Can hydrogen fuel cell vehicles challenge electric vehicles?

A long time ago I was in Japan with Honda. There were many events, and one of them involved the operation of the Honda Clarity fuel cell vehicle. There they served us coffee which we were told was special. I tasted it and thought, yeah, that’s regular coffee. Then we learned that coffee was made from the water emitted from the exhaust pipe of a fuel cell vehicle. This water was in the used coffee machine. The most common discussion around fuel cell vehicles is that the exhaust emissions from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are just H2O (water). The water emission is quite fascinating, given that normal cars emit carbon, smoke, and particulate matter. For this reason, there are many defenders of the potential of this technology, if we are talking about a green future for transport. But, at the international level, there are not many arguments that support this assertion. Elon Musk made a statement, and he doesn’t give much importance to hydrogen as a fuel. It gives more importance to propane or methane.
According to Musk, producing hydrogen is difficult, transporting it and storing it are difficult. He also raised questions about his safety. Now, Elon Musk is known for his statements. They are quite famous now, so much so that they affect stock prices. But, these are points that he cannot give without foundation. Why did he say all this?

Yes, we can say that hydrogen is abundant on earth. But, extracting it is difficult. The process of doing this is very energy intensive. A fuel cell vehicle runs on hydrogen. You can’t just put a mixture in there and expect it to flow. It needs hydrogen, and because the process of extracting hydrogen from water or hydrocarbons is energy intensive, this energy is not yet green. Apart from that, storing or transporting hydrogen is a challenge. It is a very light gas which must be stored in high compression tanks. In addition, there are risks of leakage. If you search for stories of hydrogen leaks, you will find quite a few. The perception of its safety is not particularly good.

Another factor is the price. If we look at the price now, then the cost of hydrogen is really high. According to official government data, one kg of hydrogen costs about ₹340 in India. In India, hydrogen is being explored, there has been talk of hydrogen-enriched CNG buses.

Moving to a hydrogen economy in the future will only be possible if we overcome the challenges posed by its production, storage and transport. We should be able to focus on green hydrogen. You charge your electric cars at home, but 2/3 of India’s electricity comes from thermal energy. Hydrocarbons are burned, electricity is produced, which then reaches our homes and helps us charge our environmentally friendly electric vehicle. We can’t really call it eco-friendly then. Just like that, hydrogen production is not considered environmentally friendly.

Another point against electric vehicles are their batteries. They raise many questions about how minerals are used in their manufacture and their effects on the environment and ecology. Another big question is: is it easy to recycle these batteries?

As with electric vehicles, hydrogen as a fuel cannot be called 100% clean. All in all, the future of hydrogen does not look so bright. But I don’t think that’s the case. Why? Because scientists are working on greener ways to produce hydrogen, whether through wind or solar power. 5 years ago, some said electric vehicles were the future, some said the future was hybrid, while others said it was hydrogen fuel cells. And, when many companies started working on electric vehicles, some peripherals started working on things like charging and scientists worked on improving batteries to increase range. Now, although we’re talking about generating electricity in a more sustainable way, I think an entire ecosystem will be created for electric vehicles, and there will be a collective effort for the shift to electric vehicles from scientists, governments, private organizations, manufacturers and others .

Many governments are working to bring hydrogen to heavy motor vehicles – buses, trucks, etc. – and big machines. This could spill over to passenger vehicles once its production becomes greener.

It’s interesting because 5 years ago everyone was talking about hydrogen, hybrid and electric vehicles. Then the discussion shifted almost solely to electric vehicles. Now, however, lately I’ve seen people discussing hydrogen again. This may be a good option in the not so distant future.

(This is a transcript of the Podcast video)