While battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles may co-exist for some time, will one or the other dominate long-term?
With the early successes of electric vehicles (EV) like as the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf, it may seem that battery electric vehicles (BEV) have gotten a head start on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but will they keep that lead? Between the two vehicle types, it does one good to note that, while both have a battery pack, the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is more akin to a HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) than a BEV.
Like an HEV, the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle has a small hybrid battery pack for acceleration and regenerative braking. In place of the internal combustion engine, however, is a hydrogen fuel cell, which generates electricity on demand to power the motor-generators. Battery electric vehicles, on the other hand, have much larger battery packs, since this is their sole energy source, and they are recharged via the power grid and, slightly, via regenerative braking.
Both vehicle types are ultra-low emissions, if you count upstream emissions generating electricity or hydrogen, and both vehicles drive essentially the same. The main differences, between hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and battery electric vehicles, are refueling, range, and price, and they could make or break either type.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, such as the upcoming Toyota FCV, refuel in a matter of minutes, just like a conventional vehicle, so the FCV has it over the BEV, which charges in hours or requires special equipment. The Toyota FCV already beats range of the leading BEV, the Tesla Model S 85 kWh, per refueling, so there’s another tick in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle favor. Regarding price, once again, the tick is in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles’ favor, with the new Toyota FCV starting at just $70,000, about the same as the 265-mile range Tesla Model S 60 kWh.
Given that no groundbreaking news regarding five-minute recharging times or a viable 400+ Wh/kg battery chemistry has been commercialized, could the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle actually be a better EV?
Photo credit: Inhabitat