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Electric vs. hydrogen cars: no war here

No sooner do we have news that the UK is getting serious about hydrogen cars (see story), then we have the death knell sounded for electric cars.

An article on Reuters suggests that this rise of hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars (FCEVs) could signal the end of electric cars.

Are electric cars like the Nissan LEAF doomed-we think not

According to news agency, announcements from two of Japan’s biggest carmakers hint the end is nigh for battery electric cars (BEVs).

Firstly is a statement from Toyota’s Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, the so-called "father of the Prius" who helped hybrids achieve mainstream success. He believes fuel cell vehicles hold far more promise than battery electric cars.

"Because of its shortcomings — driving range, cost and recharging time — the electric vehicle is not a viable replacement for most conventional cars," said Uchiyamada. "We need something entirely new."

Secondly comes an announcement from Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn-said to be the most outspoken proponent of battery electric cars around-that the carmaker will produce petrol hybrids alongside its fully electric models.

That’s been seen by the wider industry as an acknowledgement that fully electric cars are failing to live up to their hype. With an investment of some €5bn in battery electric cars as part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Nissan needs EVs to pay off.

Not one or the other

But there is no reason why the arrival of hydrogen-driven fuel cell cars (FCEVs) means the end of the battery car. For the most part it is more likely that the two will work alongside each other, as hydrogen cars will remain even pricier than electric models for some time. For inner city use in particular, battery cars are a lot easier to adapt to. As every home has an electricity supply, it is easy enough for a charger for an electric car to be fitted at home for the purpose of recharging.

Hydrogen FCEV vehicles are on their way-like this Honda FCX Clarity- but it will take timeWhile critics point out that electric cars are still suffering from a lack of infrastructure, the network is growing strongly.

For hydrogen cars the story is quite different; there are no mass-market home refuelling solutions yet available. Although such a solution could be quickly brought to market (there are working prototypes out there), they are bulky and impractical compared to a small wall charging unit for a BEV. That means they won’t suit homes without garages or apartments without good storage. And the range-at around 300 miles-is better than most BEV cars offer, but for an inner city worker, is it really needed or worth paying more for?

Fear not EV fans, hydrogen cars are a few years away yet and when they do arrive, the recharging infrastructure for them will be well behind that of EVs.

While Reuters might suggest that the electric cars are running out of charge, according to Pike Research worldwide sales of these vehicles will reach 3.8 million by 2020. In the UK, there is a target for 1.5 million by 2020 (according to the EU Clean Fuel Strategy), while hydrogen cars will take an extra ten years to reach that figure, according to the UKH2Mobility project.

Our Green Piece this week explores whether hydrogen cars are finally on their way (read here).

You can read the full Reuters opinion piece here.

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Faye Sunderland

Filed under: Electric cars, Hydrogen cars

3 comments

Josef Minoli

It's clear that as technology develops further for hydrogen there still is the looming and depressing reality that even if hydrogen fuelled vehicle's make it to mass production we won't be able to make our own fuel because the government makes a massive amount of money from oil so they won't just turn a switch and let us destroy their income stream.

Ian McDonald

I look forward to the day when a car goes past and I don't choke on the fumes. FCEV (hydrogen hybrids) offer a better solution, but governments or business has to agree and build the infrstructure for re-fuelling and repair. Hydrogen doesn't have to completely cut governments revenue stream, if they are the ones to develop and maintain the industry, which I would prefer to see because someone will have to.

deano

This is ridiculous. Hydrogen is made from the electrolosis of water(lots of kw) then liquifecation or compression, then transport to a new infrastructure bowser.
Electric car is am charge while asleep & powergrid is using less,plug into home charger.
This is big OIL trying to get us to fill up at the pump(as now).Tech for electric has been with us since the 90s.
Watch the film "Who Killed the Electric Car?"
EV1 was a production line GMH electric car.
CHEVRON has got the battery patents & BUSH govt crushed the whole concept.
It worked on lead-acid batteries, imagine new lithium ion batteries for range & charging!

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