Monday, November 17, 2014

Why All the Hate for Fuel Cell Vehicles?

Honda FCV Concept. Photo courtesy of Honda.
There has been considerable push-back against fuel cell vehicles recently, leading some automakers that are pushing the technology to step up their efforts to educate the public about its benefits. One of the funniest things about the efforts being made against fuel cell vehicles is that they are coming from electric vehicle proponents.

You might think that people who are into electric cars are all for any kind of alternative fuel that gets us off the fossil fuel addiction, but that's most certainly not the case. There have been many arguments made for why fuel cell technology is ridiculous and unnecessary, introducing an additional step that isn't necessary with electric cars.

This isn't a one-sided fight, as these things tend to go. Like I wrote about a few months ago, Toyota declared that fuel cell technology will win out over electrification. Even more recently, backers like Hyundai have released documents that essentially state that fuel cell vehicles are like electric cars, only without the problematic batteries. That's hit a sore spot for fans of vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, because deep down inside they know that battery technology is the single biggest thing holding sales back.

Most electric cars provide a range of under 100 miles and take at least half an hour to charge up (that's using one of the quicker methods, so it's even longer if you're charging at home). While I've been lectured that the slow charging times are "irrelevant" because quickly refueling a vehicle isn't really necessary, that is a big problem with electric cars. Maybe battery tech will advance to the point that charging up a car only takes five minutes and range is more like 400 miles. Oh, and about the whole range thing, cold weather affects the driving range of an electric car quite a bit.

In other words, those of us who live where it gets cold in the winter or who drive a car for more than 100 miles in a single trip view electric cars as impractical. Fuel cell vehicles promise to eliminate those problems.

My personal opinion is that the two technologies should be allowed to duke it out on the open market so that consumers can decide what works best. In fact, both could exist side-by-side since they don't technically conflict with each other. Of course, that would only work in an ideal world. The reality is that there will be a fight to the death, because both methods require the backing of governments and other organizations to really work. That's what the fighting is really about, when you boil it all down.

In my own personal opinion, it's too early to tell which technology will be the future. In the end, I'm just excited to see the negative effects of internal combustion engines become a part of history, because we are more than ready to revolutionize how we get around.

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