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Most of us think that the future of mobility is electric, and that Tata, Mahindra, Hyundai, and MG Motors are at the forefront of the Electric Revolution in the country. But, there is another option that is powering clean-energy cars today.
Three manufacturers, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota, use (HFC) Hydrogen Fuel Cells to power their Clarity, Nexo, and Mirai models respectively. Hydrogen is one of most abundant elements available (known to mankind), and the only by-products of the HFCs are water and heat.
While some manufacturers are working with, and working towards (FCEVs) Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, others from the Electric Auto Industry feel that Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars will never become economically competent with other technology.
Elon Musk, the Chief Executive Officer at Tesla Motors said, back in 2015, that fuel cells for use in cars will never become commercial because of the inefficiency of producing, transporting, and storing Hydrogen. In addition, Hydrogen is highly flammable.
Mr Musk also said that hydrogen fuel cells are ‘mind-bogglingly stupid', and has called them ‘fool cells' as well. He also told Tesla shareholders that success for this ‘load of rubbish' was impossible.
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles combine hydrogen that is stored in a ‘fuel tank' with oxygen from the air to produce electricity. And unlike battery-powered electric vehicles, they do not need to be plugged in to be charged.
Lithium-ion batteries installed on electric cars in India take about 50 minutes to charge the battery up to 80 per cent, if using a fast charger; and between six and eleven hours to top up the battery when using a standard charger. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles do not need to be charged at all.
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles offer more in terms of driving range. Toyota's Mirai for example, is capable of 502 kilometers on a full tank of hydrogen. The Hyundai Kona Electric Vehicle, is a battery powered one that offers the highest range of 452 kilometers over a full charge.
The only advantage battery electric vehicles have, for now, is pricing. The cheapest electric car in India that is available for private buyers is the Mahindra eVarito at Rs 10.47 lakh (ex-showroom). Prices for fuel cell electric vehicles is roughly USD 60,000. That's about Rs 43 lakh (plus taxes).
Manufactures like Toyota feel that demand for fuel cell cars will increase soon, and have already increased the size of their FCEV manufacturing facilities ten fold with the idea of reducing costs of the Mirai model.
The biggest challenge for hydrogen fuel cells is the lack of infrastructure, globally. The current infrastructure is concentrated in Japan with 91 hydrogen stations across the Islands. As is, there are 31 hydrogen stations in the United States, 14 stations in Germany, and Norway is in the process of building its hydrogen station network. There is little to no information about other global infrastructure.
The Indian Auto Industry is doing all it can to transition from fossil fuel to clean-energy fuel. Manufacturers have launched numerous electric vehicles over the last few months, and have more in the pipeline. However, there is no known information about any manufacturer working on a fuel cell, or a fuel cell electric vehicle.
That hasn't stopped Sanjay Swami, a Twitter user, to very subtly ask Anand Mahindra, the Chairman at Mahindra Group, if his company was planning to bring hydrogen fuel cars to India. Mr Swamy's tweet also said that this would allow for us to bypass the battery electric vehicle generation completely.
We're not sure if Mr Mahindra has read the tweet, but we're sure everyone would like to know his thoughts about bringing hydrogen fuel technology to India.
The first hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells were invented in 1932 by Francis Thomas Bacon. The technology is used across a range of vehicles that include forklifts, automobiles, buses, boats, motorcycles, and submarines. The tech is also being tested for other applications such as emergency power systems, uninterrupted power supply, smartphones, and breathalyzers.
Thoughts About Hydrogen Fuel Cells Being The Future Of Electric Mobility
While HFC technology sounds really good, futuristic, and clean, the key to the product's success depends on infrastructure and pricing. We think consumers will automatically turn to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and or battery electric vehicles if they ‘see' more infrastructure.