Hydrogen Cars, Or Electrics? Comparing And Contrasting

There’s little doubt that Elon Musk is one of the heroes of the modern age. He has managed to singlehandedly bring EV’s into the mainstream by mass producing an all electric vehicle that Car and Driver is calling the best car ever made. The question is, how do Hydrogen vehicles stack up to EV’s, given the reality of Tesla’s creation, and is there space in the market for both? We’ll take a look at that below.

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Advantages of the EV

Elon Musk has made a ton of great moves in bringing the Tesla into the mainstream. Perhaps the biggest of these is a heavy investment in infrastructure. The company spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create a nationwide network of fast charging stations to support their creation. As it stands now, you can get in your car from any state in the Union, and drive from one end of the country and back, never having to worry about finding a charging station. Granted, it’s bare bones right now, so you might have to go a bit out of your way, but the thing that matters is that it exists. You can do it, right now, today. That, plus the Tesla’s 200+ mile range makes it pretty much the Holy Grail of electric cars, and it’s very good to see.

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Advantages of the FCV

The biggest advantage of the FCV is that it’s got an even greater range than Tesla’s EV. Pound for pound, the car can go farther than Musk’s creation, which is, at least in theory, a great selling point. The only drawback is that unlike Musk, the companies that have invested heavily in the development of FCV’s have done very little to build up the infrastructure (in the form of refueling stations), needed to support widespread driving of FCV’s. Until that changes, drivers will be limited to a few areas in California, and South Carolina. That’s not an insurmountable problem though. There’s nothing magical about a Hydrogen refueling station, and these could be built today, and relatively modest cost.

The other big advantage of Hydrogen cars is the fact that they are far less polluting. Remember that even though EV’s themselves don’t pollute, they rely heavily on batteries to store their power. These batteries are made, out of necessity, with a variety of toxic heavy metals, which are quite hard on the environment. Then there’s the fact that much of the electricity generated to recharge the car’s batteries comes from the hundreds of coal fired plants around the country, all of which pollute, and as the number of EV’s on the road increases, these plants will have to produce more and more electricity to help power them, which will lead to more pollution, not less. Contrast that with the Hydrogen Fuel Cell, whose only emission is water, and it becomes no contest at all.

Price wise, the two vehicles are about evenly matched, so there’s no real gain for either the EV or the FCV in terms of price. Tesla’s EV’s tend to be more attractive than either Toyota’s or Honda’s FCV offerings, but that’s just a design issue, and nothing to do with the technical specifications of either. Still, if style is important, we have to give Tesla’s offering the nod there.

All that to say that there is very definitely space in the market for both types of alternate fuel vehicles, but the necessary next step for Hydrogen cars is to build the infrastructure. All that remains now is to see which company or companies will step forward to make that investment, and we’ll finally see fuel cell powered vehicles become mainstream.

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