Auto industry engaged in designing hydrogen fueled cars, even with few models and stations beyond west coast automotive gas pains 6 weeks pregnant


Fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) "power themselves by converting hydrogen and ambient oxygen into electricity via an electro-chemical reaction in the fuel cell stack. The only byproduct is a wisp of steam," said Nicolas Stecher, a freelance car writer in an October feature in The Drive. Like plug-in battery-electric vehicles, "They emit no harmful exhaust at the point of use and are therefore seen by many as another path towards a zero-emission future," he noted.

Stecher cited a few advantages of fuel-cell cars over battery EVs. They can be filled in three to five minutes, "roughly the same time it takes to refuel a car with a gas-powered internal combustion engine" and significantly faster than battery-electric cars that can take a few hours to recharge fully. Fuel-cell electric vehicles "easily roam over 300 miles on a single tank," he said, whereas mass distributed battery-powered models are just now reaching the 230s. Also, "current battery storage capacities preclude battery-powered EVs from large-scale commercial use; anything from semi-trailer trucks down to midsize SUVs cannot run for long distances on battery power alone," he said.

Even Stecher concedes the huge odds of fuel cells catching on in a big way, even as California businesses promote hydrogen technology and spend millions on infrastructure. Fuel cell electric vehicles, he acknowledges, "don’t have their fuel source already flowing through every home in America. The production, distribution and sale of hydrogen remains the Everest-sized obstacle to wide-scale FCEV implementation," Stecher said.

"But car makers still see potential in hydrogen fuel cells," she said. "Batteries are expensive, take a long time to charge, and have limitations when it comes to driving range. Hydrogen-powered vehicles, on the other hand, more closely resemble combustion engines when it comes to the user experience."

• Honda Clarity, for sold in 2016 at a $369 a month price for 36 months with $2,868 due at signing. The EPA gave the car an estimated range of 366 miles — the longest range of any zero-emissions vehicle. Honda says the Clarity has a refuel time of just three to five minutes, the story author said.

• GM unveiled its car to the Army in fall 2016, which comes with 37-inch tires and stands at more than 6.5-feet tall and 7-feet wide. The Army has been testing the vehicle in extreme conditions this year to see if it can be used on missions.

• Toyota, which has worked on hydrogen technology for an industry best 23 years, began selling the Mirai in Japan in late 2014 and in California in October 2015 — the first hydrogen-powered car sold in the U.S. Toyota plans to sell 30,000 a year worldwide by 2020. The Toyota Mirai has an EPA estimated range of 312 miles and refuels in five minutes.

• Once planning to work with Mercedes-Benz’s parent Daimler and Nissan on fuel-cell technology, Ford’s focus is now on battery-powered vehicles. But Raj Nair, chief technology officer for Ford, told Business Insider the alliance still exists. "We are still investing and we are still doing research, and it’s still something that we are very interested in," he said.

• Mercedes-Benz rolled out a hydrogen-powered SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2017. Built on the same manufacturing platform as its GLC SUV, the H2 vehicle would start selling in late 2019. The 197-hp SUV comes with a battery pack that allows it to achieve a combined range of 271 miles.

• Hyundai has been leasing its Tucson Fuel Cell, a compact SUV, in California. The automaker had delivered 140 of the hydrogen-powered vehicles as of last spring. Luxury brand Genesis unveiled a hydrogen concept, the GV80, at the New York Auto Show last year but it won’t enter production.