10 years ago, hydrogen fuel cells sounded like a very attractive prospect. Cars powered by hydrogen fuel would have a lot of the same benefits as EVs, such as lower emissions and near-silent operation. They had the same hype “future-tech” vibe as EVs, that they could realize the dream of a sustainable future. But while EVs have realized that dream, it’s turned to a nightmare for fuel cells. It’s time to let the hydrogen fuel cell die.
Hydrogen fuel cells can almost be thought of like a refillable battery. A hydrogen fuel powered car would look very similar to an EV, with the same electric motors. The only difference is that the electricity driving the wheels is generated from hydrogen fuel, producing water as a byproduct.
The main benefit of hydrogen fuel is that we can keep the same fuel distribution systems everyone is used to. Gas stations can be converted to hydrogen stations, allowing drivers to fill up just like they’re used to. All that’s needed is access to power and water.
It sure sounds great. Too bad that’s not what happened. Making hydrogen is expensive. It sounds sensible to repurpose gas stations to become hydrogen stations. But running out high amounts of power and water to every gas station and converting it to hydrogen fuel is a lot of work. We could potentially create hydrogen centrally and distribute it to gas stations. But rather than creating a whole network of hydrogen factories to work with our current fuel supply chain, let’s just move on. An EV charger just requires power. It’s really not that hard.
Currently, it costs about $61 to store 1kWh of power with hydrogen fuel. EVs today require a battery above 50kWh to achieve an adequate range. So assuming efficiency is roughly equal, you’d need a few thousand dollars to go on a road trip.
Of course that cost will go down over time. But EVs already have a massive head start. While the cost of creating hydrogen fuel will go down over time, we’re already nearing under $100/kWh battery cells.
So when I see that Nikola wants us to be able to drink the water byproduct of the Nikola Badger they’re totally working on I just have to roll my eyes. I don’t understand why investors have been so hyped about this company. All they are doing is wasting resources researching a technology that will not solve our current sustainability crisis. The electric vehicle revolution is already upon us. All Nikola is doing is holding progress back.
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