Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are essentially electric vehicles, only their energy storage system varies, but it could be that storage system is which is stunting their development.
It all has to do with how these two vehicles store their energy. For example, the most-advanced electric vehicle, the Tesla Model S, stores grid energy chemically in its lithium-ion battery pack, which is then used to run the vehicle. To refuel a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, hydrogen gas is first generated, by one method or another, and then stored in a pressurized tank in a vehicle such as the Honda FCX Clarity. From an emissions standpoint, these two vehicles could be on equal ground, but from an infrastructure standpoint, they’re miles apart.
True, one advantage hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have over electric vehicles is recharging / refueling time. The FCX Clarity refuels in the same amount of time as a conventional dinosaur-fueled vehicle, while the Tesla Model S, on a Supercharger, takes a little less than an hour for a full charge. The problem is cost. According to Tesla Motors, it costs about $250,000 to install a Tesla Supercharger, where a hydrogen refueling station might cost $1,000,000. This cost differential is present also in the vehicles themselves.
One analyst, Carlos Uribe, who writes for SeekingAlpha investment news and analysis, believes this disparity could be the downfall, or at least a major delay for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Looking at the numbers, electric vehicles are far ahead in the race. The Honda FCX Clarity, for example, only has 25 leased models running the roads, and only in California, while electric vehicles have sold upwards of 55,000, across multiple brands.
On the other hand, there is a lot of research going into hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that is expected to reduce costs and improve infrastructure implementation, so it could be that they’re simply starting off where electric vehicles started off in the 1990s, or where gasoline-powered vehicles started off in the 1890s.