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"In an industry shaken to its core, electric cars are the lifeline growing to $1.8 trillion by 2040"
Advanced Electric Cars 2020-2040


Senior Technology Analyst at IDTechEx, Luke Gear, has recently published the below article on the topic of fuel cell cars. We thought that this would be of interest to you.

Fuel Cell Cars: A Commercial Failure

The IDTechEx report "Advanced Electric Cars 2020-2040" forecasts fuel-cell cars globally through 2040 and finds they continue to be a commercial failure for the next two decades. While fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have been on the table as the long-range zero-emission vehicles to challenge the battery-electric vehicle (BEV), they have major drawbacks:

  • Currently, fuel cell cars cost over 1.6x as much to buy and up to three times as much to run in fuel costs, depending on your location (compared to the average internal combustion engine). In contrast, BEVs are increasingly reaching TCO parity with ICE vehicles in different markets around the world today.
  • FCEVs rely on Li-ion batteries for high power and energy harvesting, increasing costs (the Nikola One has a 250kWh battery).
  • Fuel cells have moving parts, which means maintenance costs can be higher than BEVs.
  • Batteries are heading towards million-mile life and 1000-mile range with 2 - 4C charging this decade: by the time fuel cell cars are affordable, batteries will have caught up and will be cheaper.
  • Fundamentally, it costs more energy to drive per mile using hydrogen than a battery because of the 60% efficiency with heat losses, in addition to using electricity from the grid to create green hydrogen.



Assumptions: 54kWh of electricity is needed to produce 1kg of H2 from an electrolyzer; battery round trip efficiency is 90%. Source: IDTechEx

One of the common arguments for fuel cells is that they can provide longer pure-electric ranges: this advantage is being eroded by the sheer pace of innovation and research for Li-ion batteries. As the IDTechEx report on Advanced Electric Cars highlights, the top three fuel cell car models are the Toyota Mirai, with 300 miles range, the Hyundai Nexo, with 413 miles range, and the Honda Clarity, with 316 miles of range. Yet earlier in 2020, Tesla revealed a 400-mile Model S (EPA), spurred on by healthy competition from rival Lucid Motors which later announced the 'Lucid Air' BEV sedan would be the first production car with 500 miles pure electric range EPA (with initial sales planned for Q1 next year). And this is without considering the potential for solar bodywork: the Lightyear One, on sale next year, achieves a 463-mile range with only a 50kWh battery.

On the topic of range and range anxiety, it is also important to consider the ubiquitous deployment of charging infrastructure. Currently, sufficient hydrogen re-fuelling infrastructure does not exist to make fuel-cell car purchases tempting even for the early adopter, in part because they are an order of magnitude more expensive to deploy than fast electric chargers, as shown below.



Three massive challenges for fuel cells. Fuel costs per mile are based on retail Hydrogen prices in California. Source: IDTechEx, AFDC

So why should we pay attention to fuel cells? Well, they are not off the table yet in heavy-duty long-range applications such as off-road, marine, and long-haul trucking. The problem is, compared to cars, these are all relatively low-volume markets and will struggle to reduce costs quickly. Batteries also compete in these areas, which means the application would need to have very specific requirements that rule out a battery. For example, re-charging massive energy capacities (over 1MWh) in a few minutes.

FCEVs will have wider uptake in certain countries with a strategy for a broader hydrogen economy, but this will be regionally isolated and not the global trend. It will also prove a disadvantage for automakers having to develop different zero-emission vehicles for different regions, particularly as startups focus purely on BEVs and set the bar high. More research on the Hydrogen economy can be found in the IDTechEx report "The Hydrogen Economy, Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Production" Methods".

In short: if a battery can do it, it is currently the best value option for the consumer and environment. And a battery can do it for cars.

To find out more about "Advanced Electric Cars 2020-2040", please visit www.IDTechEx.com/Cars or contact us at [email protected]. Sample pages from the report are available.

For more information, IDTechEx analyses electric vehicle markets, energy storage trends, and demand across land, sea and air. This is summarized in a master electric vehicle market report, found at www.IDTechEx.com/EV. Further in-depth analysis can be found in the full portfolio of electric vehicle research available at www.IDTechEx.com/research/EV.
 

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-A million mile battery would be perfect. I'd love to have one of those. Combined with an otherwise durable design, we could run our vehicles for a very long time.
-Fuel cells still won't make sense in trucking either. T-Boone Pickens was right on when he stated natural gas was the solution in this sphere. Truck stops are much fewer than gas stations, therefore it can be economical to have NG filling stations within truck stops and commercial yards (ie Fedex, UPS, etc.) since the volume is there to off-set the higher station costs.

Thanks for sharing.
 

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I'm surprised this report referred to the Nikola One, which has never been anything except paper drawings.

We already have million mile batteries. The Tesla Model S extended range (402 miles EPA) has a battery that will last 1.2 to 1.5 million miles.

Finally, Hydrogen is extremely difficult to transport through pipelines. It makes ethanol look absolutely benign to the pipe walls.

Fuel Cell proponents point to California but even there you can't go everywhere. They recently ran a FCEV and a BEV up Pike's Peak. The FCEV had to be flatbedded to the base of the road because there are no public hydrogen stations. The BEV was driven the entire way simply recharged at a public DCFC station locally.
 

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Agreed that producing, transporting, and storing liquid hydrogen is very problematic. Have you heard of Blue Ammonia? Saudi Arabia has recently sent 40 tons to Japan on one ship that can supply 10% of Japan's annual energy needs. Ammonia requires similar handling protocols as LNG or propane. The term blue refers to its production...blue ammonia derived from carbon sources (fossil fuel), green ammonia produced using zero carbon sources (wind, solar). Ammonia contains 18% hydrogen which can be accessed with a fuel cell, or even 'burned' in a ICE with zero carbon emissions.The Volt's use of a smallish battery being used to its capacity every day, with a range extender when needed for longer trips makes sense. Less waste of resources lugging around a heavy battery that is used only occasionaly to its capacity. Perhaps this clean fuel can be used in a range extender in the 2029 Chevy ReVolt!

 

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Nope. Liquid fuels are a dying breed for ground transportation. Electricity can be transported so much easier and more efficiently.

I keep seeing "alternative" liquid fuels that all derive from oil. These are all non-starters and the oil industry knows this, which is why they keep shilling these derived products.
 

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I keep seeing "alternative" liquid fuels that all derive from oil. These are all non-starters and the oil industry knows this, which is why they keep shilling these derived products.
How about conjuring it from thin air?


(It works, but I'd say in reality it's currently a byproduct for lowcost CO2 extraction & purification for now)
 

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How about conjuring it from thin air?


(It works, but I'd say in reality it's currently a byproduct for lowcost CO2 extraction & purification for now)
I know MIT researchers think they have a cost effective way to extract CO2 from the air - this may be the same technology. The problem is you can't burn CO2.
 

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I know MIT researchers think they have a cost effective way to extract CO2 from the air - this may be the same technology. The problem is you can't burn CO2.
Um.. did you miss the "Fischer-Tropsch synthesis" part? :) That's what converts the CO2 to liquid fuel..

Of course it's a net negative process since coal is not burned for process energy and that loss is compensated through use of green energy. In theory it can convert overproduction into liquid fuel, otherwise it's better to spend the green energy directly (unless you just want to remove the CO2)
 
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Last time I checked (a few months ago) there were 35 hydrogen stations in California and 4 on the East Coast. At 1 to 3 million dollars per station (depending if it is produced on site), not likely too many more since. If you think you have problems finding a place to recharge now....try hydrogen. It's a nice buzz word though.
 
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