The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Scam — From George W. Bush and “The Big 3” To Toyota, Honda, and Japan
On February 6th of 2003, George W Bush gave a speech in which he touted the benefits of a hydrogen economy. Far from being farsighted or progressive, it may well have been one of the worst examples of greenwashing in our lifetime. The gist of the speech was that we should avoid raising fuel economy standards and deploying clean technologies such as electric cars and renewable energy and instead pursue a transition from fossil fuels to a hydrogen economy.
What was unstated, was that hydrogen was (and is to this day) manufactured using fossil fuels, and that building infrastructure for a hydrogen economy would literally take decades and cost trillions of dollars. In effect, what was really being implied was, let’s not do anything that would diminish the profits of the fossil fuel companies in the short or medium term (as CAFE standards or deployment of renewable energy might) and let’s get behind something that would not truly be possible or practical in our lifetime (or any other lifetime).
There is actually nothing technically wrong with the operation of a hydrogen fuel cell car (if you ignore where the hydrogen is sourced from). The big issue is the economic viability considering the massive infrastructure needed and transportation costs. Transport of hydrogen requires it to be liquefied, meaning it would have to be in turn refrigerated to a temperature of negative 253°C so that it could be stored in tanks during its transport. This process too would require the use of a significant amount of energy and the release of carbon dioxide. The cost of a single hydrogen fueling station is likely to be over $2 million. This is in contrast to the relatively modest $50,000 cost of deploying a high-speed battery-electric car charging station.
This infrastructure would not only have to be built in the wealthy USA but also in rural areas of 3rd world countries...
Contrast this to battery electric: The fact that every building, garage, and lamp post in the US is already electrified means we simply have to add one final component to the existing and established network.
Both hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric technically work fine, but right now economics is going to result in battery electric winning mainly because of the infrastructure and distribution costs. Battery electric is also far from where it needs to be, but it still works out cheaper. This is why we are seeing the constant launch of numerous battery electric model cars all the time. We are seeing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles too, but in more specialised areas as trucks and boats that operate from a single fixed location. So the choice may well be there, but only for those who live near a hydrogen filling station and intend to operate only within that area.