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Here's Why Major Car Manufacturers Believe Hydrogen Cars Are The Future

HotCars logo HotCars 9/8/2022 Eugenia Akhim
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The most recent battle in the automotive industry is between the proponents of electric cars and the hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle advocates. While the latter sounds more like a title from a science fiction movie, the technology is here to stay. Not for nothing, various major players in the automotive industry and Western governments are backing the technology and investing massively in its development. The UK Department for Transport has teamed up with Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and Shell with the goal of expanding the hydrogen refueling infrastructure across the UK and introducing fuel cell vehicles in emergency services and police departments.

Meanwhile, Toyota, Hyundai, and BMW are leading the change in the automotive industry, while focusing extensively on hydrogen passenger cars. Toyota, for example, prefers to focus its efforts on hydrogen cars instead of electric vehicles. Since 2014, when Toyota inaugurated the Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell sedan, Hyundai has been leading the way on hydrogen-energy technology. But Toyota is hardly the only automaker interested in these vehicles, so here is why major car manufacturers believe hydrogen cars are better than electric vehicles.

Related: The Truth About Hydrogen As An Alternative Fuel

Hydrogen Cars Have Longer Driving Range

Even consumers that would normally consider EVs backtrack when they hear about the driving range of these vehicles. Just to put things into perspective, the median EPA estimated range for all 2020 EV models was slightly above 250 miles. This sounds promising if you use your EV for daily activities inside your city or short commutes, but who would risk taking their electric vehicle for a coast-to-coast trip?

Consumers understand EVs are mostly for urbanites, but how about drivers that live in the distant parts of the country or rural areas? Where should they charge their electric vehicles? Fast and secure access to charging stations will remain an issue even in the future. Unfortunately, the rather unimpressive driving range is also something that is a big turnoff.

But for those who are against gas-guzzling cars and harmful emissions, hydrogen cars might be an interesting alternative. Indeed, hydrogen cars require fueling stations, which are scarce in the countryside, but at least they offer a longer driving range, giving drivers more flexibility. For example, a 2021 Toyota Mirai traveled 845 miles on a single tank of hydrogen. Meanwhile, the hydrogen-powered Hyundai Nexo has an average travel range of 330 miles, which is similar to the driving range of the Tesla Model S. It’s fair to note that consumers and industry experts consider the Tesla Model S the best EV option on the market.

Hydrogen Cars Fuel Up Faster

Another drawback to EVs is their charging time, which is too slow. The average electric car (60 kWh battery) takes 8 hours to charge from empty-to-full with a 7kW charging point. Meanwhile, the Tesla Model S (Long Range) takes up to 12 hours to charge using the Tesla Wall Connector, while the Audi E-Tron needs 10.5 hours to charge, according to Kelley Blue Book. Conversely, hydrogen cars require just 3 to 5 minutes to charge a full tank.

Apparently, a hydrogen-powered car offers a similar driving range to gas and can fill as quickly as a gas-powered vehicle.

If we compare driving range and charging times, it seems like hydrogen cars are the future and electric vehicles are just a stepping stone. As such, it is understandable why some automakers are not too excited about EVs and refuse to embrace the latest hype.

Related: 10 Things You Need To Know About Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars

No Lithium-Ion Batteries To Discharge

Most consumers say they prefer EVs because of the environment. The new generation of eco-warriors insists that the world can’t win the fight against global warming without EVs, but the reality is more nuanced.

When comparing EVs and fossil fuel powered cars, André Gonçalves wrote in an article for youmatter, “If the source of energy to power these cars doesn’t come from solar panels, wind turbines or even nuclear or hydroelectric, their CO2 emissions will be much higher.” Gonçalves continued, “if the electricity used to charge cars comes from the burning of fossil fuels, it doesn’t matter if the EC are not polluting while being driven, as this pollution was already released in some distant power plant.”

But that’s not all. An issue that is hardly addressed is what happens with the lithium-ion battery once it concludes its life cycle. Science.org points out that when the battery on a Tesla Model S reaches its end, the problems start.

If it ends up in a landfill, its cells can release problematic toxins, including heavy metals,” says Science.org. Recycling it is also “a hazardous business,” according to materials scientist Dana Thompson of the University of Leicester. “Cut too deep into a Tesla cell, or in the wrong place, and it can short-circuit, combust, and release toxic fumes,” says Ian Morse in an article for science.org.

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