Elon Musk has a strong view of hydrogen.Not everyone agrees

Hydrogen is being supplied to automobiles at the Frankfurt Motor Show IAA held in Frankfurt am Main, Germany on September 13, 2017.

Tobias Schwartz | AFP | Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a history of expressing strong opinions about hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells.

A few years ago, when a subject emerged in a discussion with a reporter at the Automobile News World Congress, millionaires and electric car tycoons described hydrogen fuel cells as “very ridiculous.”

“It’s very difficult to make, store, and use hydrogen in a car,” Musk said. “Obviously … it doesn’t make sense because the best case hydrogen fuel cell can’t beat the current case battery,” he added later.

“It will be clear in the next few years. There is no reason for us to make this discussion, I said … my work on this, it will become very clear over time, I I don’t know what to say more “

Since those remarks, Musk’s views, if any, do not seem to have changed much. He tweeted in June 2020 “Fuel cell = sell idiots” Added in July of that year: “Selling hydrogen idiots doesn’t make sense.”


First of all: What is supporting what tech musk seems to be so skeptical?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (also known as a fuel cell electric vehicle) as “similar to an electric vehicle … using an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine to power the wheels.” doing.

The main difference is that electric vehicles have a battery that requires the vehicle to be connected to a charging point and charged. On the other hand, fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen gas and, according to the EPA, “generate electricity on board.”

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Simply put, in a fuel cell, the hydrogen gas from the tank mixes with oxygen to generate electricity.

Fuel cell electric vehicles emit “only steam and warm air,” said the US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuel Data Center.

Various views

When it comes to uncertainties about the use of hydrogen in cars, musk isn’t the only one.

In February of this year, Herbert Diess, CEO of Germany’s automobile powerhouse Volkswagen Group, Weighted on the subject.

“It’s time for politicians to embrace science,” he tweeted. “Green hydrogen is needed for steel, chemicals and aviation and should not be installed in automobiles. It is very expensive, inefficient, slow and difficult to deploy and transport. After all, #hydrogen I can’t see the car. “

Musk and Dís are two celebrities who lead large companies with great influence and reach. What they say has weight. However, their views do not seem to be shared by everyone in the automotive sector.

from now on, Toyota When Hyundai While producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles Riversimple is also working on hydrogen vehicles.

June, BMW Group Said it had Started testing vehicles using hydrogen fuel cell drivetrainsThe company describes hydrogen fuel cell technology as having “long-term potential to complement internal combustion engines, plug-in hybrid systems, and battery-powered electric vehicles.”

At this point, these products clearly do not make up the majority of car sales, but Riversimple does not actually sell cars, but instead offers them through subscription services, so various companies like this. Is working to provide fuel cells. It shows that some people see the potential of technology.

“Fuel cell vehicles will certainly help decarbonize transportation,” a Toyota spokeswoman told CNBC.

“As the refueling infrastructure expands, it provides a convenient alternative to electrified transportation via fully electrical BEVs. [battery-powered electric vehicles], “They said.

Toyota “sees hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels in all situations, including heating, lighting, transportation, mass transit, and heavy industry.”

“We will see a wider range of uses for hydrogen, cheaper and more efficient power supply, and more and more hydrogen supply for cars, buses, trains and trucks,” they add. I did.

In a statement sent to CNBC, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association expressed a similar view.

According to FCHEA, fuel cell electric vehicles and hydrogen energy are “zero-emission options with the performance you expect from your customers, leaving your day-to-day operations unchanged. Adding long distances, quick refueling, and weight limits. Provides the ability to extend to larger platforms without the size. “

“There was a great opportunity for fuel cell electric vehicles and fuel cell driven material handling vehicles,” FCHEA added.

“There are also great opportunities for medium and large delivery vans, trucks, buses, trains and planes, given the battery weight and charging limits of long haul trucks,” he said.

In fact, as governments around the world are developing low-emission and zero-emission transportation systems, the concept of using hydrogen fuel cells in large vehicles is beginning to be considered by a wide range of companies.

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In a recent interview with CNBC, The CEO of Daimler Trucks was asked about the discussion between battery-powered electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells. The balance claimed by Martin Daum was the key.

“Both … make sense, so we choose both,” he went on to explain how different technologies are appropriate for different scenarios.

“Generally speaking, if you’re going to deliver to a city that requires less energy, you can charge it overnight at the depot, and it’s certainly battery-powered,” Daum said.

“But the moment you’re on the road, the moment you go from Stockholm to Barcelona … in my opinion, you need something that can be better transported and better refueled, which is ultimately H2. “

“No ruling has been issued, but I think it’s too risky for a company of our size to adopt just one technology.”


Daum’s comments on fuel cells will eventually find heavier modes of transportation that cover long distances, carry cargo, and in some cases ferry people from one destination to another. It touches on the idea that it can be done.

He is not the only one to take this view.European transportation giant AlstomFor example, the Coradia iLint is described as “the world’s first passenger train powered by hydrogen fuel cells.”

The aviation industry will operate commercial hydrogen electricity flights between London and Rotterdam. Announced in OctoberWith the people behind the project, I hope it goes to the sky in 2024.

In the construction industry, JCB, a major player in the field, said last year it developed a “hydrogen fuel cell-powered” excavator.

Weighing 20 metric tons, the vehicle has been tested for over 12 months and adds that “the only emissions from exhaust fumes are water.”


The use of hydrogen fuel cell technology in a variety of applications is exciting, but the road to mass deployment may not always be smooth.

Earlier this year Honda The company has discontinued production of Clarity plug-in hybrids and fuel cell models, although fuel cell electric vehicles “play an important role in the zero-emission strategy.”

Elsewhere, the US government raises many challenges. These range from fuel cell durability and reliability to vehicle costs.

“The current infrastructure for producing hydrogen and delivering it to consumers has not yet supported widespread adoption of FCVs,” he added.

In February 2020, the Brussels-based Campaign Group’s transportation and environment defeated the fierce competition facing hydrogen in the transportation sector.

T & E emphasized that green hydrogen produced using renewable energy does not just have to “compete with gray and blue hydrogen” produced using fossil fuels. “It will compete with gasoline, diesel, marine fuel oil, kerosene and, of course, electricity,” T & E said.

“If batteries are a practical solution, hydrogen is inefficient in cars, vans, cities, regions, and perhaps long-distance trucks, ferries, and as a result, fuel costs are much higher, making it a difficult situation. Face to face. “

As the International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook 2021 points out, bridging the gap between battery-powered electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles is a major challenge.

According to the report, the registration of fuel cell electric vehicles “remains three orders of magnitude lower than EVs because hydrogen refueling stations are not widely available and, unlike EVs, they cannot be charged at home.”

There is ongoing competition to dominate the future of low and zero emissions of transportation in the 21st century.

When it comes to cars, battery-powered electric cars are in a strong position with companies like Tesla taking the lead, but the road to success is by no means straightforward. Look at this space.

Elon Musk has a strong view of hydrogen.Not everyone agrees

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