Tesla is now in a race with fuel cell vehicle manufacturers

Tesla is now in a race with fuel cell vehicle manufacturers

With the announcement that Toyota is going to begin selling (not just leasing) the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, and finance the construction of several hydrogen filling stations in the northeastern US, fuel cell vehicles are starting to make the transition from "compliance" vehicles to "mainstream" vehicles. This means that Tesla is now in a race with traditional car manufacturers to establish the dominant type of zero emission vehicle. Time is of the essence.

Brian H | November 28, 2014

Anyone who buys a FC car deserves what they get, tho' I do have sympathy for them.

petochok | November 28, 2014

Is it really a race when a roadrunner leaves a turtle in the dust?

negarholger | November 28, 2014

A Prius with crippled infra structure for $57k... good luck.

Bikezion | November 28, 2014

How many Teslas do you think the Mirai will sell?

johnwladd | November 28, 2014

It amazes me that big name companies are investing in fuel cells. I just can't see it competing with a Tesla model 3.

jordanrichard | November 29, 2014

apsley, I don't think so. This is still a compliance vehicle. If they do in fact try to sell it here in the Northeast, it will only be in certain states. I am in CT and we can buy both the E-Golf and the B-Class Mercedes EV, but people in Maine can't. The MB EV is only available in 8 states. It certainly isn't for lack of being able to deliver them to other states, it's a matter of they only want to spend the effort to sell them where they have to.

What I want to know is, unless the water coming out of a FCV is heated, how they going to deal with it freezing up in the winter temperatures?

carlk | November 29, 2014

"One auto manufacturer doesn't include all the others. Several auto manufacturers are investing in the electric route."

The issue is Tesla is the only company that is putting 100% of its efforts on ZEV. The established auto companies' main business focus is still ICE in the forseable future. They got their hands tight in the sense that they can not afford to outdo Tesla in EV which will result in the demise of their money making main stream business. This is especially true for some of thoes high end companies like Porsche and BMW which Tesla is already threatening their markets, especially Modle 3 that is targeting BMW's 3/4 series cars. Will BMW be making something similar and to give away the market they are leading now with good 20% margin? They will not until they had no choice and likely too late. The auto landscape could be very different 20 years from now.

Brian H | November 29, 2014

How would hydrogen gas get free in the troposphere? All "loose" hydrogen got squeezed to the thermosphere long ago. And H2 by definition is not bare protons, but a molecule with at least one electron.

Red Sage ca us | November 29, 2014

Toyota said that they may reach as many as 1,000 of the Mirai for sale at some point, maybe in 2017 or 2018 -- in California -- for the whole state. By that time there will be over 1,000 Tesla Model ☰ owners within a mile of my house. So... This race is pretty much over.

petochok | November 30, 2014

I wouldn't bet on any Model 3 deliveries before 2018 Q3. Regardless, we're still comparing a roadrunner to a turtle.

Red Sage ca us | December 2, 2014

More like a starship to a snail. Hydrogen is... The FUTURE!

Remnant | December 2, 2014

@ johnwladd (November 28, 2014)

<< It amazes me that big name companies are investing in fuel cells. I just can't see it competing with a Tesla model 3. >>

But they get ZEV credits on taxpayers' money.

blue adept | December 3, 2014

Hydrogen is... The FUTURE!

No, Sage, it is not.

petochok | December 3, 2014

I think you may have misunderstood... Hydrogen has been the FUTURE for almost two decades now. So the phrase still applies... and probably will still apply in, you guessed it, the FUTURE.

grega | December 3, 2014

Yes, goes hand in hand with "Hydrogen Is The Fuel Of The Future, And Always Will Be".

Red Sage ca us | December 4, 2014

"...and always will be!"

blue adept | December 5, 2014

"...and always will be!"

Alright, stop it already, sheesh!

Red Sage ca us | December 5, 2014

This is a joke, this is only a joke. If it were possible to have a legitimate, lasting, logical discussion about fool cells, this wouldn't be a joke.

Rocky_H | December 8, 2014

"Tesla is now in a race with fuel cell vehicle manufacturers"

And in 10-15 years or so, the fuel cell vehicles may finally be able to leave the starting blocks.

Anthorpheus | December 8, 2014

Simple (if slightly long) argument against hydrogen:

If you were looking for information about, let's say, combustion engines, 20 years ago, you went to a library.

There you had maybe 3-4 books on combustion engines.

Today, if you want information about combustion engines, you go on internet. There you have thousands, millions of sources of information.

According to you, is it easier to control information today or was it easier in the 80's/90's?

We agree it was easier in the 80's. 3-4 books. A few publishers. Easy to control information.

Now. How many choices do most people have for fueling their car?


About four main choices. These are all liquid fuels. Like books, which are solid ressources, they are easy to control and easy to make scarce.

On the other hand, electricity, which is like information, is very hard to control. Which is why monopolies don't like it.

Anyone can publish information on the internet.

Just like anyone can pretty easily produce electricity in his back yard.

So if you like internet, you should like the electric car.

Which brings me to hydrogen.

Hydrogen is just yet another liquid fuel that you have to pay "the man in the suit" to buy. It can just be added on to the list of fuels I wrote above. You must go to a centralised point of distribution to get your scarce and easily monopolized liquid fuel.
Instead of just plugging in anywhere, charging with a solar panel and an inverter, or an exercise bike and an inverter,a hamster wheel and an inverter, a wind turbine etc...

The electric car is to the hydrogen and fossil fuel industry, what internet was to publishing companies. Loss of control for monopolies.

And I enjoy watching the big boys lose control.

Remnant | December 8, 2014

@ apsley (November 28, 2014)

<< .... Tesla is now in a race with traditional car manufacturers to establish the dominant type of zero emission vehicle. >>


The electric motive power has been available for almost 200 years and remains the most efficient propulsion system for ground vehicles. The ICE's have been primary propulsion systems for the last hundred years only and are fast becoming mere Range Extending Devices (REX) for some of the Battery-operated Electric Vehicles (BEV's).

The actual Hydrogen Cell Vehicles are hybrids, in that the Hydrogen oxidizing device is used only to generate the electric energy needed by the electric power trains of the vehicles they are installed on.

So, the ground vehicles of the future will be all electrically driven, while the source of the electric energy can be a storage device (batteries, super-capacitors, flying wheels, etc.), the grid (whether by wire or wirelessly), or an on-board generator, such as an ICE, a Hydrogen Cell, or a chemical plant.

Note that the direct propulsion by ICE is on its way out for good, while the on-board generation of electrical energy is still open to a variety of technologies still competing with each other for the role of range extenders (REX) or, perhaps, of primary generators of the propulsive electrical energy itself.

To summarize, electrical motors are the prevailing ground propulsion system of the future, with or without on-board storage devices, while energy generation is diversified.

Hydrogen Cell Vehicle manufacturers are not in competition with Tesla, but with the manufacturers of other hybrid vehicles and of REX. They are all on the way of the Dodo Bird, because electrical storage progress and supercharger network expansion will make on-board generation of electrical energy unnecessary.

EcLectric | December 8, 2014


I really enjoyed your argument. It was well done. I like the analogy and the sentiment.

But why did you leave out 'Flexfuel' ? I've seen hundreds of cars that run on the stuff, but they all seem to be going into gas stations! I guess they must have a 'Flexfuel' pump in the back somewhere. I guess that's where they'll put the hydrogen pumps. Waaaay in the back.

Anthorpheus | December 9, 2014

Thanks @EcLectic,

I've been throwing this "reasoning process" around for a while now, and there are very few (if any) people who have found a way to counter it.
Because you can't.
Because it appeals to our sense of logic, fairness and general hate for monopolies.
I left out flexfuel because I forgot it. The point wasn't to make an endless list of liquid therefore controllable fuels. It was just to express an idea. And I'm glad you like it. Feel free to use it to convince others. Just validate each logical step with your audience.
I consistently use the "step by step" logic process to convince people. Go from simple concepts that they are convinced of and use that as a metaphor for the product/situation you are trying to promote.
I've got a whole bag of them for the electric car :-)

Red Sage ca us | December 9, 2014

shensierra: I certainly see a means by which improvements in one technology may allow advances in the other. There is also the possibility they could become so integral to each other that there is no immediately obvious difference. But right now, today, and for the limited, foreseeable future, there is a palpable difference between the viability of battery electric behicles as opposed to hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

Mike83 | December 9, 2014

Charging at home using solar and back up batteries is clean and very safe besides saving time going to gas up. The total carbon footprint of H2 doesn't pencil out either and is a super dangerous fuel.

jhurum | December 10, 2014

One option is to generate the hydrogen at the local "gas" station. All that is needed is water and electricity so the fuel cell will be just an alternative carrier of the electric energy. Only the future will tell what technology will win.

JeffreyR | December 10, 2014

+1 cmcneatt, "future" folks, and @Anthorpheus

I still prefer my own garage over the local "gas" station. Especially when my the charger in my garage can be connected to a local battery charged by the sun.

Check out this TMC post on "fool" cells, "Auto Industry Playing Dirty w/ Hydrogen"

I was already pretty skeptical. This post will put the finish on any "fool" cell hopes!


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jackhub | December 10, 2014

I drive a Model S. 15 years ago, I took a test drive in a hydrogen fuel cell electric car at the California DMV experimental location North of San Francisco.

It had incredible performance. Fuel cells produce electricity which is used to drive an electric motor just like batteries do. An HFC is not a hybrid. It uses an electric motor.

Participating in the experiment were five auto companies and seven oil companies including those designing the 'refueling' pump. Several cars, panel trucks and pickups were used.

The problems they had then are the same problems today. Hydrogen is extremely dangerous to handle. The prototype 'fueling' station had extraordinary safety precautions to avoid sparking, including a massive grounding system. I could just imagine the average Joe using it properly- and the consequences if he didn't! The second issue is the production, transporting and storage of hydrogen- also very dangerous.

At that time there was little real thought of battery electrics, but now that Tesla is here, the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles must compete with an electric car 'refueling' system operating in the garage overnight and an electric power infrastructure that spans the country.

I don't see it being competition for the Tesla or any other EV. I really don't understand why Toyota is going this route.

Brian H | December 10, 2014

Fuelling at home is the BEV killer advantage. NO liquid or gaseous fuel will ever match or duplicate it. CNG may come close, but a few explosions will take care of that.