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He said the best hydrogen fuel cell technology doesn't compare to the energy density of lithium-ion batteries

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has made his view on hydrogen fuel cell cars clear: they're bullshit.

In a a speech at a new Tesla service center in Germany, Musk told employees and enthusiasts that those who oppose electric vehicles (EV) but are onboard with new technology like hydrogen fuel cell cars need to know that it's more of a marketing gimmick than a real clean energy solution. 

 “And then they’ll say certain technologies like fuel cell … oh god … fuel cell is so bullshit. Except in a rocket," said Musk.

More specifically, Musk said that even the best hydrogen fuel cell technology doesn't compare to the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, such as that found in Tesla's Model S. 

Check out the video below for Musk's comments, which start at the 29-minute mark:


Musk may hold this opinion because his company only offers EVs for the time being, but not all automakers feel that hydrogen fuel cell is a waste of time.

Earlier this month, Toyota said it was passing up EVs in favor of more hybrids and its first hydrogen fuel cell release in 2015. According to Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, EV batteries need at least two major breakthroughs before they can replace gasoline or hybrid vehicles. 
 
"The reason why Toyota doesn’t introduce any major [all-electric product] is because we do not believe there is a market to accept it,” said Uchiyamada. "I personally expect a lot from this hydrogen fuel cell technology. If government and industry work together, this might be part of the long-term solution."

Back in July, General Motors (GM) and Honda announced that they'd team up for fuel cell vehicle technology as well. They hope to commercialize the technology by 2020. 

However, GM still has a foot in the EV market as well. In fact, it wants to directly compete with Tesla by offering a 200-mile affordable EV. Tesla said it is working on a new vehicle with the same range, which aims to be more affordable than the current Model S. GM is also gunning for Tesla with luxury Cadillac EVs

Others onboard with Musk's love for EVs is Volkswagen, which wants to lead the EV market by 2018 starting with the eGolf and eUp!, and Nissan, which has upped its EV efforts by cutting purchase and lease prices of the all-electric Leaf and even offering free charging for a year to Leaf owners in Texas (and eventually other states).

Tesla is certainly a superpower in the EV startup realm. The company successfully paid off its $465 million government loans nine years early, pulled a surprise profit for Q2 2013 with a revenue of $405.1 million, unveiled new tech for its Model S (swappable battery tech) and the Model S even snagged the highest safety rating from the NHTSA. It makes sense that Musk would try to keep this momentum going by advocating EVs over hydrogen fuel cells. 

Source: Wired



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Quite frankly, he's right
By Mint on 10/23/2013 1:48:45 PM , Rating: 2
Between cost (Honda's FCX is estimated to cost $120k+), power density, energy density (good luck fitting an H2 tank into a 4-inch thick slab like the Tesla), and infrastructure, fuel cells don't have a chance.

The first market for fuel cells will be power generation, where promising startups like Redox Power Systems are trying to heavily undercut Bloom Energy's systems (which cost ~$10k/kW). But even $1k/kW is too much for a car, which needs ~20kW avg power to drive on the highway, and even then will need a supercap/battery for acceleration (like the FCX currently has).

Batteries are going to leave fuel cells in their dust, and have fundamentally higher efficiency as well.




RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Dr of crap on 10/23/2013 2:17:59 PM , Rating: 4
While I agree with you, why not let them try???

A lot thought that Tesla wouldn't make it, but here we are and they are doing just fine. AND to get started they needed a loan from you and me (govt loan). And the Roadster cost over $100,000.

I say at least let them try, see what happens.

The problem with hydrogen is the same as corn for ethanol. It costs almost as much to make it as its selling price. But with economy of sales and break thoroughs along the way, they mimght get the price down.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Shig on 10/23/2013 2:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
Well we are going to find out. Toyota is pushing ahead with their full production fuel cell vehicle for 2015.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Mint on 10/23/2013 2:36:27 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, I'm not against them trying. But are the car companies actually trying, or just putting up a facade to look green, as Elon alleges?

There's a lot of talk about fuel cells and little action. The gov't had big credits for them, too:
http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Corporations/Qualifi...
If there were any fuel cell companies that had a viable plan, they'd get ATVM loans as well. However, they didn't.

Cost isn't the problem with hydrogen. It's a lot cheaper than gasoline. The problem is distribution and storage.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By ven1ger on 10/23/2013 4:01:12 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/hydrogen-cars-hi...

GM has a working model of a hydrogen fuel cell car that seems to be doing extremely well. But, of course, the question is about the transport delivery of the hydrogen for refueling is a matter for debate.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By ven1ger on 10/23/2013 4:16:06 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.treehugger.com/cars/toyotas-new-fuel-ce...

Toyota concept looks very promising. Even the idea that fuel cell technology could be utilized in other venues is definitely interesting. Fuel cell technology may be in its infancy commercially, but like everything else, it has to start someplace, and just like when everyone was opining about EV cars, hybrids they are here and will be sticking around. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is facing the same uphill battle against the detractors, but I think it has excellent promise for the future.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By purerice on 10/23/2013 8:03:26 PM , Rating: 2
Speaking of facades to look green, Elon should know very well.
The total ecological cost from production through scrap of a Tesla is higher than for most LEVs, yet the "zero emissions" is one of the primary points Elon and his supporters keep harping on. Slightly hypocritical.

One thing I don't get though with hydrogen is that water vapor is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It doesn't hurt you to breathe in and it doesn't stink, but as far as the environment is concerned, oil is cleaner.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Mint on 10/24/2013 12:53:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The total ecological cost from production through scrap of a Tesla is higher than for most LEVs
Most LEVs don't compete with 15-20 MPG luxury sedans.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Spuke on 10/24/2013 7:23:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Most LEVs don't compete with 15-20 MPG luxury sedans.
Which luxury sedans are these?


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Mint on 10/25/2013 1:33:48 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By JKflipflop98 on 10/25/2013 7:02:51 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it's not like there's naturally water vapor in the air or anything.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Reclaimer77 on 10/23/13, Rating: 0
RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Cheesew1z69 on 10/23/2013 6:41:29 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
It's right up there with the CEO of Coke saying Pepsi doesn't taste as good...
It doesn't :o


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Spuke on 10/24/2013 7:24:45 PM , Rating: 2
It sure as hell does!!!


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Cheesew1z69 on 10/24/2013 10:17:31 PM , Rating: 2
Pepsi is disgusting....


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Mint on 10/23/2013 7:02:49 PM , Rating: 2
You think Musk is saying anything original with these comments?

This has nothing to do with him. Hydrogen fuel cells have the same obstacles they always did. The gov't was offering a $12,000 tax credit for Honda's FCX, and they still didn't sell more than a handful.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By tng on 11/1/2013 4:33:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
they still didn't sell more than a handful.
It was my understanding that the FCX was lease only and people applied but only a handful were chosen. The actual price to make the car was something obscene like $200K and they wanted them back after the lease was up.

The FCX was like a beta test vehicle released to the public on a limited basis so they could gather data on the program. If that is true they did go all the way in testing the concept, always did admire Honda's gumption when it came to throwing new things out there.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By deltaend on 10/23/2013 2:31:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Batteries are going to leave fuel cells in their dust, and have fundamentally higher efficiency as well.


So... what you are saying is that we need a hybrid fuel cell/EV? Let's do it. ;)


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Mint on 10/23/2013 3:01:58 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure how that's related to what you quoted, but fuel cell vehicles are, by their nature, electric hybrids.

What they do is replace most (but not all) of the battery with a tank of hydrogen and a fuel cell. They still have electric motors.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By chripuck on 10/25/2013 1:30:05 PM , Rating: 2
He probably meant hybrids. You could certainly see the combination of Prius technology in a fuel cell vehicle.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Mint on 10/25/2013 1:39:14 PM , Rating: 2
It's not a matter of "could". Fuel cell vehicles will necessarily have electric motors and batteries (or maybe supercaps instead). As far as foreseeable technology is concerned, saying "hybrid fuel cell/EV" is redundant.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By flyingpants1 on 10/24/2013 3:08:37 AM , Rating: 2
The question is when will we see new batteries? I imagine we'll be seeing iterative improvements on the current lithium ion technology for a very long while. Auto manufacturers have improved upon ICEs for so long with stuff like VVT, CVT, small turbodiesels, etc. I'm interested to see what they do with EVs.

Might sound obvious but the key to EV range is aerodynamics. You can't improve very much on the electric drivetrain like you can with an ICE, it's already very efficient. What you can do is redesign the vehicle body glide push through the air more easily, wasting less energy.

If you could hit 210Wh/mile at highway speeds (very simple to do) in a car like $63k Model S, you'd already be able to make 350 mile trips with currently-existing battery technology. I think that's a realistic target for the future.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By Jaybus on 10/24/2013 3:42:44 PM , Rating: 2
You're talking constant speed on the Utah Salt Flats, right? Not the rest of the real world. Starts and stops and uphill climbs have much more to do with mass than aerodynamics. Heating and A/C? Toyota has been pretty savvy in the past about these things, and they are waiting on future battery breakthroughs because, well, the current battery tech is simply not good enough. It's not a matter of engineering. It's a matter of science. Until there is a battery technology with higher energy density, we need hybrids. I can certainly tell you that the range anxiety for a Leaf is very high here in the mountains of East Tennessee.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By flyingpants1 on 10/24/2013 8:55:14 PM , Rating: 2
What? The Model S already does 280Wh/mile. The Leaf can already do 210Wh/mile. It is optimistic, but then we are still working with cars that have a 0.23 drag coefficient, not 0.2 as is possible.

quote:
Starts and stops and uphill climbs have much more to do with mass than aerodynamics.


Uh yeah.. I was talking about highway speeds in my post. Air resistance is the single most important factor when driving at highway speeds. In city driving, the Model S 85 can already reach 425+ miles..

quote:
Toyota has been pretty savvy in the past about these things, and they are waiting on future battery breakthroughs because


Because they're the world's largest ICE manufacturer and they don't want to instantly obsolete all of their previous vehicles and wipe out decades of R&D.

quote:
the current battery tech is simply not good enough. It's not a matter of engineering. It's a matter of science.


A $10k battery could get you 200 miles, that's pretty good.

quote:
I can certainly tell you that the range anxiety for a Leaf is very high here in the mountains of East Tennessee.


Luckily, most of us do not live in the mountains of East Tennessee.


RE: Quite frankly, he's right
By chripuck on 10/25/2013 1:28:08 PM , Rating: 2
I'm a little behind in fuel cells, but you're telling me that the energy density of a hydrogen fuel cell is behind a LiIon battery with it's utterly pathetic energy density?


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