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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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RE: Hydrogen is a BAD idea
By Griffinhart on 10/24/2013 1:55:05 PM , Rating: 1

Oil is made up of Hydrogen and Carbon chains. Both also very abundant in our universe but that has nothing to do with how easily it's found on our planet. Using your logic, this means Oil is limitless, we just need to find a magic way to make it right?

What an odd and totally useless argument to make. He in no way suggests that Oil is limitless.


Hydrogen is NOT found naturally on our planet. It is too light so any free hydrogen tends to float into space. So the problem with Hydrogen is that you need to produce any that you require. There is no known easy way to produce Hydrogen except by using natural gas. But if you're going to use natural gas, why in the world wouldn't you burn that to begin with?

Another useless point. Gasoline isn't found naturally on our planet either, yet it has somehow managed to work for us.

There are also far more ways for producing Hydrogen without resorting to oil or natural gas. It is also possible to produce it through methane from landfills and coal. These have the benefit of being the current cheapest methods, however there are plenty of other existing and emerging technologies for producing it. There are dozens of ways through water splitting tech, and there have been some very promising advances in using biomass to produce it.


The EV crowd and most scientists recognize that electricity is already a part of our lives. We've mastered producing electricity and as the years go by we're getting more efficient at producing it. Where I live, we're mostly powered by hydro-electric dams so in a sense, my Volt is powered by moving water. We're familiar with batteries as they power a lot of electronic gizmos and it isn't a hard shot to realize that they could power our cars too.

The idea of powering a car with electricity isn't the point. Both fuel cell and batteries use electric motors to drive the car.

It's about addressing technical issues that would make either vehicle a viable replacement for Gasoline powered cars. That means being able to charge or fuel them quickly and away from home.

EV's have many issues here. The current range on a charge is very limited, especially cars like the Volt. The range further drops dramatically in various environmental conditions. You can pretty much halve the expected range in the winter in cold states. Sure Musk has his "quick battery swap" station idea, but like any Hydrogen concept, it too has to build a massive distribution system. One can reasonably argue that currently existing infrastructure can roll in hydrogen into the existing systems for far less cost and effort.


Compare this to Hydrogen. Pure hydrogen is found nowhere in our day to day lives. I think the only place I've ever heard of it being used is if you're a welder. Hydrogen is common in water but I don't think anyone in their right mind believes that you can just pour water into your car and it will magically work right?

No one expect it to either. But you seem to think that you are magically able to plug in an EV and charge it anywhere. Even though Electricity is ubiquitous in today's world, it doesn't mean you have unlimited access to it and can just plug in anywhere you feel like.


Car companies promoting hydrogen for two reasons. They first want to pick an alternative technology so impractical that it completely kills the dream to go there. It's like your friend telling you, you need to climb Mount Everest before you can climb a small hill.

No one is saying that.

Second the other dirty secret they never tell you is that hydrogen is produced by natural gas because trying to produce it with water is so inefficient, you're better off charging a battery. So your "hydrogen" car is actually a very overpriced "natural gas" car. This puts you back in the same boat as an oil car. So what was the point?

Hello pot, have you met kettle?

As I mentioned, Hydrogen production isn't just from natural gas, it's simply the cheapest current method.

And let's not forget the dirty little secret that only about 9% of electricity produced are from renewables. So, EV's are essentially in the same boat.

I don't claim to know if Fuel Cells are ever going to become truly viable, but a hydrogen based system has MANY advantages over an EV system.

There has even been some interesting work with burning hydrogen in ICE's meaning that current auto designs can be easily adapted.

There is also some interesting work with storing Hydrogen in low pressure solid state materials.

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