Fuel Cell Vehicles

Hydrogen Vehicles in California and Hawaii

A hydrogen society may be a viable alternative to fossil fuels if hydrogen production can be implemented on a grand scale. Hydrogen is a viable energy carrier and the only emission is water when used in fuel cell vehicles. The following factors should be considered for the mobility market: hydrogen production capability, number of fueling stations available and associated costs. Several automakers like Toyota and Honda have released hydrogen cars while BMW plans to wait a few more years until a hydrogen market is firmly established. Fuel cell vehicles such as the Toyota Mirai or the Honda Clarity have a longer driving range than most electric vehicles of comparable size. However, for practically, the vehicle must remain within states that have hydrogen supply stations which severely limits the vehicle to local or city driving only.

Similar to electric vehicles when they first started, a refueling system or statewide infrastructure needs to be put into place. At the same time hydrogen production must also increase. Hydrogen can be produced by collecting methane and converting, but the only downside is the carbon emissions. The company Air Liquide proposes several strategies to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions from hydrogen production. Air Liquide appears to be an active player in the development of a hydrogen mobility market in the western United States. A facility is proposed for Nevada in order to supply liquid hydrogen to California. According to the Toyota website, the Mirai model is currently available in select markets such as California and Hawaii.

The automaker BMW appears to be planning to introduce hydrogen vehicles by 2022. The hydrogen vehicles would be available in select markets when the hydrogen infrastructure is established and at a reasonable price for consumers. They will also continue to develop numerous other vehicles based on what each market or location requires such as electric or combustion engines. To establish a niche in the mobility market, it is important to create hydrogen vehicles comparable to current combustion engines in terms of power output and driving dynamics.

The production of hydrogen is not an efficient process at the moment and there is a lot of energy loss before it arrives at the pump due to transportation. In addition, it is currently more economical to use an electric powered car with less range than a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Another potential issue with a hydrogen vehicle is that a larger gas tank is needed. The hydrogen gas tank takes up practical space compared to that of a typical gasoline vehicle. BMW plans to use hydrogen fuel cells in larger SUV models which I assume will have enough space to accommodate the hydrogen gas tanks so not to impede on passenger comfort and practicality. I believe hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to be an alternative to that of electric powered vehicles when it relates to vehicle range and specific energy. This is due to driving range and comparable characteristics to that of a gasoline vehicle. In comparison, vehicles powered by electric only are limited in range based on the size of the battery and the extra weight that comes with it.

A plug in hybrid version using a battery and fuel cell as a range extender may be a viable option for the future as suggested by Offer et al. (2010). In any case, they conclude in the 2010 publication that both battery and fuel cell should be “supported” to improve the mobility market and it should not be a matter of debate whether one is better than the other.

Of all the countries, Japan appears to be at the forefront of hydrogen technology and the best candidate to develop a fully functioning hydrogen society. Fuel cell vehicles may become part of the mobility market once hydrogen becomes more readily available at the pumping stations and is produced efficiently. In addition, the current technological advances in fuel cells such as a more compact size and a better catalyst surface all help to further the potential of such a vehicle. The current fuel cell in the Toyota Mirai as of 2014 is smaller in size and weight than the 2008 model.


Air Liquide. October 8, 2019. Group Business Magazine. Air Liquide committed to producing renewable hydrogen for the West Coast mobility market with new liquid hydrogen plant. Retrieved from https://www.airliquide.com/united-states-america/air-liquide-committed-producing-renewable-hydrogen-west-coast-mobility-market

G.J. Offer, D. Howey, M. Contestabile, R. Clague, and N.P. Brandon. 2010. Comparative analysis of battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and hybrid vehicles in a future sustainable road transport system. Energy Policy 38; 24–29.

Reuters. March 4, 2018. Auto & Truck Manufacturers. Japanese venture aims to build 80 hydrogen stations by March 2022. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/japan-hydrogen/japanese-venture-aims-to-build-80-hydrogen-stations-by-march-2022-idUSL4N1QN1F7

Toyota. 2020 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. Retrieved from https://www.toyota.com/mirai/fcv.html

YouTube. March 30, 2020. BMW i Hydrogen NEXT Fuel Cell Technology Powertrain Explained. DPCcars. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyw_VrOIvuI

YouTube. December 30, 2018. Why Hydrogen Engines Are A Bad Idea. Engineering Explained. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/1Ajq46qHp0c

YouTube. July 27, 2018. The Truth about Hydrogen. Real Engineering. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/f7MzFfuNOtY

YouTube. January 5, 2018. 2018 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Review and Road Test | In 4K. Alex on Autos. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MenV7j5enGY

YouTube. December 15, 2014. Toyota USA. 2016 Toyota Mirai FCV – Fuel Cell Stack | Toyota. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/KoOXviTSAtA

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