydrogen pipeline, as Christine called “the philosophers stone for a new era- using catalysts. Eric Rogell tells us that some of that California Hydrogen is coming from garbage.

The infra is a big issue. But maybe, just as the Prius accelerated the electric infra, innovative ideas for the infrastructure will boost HFC vehicles in the near future.

Video Elon Musk about hydrogen cars


2 Responses to Can Hydrogen compete E-cars?

  1. support says:

    This is an exciting development – it will allow society to utilize fossil fuels or renewable-derived wax to generate on-board hydrogen for fuel cell applications without releasing any carbon dioxide into the air.’

    One of the main challenges of utilizing this technology for future sustainable transportation systems is the absence of a lightweight and safe on-board hydrogen storage material.

    Scientists at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Cardiff in the UK, and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia have now come up with a new discovery that demonstrates how hydrocarbon wax rapidly releases huge quantities of hydrogen when it is activated with microwaves and catalysts.

    This potential safe storage method has the ability to increase the adoption of hydrogen-fuelled cars. This research has been published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

    Study co-author Professor Peter Edwards, who leads the KACST-Oxford Petrochemical Research Centre (KOPRC), a KACST Centre of Excellence in Petrochemicals at Oxford University, said: ‘This discovery of a safe, efficient hydrogen storage and production material can open the door to the large-scale application of fuel cells in vehicles.’

    Our discovery – that hydrogen can be easily and instantly extracted from wax, a benign material that can be manufactured from sustainable processes – is a major step forward. Wax will not catch fire or contaminate the environment. It is also safe for drivers and passengers.

    Dr Tiancun Xiao, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford University

  2. Really interesting article! I feel the biggest advantage of hydrogen powered cars over electric vehicles is the refueling time. An electric car can take several hours to charge fully. On the other hand, a hydrogen vehicle can get refueled in a matter of minutes, just like petrol or diesel vehicles.

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