Hydrogen Electric Car VS Car: The Competition for Being The Engine of The Future

We have over one century of hegemony of fossil fuels in the automobile: gasoline and diesel oil mainly. However the car industry moves, voluntarily, driven by the market itself (in consequence of the fuel and oil prices), or bound by the laws of Governments (minor consumption and polluting emissions limits), towards new forms of energy that boost the cars of the future.

Shy way have been developed other alternative fuels, as liquefied gases of petroleum or natural gas, also fossil fuels or biofuels, which are normally a mix in different proportions between renewable plant-based fuel and petrochemical fuel. Currently the electricity is running in multiple automobile manufacturers as the alternative for the future, plug-in hybrid cars, electric cars, y hydrogen fuel cell electric cars.

Vain engine of Hyundai ix35 VEGF found fuel stack stacked on the electric traction motor

In both cases we have an electric motor to move the wheels

A couple of years ago and we put face to face to electric car and plug-in hybrid car. And also a couple of years ago to review the situation in two extensive articles of the hydrogen car, and particular electric hydrogen fuel cell car, first explaining its technology, after explaining their challenges. Your reading is still highly recommended.

Now we’d like to put face to face to electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell electric car, also using the occasion to briefly review the evolution and developments which have taken place in both technologies at this time.

To begin with, it should be recalled in short and simple way what we mean:

  • A electric car, also sometimes called “electric only” car, “100% electric” car, or battery (in English BEV, acronym of Battery Electric Vehicle) electric car, is a car in which wheels are driven by an electric motor that gets required a battery that stores energy, normally a battery, although it could also be a capacitor, and that can be recharged again and again connecting the vehicle to a power outlet conventional or specific, or through wireless recharging.
  • A hydrogen fuel cell electric car, or VEGF, stands for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle, is a car in which the wheels rotate equally driven by an electric motor that gets the required energy from a not very large battery that stores (usually also a battery), and a fuel cell powered by hydrogen, which when combined with oxygen from the air, generates electricity aboard the car which is transferred to the engine or the battery , as the case may be. In principle this type of car is not plug-in, but it is technologically possible and there are variants that are (at least as a prototype).

We could also understand electric car fuel cell hydrogen as a series hybrid car, or as an extended-range electric car, in which the extension of autonomy system, accumulates beyond what a battery is a fuel cell that generates electricity for the operation of the car and fill to the accumulated in the battery to have more autonomy.

Although there are different fuel cells, for example ethanol or methanol, which now dominates the automobile industry seems to be hydrogen.

An electric car is technically simpler than one of hydrogen fuel cell. Here we see the system of propulsion of a Renault ZOE

Advantages of the electric car

  • Lower price

A electric car It is cheaper than a hydrogen fuel cell electric car. An electric car of medium, without any aid or subsidies, such as the Nissan LEAF, currently the best-selling worldwide, sold in Spain by 29.235 euros, with battery in property and most economical version (this is the official “tariff” price with taxes included, have not included discounts or subsidies to purchase) Although I would have them, and the price would be reduced).

  • Greater efficiency.

Both local and global level, the electric car It is more efficient than a car with internal combustion engine and a fuel cell car. This is because approved to travel 100 km power consumption is lower in an electric car. Serve again as an example of the Nissan LEAF, which declares in the European NEDC cycle an average of 15 kWh/100 km consumption.

If we consider global consumption, which in a combustion car would be talk about “well to wheel” consumption, i.e. understand that total energy actually expended by a car is greater that strictly is spent running the car, electric car, whereas losses in generation, transportation, distribution, recharging and battery, we go to about 30 kWh/100 km. To make us an idea, an average petrol car is around 60 kWh/100 km.

The Renault ZOÉ is a utility electric five-door and 4.08 m long

  • Lower global emissions

In operation or the electric car, or hydrogen fuel cell car generate pollutant emissions at the local level, i.e., they do not pollute the air through which. However globally, i.e., whereas the generation of electric power, or the production of hydrogen, if they produce emissions. The emissions are lower in the electric car because it consumes less energy. We are going to explain it.

It is true that emissions depend on the type of source of energy that has been used to generate electricity, because each one has its corresponding emission factor. Generating electricity with coal is nonsense at the ecological level because it causes the electric car to generate more emissions than a car with internal combustion engine, and on the other hand if the electricity is generated using renewable sources emissions are considerably lower. In Spain for example, where renewable energies come to assume around 40% of the electricity generated, the electric car has enough sense.

The basis for comparison used the same source of energy to generate electricity that is recharging the battery, or that occurs the renewable hydrogen by electrolysis of water, and therefore having the same emission factor, the less energy consumed in electric car means lower emissions.

When it comes to talk of global emissions of an electric car, several manufacturers have made in organisms of certification and homologation, such as for example the German TÜV, life cycle analysis of their respective models, where not only is the consumption of energy and emissions of the car during its use, but also for the generation of electricity, and even manufacturing and final recycling of the vehicle.

Serve as an example the analysis of life cycle of the Renault Fluence Z.E., the BMW i3, the Volkswagen Golf or the Kia Soul EV. In all cases the conclusion is that the electric car generates fewer emissions than an equivalent petrol engine or diesel car. A hydrogen fuel cell electric car, by now I have not seen yet any analysis of life cycle (but I am not saying there is, eye).

Nissan LEAF, an electric car whose price tries to be affordable, with 250 km of autonomy approved

  • Cost per km lower

We have calculated it in other articles on the cost per kWh of electricity bill, adding of course taxes. Compared with a gasoline or a diesel car, and also compared to an electric hydrogen fuel cell car, the cost per kilometre travelled due to energy consumption is lower in the 100% electric car.

As the price of electricity varies, isn’t the same recharge during the day with a flat fee that recharge overnight with time discrimination rate, every car has a consumption, depends on the form of driving, recharge efficiency may also vary according to the circumstances, and every electric company may have a slightly different price, there is talk of an approximate price range.

Recharging at home night at the Strip time supervalle, an electric car of medium can spend between 1 to 1.50 euros to 100 km. Charging by the day in the normal time slot the same car can spend between 2.5 and 3 euros to 100 km, simply because the price of the kWh is higher (in both cases, taxes included). Recharge on the street is more expensive, as well as need, it is not recommended.

KIA Soul EV, another medium-sized electric car

  • Higher power

It is easier to build electric cars with a lot of power, in the case of electric fuel cell cars. Serve as shown in the Tesla Model S, whose most powerful version has 539 CV (this figure is less than the 772 CV that would add the front engine and rear, power because it is limited by the voltage and battery capacity).

We don’t talk about any prototype or exclusive car that few units are manufactured per year by custom, but a car that is manufactured in series and that circulates through the streets. In a hydrogen fuel cell car, as we will see a little later, the manufacturers move in fairly minor powers.

  • It is easier to have the necessary infrastructure

Although the infrastructure of recharging points in areas of public use has grown slowly, if we attend to their quality and that it is operational, the reality is that in countries like Spain it is still reduced. However, even if this is the case, in order to use an electric car it is sufficient hand a conventional socket of type schuko and 16 A plug where the car.

If this were not so, by investing relatively small between about 1,000 and 1,600 euros, you can install a charging point homologated in the plaza de garage, with all guarantees, to recharge the car. I have done a few years ago and it allows me to move from Madrid with a car power without major problems, although it should certainly plan movements to avoid relying on charging points on the street or in parking lots that do not always work. If there is no garage certainly the issue is more complicated. Today I would be impossible to move with a hydrogen car because there would be no where refueling.

Before the end of the year the new Volkswagen should get Golf with 300 km of autonomy approved in Europe and a more powerful engine

Disadvantages of electric car

  • Autonomy is generally less

Except few exceptions such as the Tesla Model S battery-90 kWh which standardises 557 km in Europe, but also you have to pay it (more than 104,000 euros with taxes), currently electric cars of type approved autonomy means trying to have a relatively affordable price, moves in general terms between 160 and 300 km.

This autonomy is less than the of a conventional car’s internal combustion engine, and less than approved autonomy of the hydrogen fuel cell electric car. The new BMW i3 and Volkswagen Golf that will arrive after summer have been increasing their autonomy to 300 km, and in one or two years will be new models with autonomy above 400 km, among others like the Chevrolet Bolt or Tesla Model 3 (when they will include it, for now we are left with these figures).

  • It required more time to recharge

If we charge at home, depending on the capacity of the battery electric car, the installation and the recharge power, fully recharge an electric car may require between 4 and 12 hours. If we think that the car can be recharged overnight while it is parked, it doesn’t seem a problem so serious.

Out in points of fast recharge or super-fast, a recharge may require between 30 and 60 minutes. Although it is less time, it is still more than what it takes to refuel at a gas station or a hidrogenera. For now there is no more options, since the battery so interesting and promising quick change system seemed, to “recharge” in just a minute and a half and follow the journey, in practice does not exist.

Some, like Better Place is ruined because there were very few models of electric car battery change system compatible, and very few customers that they used the service and allow you to make profitable business model. Others, like Tesla Motors, because they say there is not enough demand among its customers, and by now have a single station change fast battery, and also remains in pilot phase and does not work as fast as promised.

The new BMW i3 with 94 Ah battery and 300 km of autonomy approved in Europe can begin to book soon

  • It is necessary for drivers to change their habits

For some drivers, a car with less than 800 to 1,000 km of autonomy that have some current diesel, is a too big change. Plan movements and stops to reload, or dose the battery and drive more efficiently nor convince others. So many have to wait hours to recharge the car is a drawback that aren’t willing to accept. The habit of filling almost anywhere in 5 minutes in a service station is deeply ingrained. All this slows many when buying an electric car.

  • Extreme temperatures affect greater autonomy

With very low temperatures the autonomy of an electric car is significantly reduced, due to the heating of the passenger compartment, but also to own the car battery heating so that you have a proper operating temperature.

Very high temperatures can also affect performance on some models, not only because the air conditioning in the cockpit is a major consumer, but because battery cooling system also consumes energy from the battery, although often noted his less than the cold effect.

  • With a low state of charge of the battery, the power is reduced

Although it is not the most common, and many drivers do not reach this situation, we must not ignore that despite the power maximum theoretical of the car, when the State of charge of the battery is very low, the power that can give to the motor is reduced.

  • The useful life of the battery limits the car

In recent years, advances in the chemistry of lithium, the most used today-ion batteries have been done on electric cars, which translates into greater resistance to wear and tear due to the cycles of loading and unloading and by effect of the heat. Yet there is no doubt that right now the limiting factor in the life of an electric car is the battery, which after some time will need to change. Manufacturers already have foreseen it, as for example Nissan, and according to which cases must be taken into account within the vehicle maintenance cost.

Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Advantages of hydrogen fuel cell electric car

In general the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen fuel cell electric car tend to be inverse to the electric car, although in some ways they tend to match the of each other little by little.

  • Autonomy is generally greater

The approved autonomy of a hydrogen fuel cell electric car stands between 500 and 650 km, very similar to a conventional gasoline car. It must not be confused between the different cycles of approval, more or less optimistic or more or less realistic, given different autonomies. For example the new Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, substitute for the old FCX Clarity, approves in Japan up to 750 km of autonomy, but in the U.S. Approves 502 km. These differences happen in all cars, also of petrol or diesel, and due to that consumption is measured under different conditions in Japanese approval (JC-08), American (EPA) and European (NEDC) systems.

The Hyundai ix35 VEGF approves Europe 594 km, and a Toyota Mirai 650 km. The particularity of the autonomy of hydrogen fuel cell cars is that their autonomy depends on the amount of hydrogen that has been able to introduce into the tanks, and this depends on the pressure that can be compressed.

The maximum autonomy is obtained with hydrogen accumulated to 700 bar pressure, a 690 times atmospheric pressure. If hydrogen is introduced to less pressure, to 350 bars, autonomy is to be reduced by half, and we are left with around 250 to 325 km. Not all hydrogen refueling stations can compress it to 700 bars, so you have to be taken into consideration.

Main components of a Toyota Mirai propulsion system

  • You can fill up in less than 5 minutes

In addition to autonomy, no doubt the great advantage of hydrogen cars is that she is can refuel very fast with a supplier of hydrogen at a time between 3 and 5 minutes, without involving a demand for very high installed power, as it would happen in the case of the supercargadores, and wear more quickly than desired battery life.

  • Drivers do not have to change your habits

Although this may seem a banality, since the human being is an animal of customs, at the end it is that it is more important. Many drivers do not want to change what they have been doing all his life, do not want to have to wait for his loaded car, or don’t want to have to plan a trip with an intermediate stop where there is sufficient time to recharge the battery.

Sometimes neither they can, because they don’t have a parking place where plugging in an electric car, and the only option to which they are used is to go to refuel at a service station. The idea of not having to change the current form of use and refuel cars, seduces enough drivers in favor of these cars.

  • Extreme temperatures do not much affect the autonomy

Told me on one occasion a Hyundai engineer that an advantage of hydrogen fuel cell electric car is that unlike what mentioned before with the car 100% electric, by very extreme than temperatures hardly noticeable changes in the performance of the car, and there is a major change in their autonomy.

If the gasoline we adopt the term gasolin – it was, for hydrogen is adopting the term hidrogen-era.

Disadvantages of hydrogen fuel cell electric car

  • Higher purchase price

We saw earlier which was half the price of an electric car. Today a hydrogen fuel cell electric car is very expensive, and quite more expensive than an electric car, although the manufacturers strive to lower its price and promise that in the future they will be more affordable. The fuel cell above all, with rare and precious metals and hydrogen tanks that support very high pressure, are the main culprits of their high manufacturing cost.

The price depends on the manufacturer and each model, and is not always given to know the actual price of the vehicle. For example the Hyundai ix35 VEGF comes to cost some 125,000 euros, although the manufacturer recognized us in person at the time that it is willing to sell it for a price lower than the cost. In Japan the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell has also started to sell for about 61,000 euros to change, although there is less VAT in Europe, we will not forget. In Germany the Toyota Mirai sells for 66,000 euros plus taxes, or about 79,000 euros at the end, but also appears that the selling price is lower than the cost, and that Toyota would be willing to lose up to 100,000 euros per unit, provided that the technology go penetrating the market.

  • Lower efficiency

The average consumption of a car as the Hyundai ix35 VEGF is 31.3 kWh/100 km. But considering that you have to produce that hydrogen, compress it, and transport it to a refueling station, the total energy consumed globally is greater, resulting in the order of 55 to 60 kWh to 100 km in a favorable case, but even more in worst cases, as we generate the hydrogen. Manufacturers now do not usually give all figures, but e.g. Hyundai if recognized, without going into details, the hydrogen car is less efficient than electric cars and Toyota commented that the efficiency of the Toyota Mirai is of the order of 50%, while that of an electric car is in the order of 70% (not without much more detail).

  • Higher global emissions

As we have explained before, requiring more power at the local level as at the global level for 100 km, more emissions are generated also (it is directly proportional to the factor of emissions from the electric power supply that has been considered). We must understand that hydrogen is not an energy source, but an energy carrier, carrier or carrier (in English). I.e. for hydrogen to refuel a car’s fuel cell should produce it, and in the process consumed more energy than that contained in then and will return the retrieved hydrogen, since there are losses in the process.

If one considers that currently around 95% hydrogen occurs in plants hydrogen stations from fossil fuels, natural gas mainly, cannot be considered that hydrogen is renewable, nor even that the vehicle is zero local emissions.

It is now feasible to have electric cars as small as this smart, 2.70 m long, but still it is not have electric hydrogen fuel cell cars

  • Cost per further km

100 km with a hydrogen fuel cell electric car is greatly more expensive than with an electric car, and according to which cases even somewhat more expensive than a petrol or diesel car: comes to cost between 8 and 10 euros the 100 km. produce hydrogen today is not cheap because it has to pay the cost of raw material and energy consumed. If it is produced by electrolysis of water, so that it is renewable, it is even twice as expensive for reforming of natural gas. This is why were are researching and developing new methods of producing hydrogen, more economic, or renewable, or both at the same time.

  • Cars with lower power

Toyota Mirai has 154 HP, the Hyundai ix35 VEGF has 136 HP, and the new Honda FCX Clarity has 140 HP. The hydrogen fuel cell, the limitation imposed the more powerful, larger and expensive it is. Also the propulsion battery is small and does not have much buffer or reserve power limits the maximum.

An option, if you want to opt for one higher stack, is to opt for one higher battery that would meet the instant demands of power point peak, but then we would be dealing with yet more space in the car, adding more weight and further increasing the cost, why current manufacturers are all basically the same line and hydrogen fuel cell electric car concept.

  • It is difficult to have small cars

Due to the technical complexity of a fuel cell electric car, all components that must include the vehicle (motor, control unit and converter, transmission, battery, fuel cell and hydrogen tanks), and in particular to the volume that occupy the hydrogen tanks, by the time cars manufacturers throwing tend to be quite large. The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell measuring 4.92 m in length, the Toyota Mirai measures 4.89 m, and a not as big as the Hyundai model ix35 VEGF measures 4.41 m. For now there are no smaller models, such as compact or utilitarian, being thus more reduced the offer.

  • The trunk tends to be smaller

Although it may be a contradiction, and although in general these cars are great as we have just explained, precisely because of the same reason, space occupying all the components, and in particular hydrogen tanks, the trunk of these cars is generally lower than the similar cars electric. For example the Toyota Mirai, despite their 4.89 m long, has a 361-litre boot. For reference, we think that a Nissan LEAF 4,44 m long has 370 l, and a Tesla Model S of 4.97 m long has two porters and a total volume of 895 l.

Here we see the interior volume of the trunk of a Toyota Mirai, which despite 4.89 m long, has a trunk as that of a compact car of 4.25 m

  • Complex, scarce and costly infrastructure

If with electric car just a relatively small investment to have a charging that will manage and operate point, things change quite with the hydrogen car. In Spain for example still having very few hydrogen refueling stations, only five.

In some cases, such as in California, where the situation is more favourable, it isn’t easy to find where to refuel. There is already marketed the Toyota Mirai, as well as other hydrogen cars, and has been given the case that Toyota had to interrupt deliveries of the car, and even send tankers with hydrogen to dealers, so customers repostaran.

To make the infrastructure useful really it is necessary also that refuelling station allowed to refuel at 700 bar, to enjoy more autonomy, and that the hydrogen is of great purity, or the car may not work.

The investment required to install a hidrogenera is quite high, although this is relative, and depends on how you can monetize with use. In theory, under normal conditions a refuelling station would cost between 500,000 and 1 million euros. A fast multi-format electric car charging station comes to cost 50,000 euros.

The reality of other countries such as Japan is that the hydrogen stations are a bit more expensive. With this type of costs, it seems difficult that an entrepreneur wants to invest to build a hidrogenera, without guarantees that it will recover the invested, or grants.

  • Hydrogen is very volatile and flammable

Although manufacturers design and build accumulation of hydrogen tanks to be very resistant, and include different security systems to detect leaks of hydrogen, for certain drivers can weigh against the electric hydrogen fuel cell car, the hydrogen is highly flammable.

  • Tanks of hydrogen and battery life limits of the car


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