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Fuel Cell Vehicle Myth Two – Fuel Cell Vehicles are Expensive

Fuel Cell Vehicle Myth Two – Fuel Cell Vehicles are Expensive
Fuel Cell Vehicle Myth Two – Fuel Cell Vehicles are Expensive

Here on The Green Optimistic, we love practically anything that reduces our footprint in the environment, such as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but there is plenty of misinformation out there that make people think they’re a bad deal.

Maybe you heard once that a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, such as the upcoming Toyota FCV, cost more than a million dollars to build. Factor in that this was seven years ago and it was a prototype, and it makes sense that this absolutely used to be true. On the other hand, seeing as Toyota plans on offering the FCV in 2017 at just $69,000, it would be insane from a business standpoint. After all, Toyota Motor Company, just like every other automaker, is in business to make profits, and it doesn’t seem that Toyota is following the same CARB-fodder production model of the Fiat 500e that Fiat CEO Marchionne refers to as fiscal masochism.

Just as the lithium-ion battery pack in battery electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Model S and Fiat 500e, is a large chunk of the vehicle price, the hydrogen fuel cell that replaces the internal combustion engine in the fuel cell hybrid vehicle is also a big chunk of the car. The battery pack in the Tesla Model S 85 kWh costs over $200 kWh and, thanks to Gigafactory production scales, could drop to as little as $140 kWh. On the other hand, The US Department of Energy suggests that hydrogen fuel cell technology will cost as little as $30 kWh by 2017, about the time that the Toyota FCV hits the market.

Keep in mind the fact that the Tesla Model S, with its relatively expensive $200 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, is profitable for the company. There’s really no reason to suspect that fuel cell vehicles, whose hydrogen fuel cell is already at $47 kWh, would not be profitable for the company, nor affordable to the consumer. Granted, at $69,000, the Toyota FCV sedan is firmly in the premium-pricing segment, but that will likely change in the future.

Image © Olathe Toyota Parts Center

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  1. The fuel cell cost isn’t measured in $/kWh (energy), it’s measured in $/kw (power). This is a very basic mistake. I’d be suspicious of the validity of the rest of the article based on that alone. This also means you’re trying to compare apples to oranges here. The tesla P85D has 85 kWh of energy, but 515 kw of power (691 up).

    The battery cost figures could use an update. GM claims to pay $145/kWh now. Someone was saying tesla claims to be under that, but I can’t find a source at the moment so that’s just speculation for now. More speculation that I’ve heard is that the toyota fuel stack costs around $50,000. Toyota won’t give us a number so we can’t know for sure. The fuel is also very expensive at $0.25/mile compared to an electric’s $0.05/mile. I wouldn’t be so quick to call fuel cells cheap. The upfront cost is getting cheaper over time, but it’s not there yet. It’s too soon to tell if fuel costs will drop much over time but they can’t be as cheap as battery electrics if you plan to use the cleaner electrolysis method.

  2. A FCV is a BEV with a FC electric generator;  I see the FC as a possible replacement for the current hybrids that use ICEs because supposedly FCs are more efficient.  But, with the introduction of a traction battery that is low-cost, light, and has a high enough energy density to meet the range requires of individual drivers, the FC and its added weight, complication and cost of two power units and dangerous on-board flammable fuel are not needed.

    Additionally, hydrogen, the FCs fuel, is currently a product of reforming fossil fuels, natural gas or gasoline on-board the car.  No other methodology for creating hydrogen for the mass market has been developed.  Water electrolysis has so far not been proven for mass use.  A society that depends on Fuel Cells continues to depend on oil companies with their aggressive mining processes and fuel pricing.

  3. Video (Someone took down the video but the article still there) below of what is happening in California at municipal wastewater treatment plants using fuel cell technology to produce 3 value streams of electricity, hydrogen and heat all from a human waste! This is pretty impressive in my opinion for hydro-refueling infrastructure.
    “New fuel cell sewage gas station in Orange County, CA may be world’s first”
    “It is here today and it is deployable today,” said Tom Mutchler of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., a sponsor and developer of the project.
    Also nice advertisement of the Hyundai “Tuscon” FCV.  Google:  Hyundai “Tuscon” Fuel Cell Vehicle.$499 per month w/ FREE FUEL & FREE MAINTENANCE (of course for people who live in the designated parameters) … Impressive though… Emitting only Pure Water out of the tailpipe!!!
    I think fuel cell technology solves a few problems at once and nobody ever talks about the Cost $$$ in health care savings with respect to the air we breathe?  $$$ BILLIONS!!! if not $Trillions…
    Nice article!

  4. Incorrect. The DOE study looks at POWER output of a fuel cell stack. You can’t compare power output of a fuel cell vs energy storage of a battery cost. They are not 1 to 1 comparison.


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