In recent years, a new form of clean fuel has entered the spotlight. This, ”fuel,” is called hydrogen, and can power cars while only emitting water vapor. While the concept itself is not necessarily new, efficient commercial hydrogen cell vehicles have only been realized recently.
The most prominent of recent hydrogen cell vehicle developments is the Toyota Mirai. Following its development, Honda and Hyundai have also announced their own respective hydrogen cell vehicles, the Clarity and the Tucson. You might expect a vehicle pioneering hydrogen fuel cell technology to cost over a hundred thousand U.S. dollars, but the Mirai only sits at a respectable (though still expensive) sixty.
So why is hydrogen promoted by one of the automotive industry’s most prominent pioneers of electric drive technology (Toyota)? Well, important reason is that hydrogen fuel cell cars provide a practical experience similar to that of gasoline in terms of refueling time, while electric cars still require impractical charging times.
However, the structure for hydrogen is seriously lacking. As of now, California is the only state with a significant hydrogen fuel cell network, and even then it would be far from practical to use a Mirai as your daily driver. Understandably, we won’t be seeing hydrogen fuel cell cars until at least a decade later, when fueling infrastructure is more extensive.
With alternatives to gasoline growing ever faster, debate between whether hydrogen fuel cells or electricity will prevail has never been more lively. Of course, structure for electricity already exists globally. All a company needs to create a charging station is to connect to an existing power line. In contrast, hydrogen filling stations are still sorely lacking in infrastructure. However, a hydrogen fuel cell car can be refueled in under ten minutes, while even the fastest electric charging stations (e.g. Tesla Supercharger) still require over an hour to bring a car to full charge. Not to mention hydrogen cell vehicles have double the range of electric vehicles of the same price range (30-50 thousand dollars). The only commercial electric car with the range to compete with a fuel cell vehicle like the Mirai today is a Tesla, a car that goes for close to a hundred thousand.
Ultimately, regardless of which alternative is superior, both hydrogen and electricity represent a growing focus on clean and innovative solutions in an industry still dominated by gasoline. Hydrogen fuel serves as another step towards a future with clean emissions.