Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology A ‘Scam’: Tesla Co-Founder

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology A ‘Scam’: Tesla Co-Founder

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is not a fan of hydrogen fuel cell technology, and it is not a secret to anyone as the electric car creator has called hydrogen fuel cell technology “mind-bogglingly stupid” and “silly.” Hydrogen fuel cell technology is the other green power being considered by automakers.

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Competing green technology a scam: Tesla Co-founder

After Musk, now Marc Tarpenning, a Tesla co-founder, shared his thoughts on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Tarpenning called hydrogen fuel cell vehicles “a scam” on an Internet History Podcast. Fuel cell technology, which has been around for over 100 years, runs on the electricity created from bonding hydrogen and oxygen. The only byproducts of fuel cell cars are heat and water, proponents of the technology say about its environmentally-friendly attributes. Nevertheless, some are not a fan of the technology. Tarpenning said hydrogen is uniquely bad.

“There’s a saying in the auto industry: Hydrogen is the future of transportation and always will be. And it’s a scam as far as I can tell, because the energy equation is terrible,” the executive said.

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Further, Tarpenning argues that hydrogen is difficult to get, compress and use in fuel, even when it is very abundant. He added that on a planet where people live, all the hydrogen is very reactive.

“It’s bound up into water, wood and everything else,” said the Tesla co-founder.

Tarpenning added that to make hydrogen a viable electricity generator, one has to expend a lot of energy. This is done through electrolysis, in which putting electricity into water separates the hydrogen and oxygen. But once the hydrogen is separated from the oxygen, it has to be compressed, which takes more energy. According to Tarpenning, electric batteries use energy more efficiently in comparison to hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Electric vehicles vs. hydrogen-powered vehicles

Consumers are the main focus when it comes to positioning in favor of fuel cell vehicles. Toyota is currently focused on building fuel cell cars. Toyota has been called the “the most anti-EV mass-market car company” despite building a popular line of hybrid vehicles. According to Toyota, hydrogen-powered vehicles have a leg up.

According to USA Today, the recently introduced hydrogen fueled car by Toyota named the Mirai can go about 300 miles on one tank and takes about four minutes to refuel. But lack of infrastructure limits its reach as there are astonishingly few stations where drivers can fill up. Refueling stations for electric cars are growing, and according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, there are 13,491 charging stations and 33,162 charging outlets in the U.S. now.

Also, fuel cell cars have to compete on price. The Toyota Mirai costs $58,335, and it is only being sold in California currently. Chevy and Nissan sell electric cars for around $30,000, whereas Tesla started taking orders for its $35,000 Model 3 recently.

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Aman is MBA (Finance) with an experience on both Marketing and Finance side. He has worked as a Risk Analyst for AIR Worldwide, and is currently leading VeRa FinServ, a Financial Research firm. Favorite pastimes include watching science fiction movies, reviewing tech gadgets, playing PC games and cricket. - Email him at amanjain@valuewalk.com
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  1. A pre-order is a subset of an order. Tesla IS taking orders for the Model 3. The orders are ‘pre-orders’ because the car is not currently in production. You can also order a model S right now, without the obligation to actually buy it, so the fact that there is no obligation is irrelevant.

    It would be great if FCEVs could compete with EVs, but the math just isn’t there. Given that future forms of energy will be renewable and electric, the efficiency of FCEVs makes them dead in the water they exhaust. When generating hydrogen with electricity, it takes almost 3 times the energy/mile to propel an FCEV compared to an EV. So if I wanted to power my FCEV with solar, wind, nuclear, or any of the other renewables — I would need 3 times as much, at 3 times the cost.

    If I charge an EV with electricity, I get about 27m/$, if I charge an FCEV with electricity, I get about 9 m/$. FCEVs only work when we have fossil fuels to make hydrogen cheaply, when we have to make hydrogen with renewables, FCEVs fail.

  2. Did you know Koch industries is supporting fuel cells? Did you know the Koch brothers have hired trolls to bash EVs and support fuel cell vehicles? You might be wasting your time trying to debate someone whose opinion is not their own.

  3. George, consider solar panels to supplement the charging stations and the grid. Once the panels are paid for, it’s virtually free energy from the sun. Add to that some energy storage. Hydrogen is dangerously explosive. Remember the Hindenburg Zeppelin was filled with hydrogen? Now imagine a 15 gallon tank behind your back filled with volatile liquid compressed hydrogen. Prey you don’t get rear-ended by a texting driver.

  4. And where do you get hydrogen from? It takes 300kWh to produce 5kg of hydrogen to fill up FCV so it can go 300 miles. With 300kWh, electric battery vehicle can do 1000 miles.

  5. A scam?
    Let’s see who’s scamming whom. Consider this. Hydrogen cars, like gasoline cars, store their energy in the fuel molecules themselves and thus don’t need to transfer raw power over wires. Thank goodness for that since there’s no grid around to charge even a fraction of our cars if they were electric. And this is the point — and what makes the search for better batteries foolish — you still gotta charge them. But where? The electric grid is already our Achilles heel.

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