Aside from the expense of manufacturing a hydrogen fuel cell, ~$40,000 in the case of one Daimler fuel cell stack, lifespan is still lacking.
If you compare engines and fuel cells, there is a distinct difference in cost and lifespan. Toyota builds their engines for a lifespan of 250,000mi, and I’ve owned and worked on Toyotas with well over 500,000mi and original engines. On the other hand, what good is putting a $40,000 fuel cell stack in a vehicle if it’s only going to last 100,000mi? For comparison, you could put a $4,000 engine in a conventional vehicle and have it last 500,000mi. Even the fuel savings couldn’t make up for the price difference between a typical fuel cell stack and a conventional engine.
With more automakers announcing plans to mass-produce a fuel cell vehicle within the next five years or so, including Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Daimler, Ford, Nissan, and others, fuel cell technology needs three very important innovations. First, we need hydrogen refueling infrastructure, which is sorely lacking pretty much everywhere. Second, costs need to come down, and a lot of research has gone into getting rid of the platinum which drives the cost skyward.
Third, fuel cells ought to last at least as long as conventional engines, that is, the car around it should fall apart first. In England, ACAL Energy’s FlowCath hydrogen fuel cell is the first in the world to break the 10,000hr endurance test without significant degradation in performance. This 10,000hr endurance test is the equivalent of driving 300,000mi, comparable to the best light-weight diesel engines or the 1.8ℓ i4 gasoline engine in my 1989 Toyota Camry. Additionally, ACAL’s fuel cell is much cheaper, having replaced high-cost platinum with a liquid catalyst that functions as coolant and catalyst to extend the life of the fuel cell stack.
Image©ACAL Energy [screenshot]