A few weeks back, GreenCarReports’s John Voelcker put together a list of 10 questions for Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai about their fuel cell vehicle (FCV) programs. While John was undoubtedly trying to summarize the comments and criticisms of battery electric vehicle (BEV) advocates – and probably isn’t a “hater,” per se – we’re going to pick on him and his website a bit and ask him 10 questions for FCV haters.
John, if you’re reading, I hope you agree that a lot of FCV criticisms coming from BEV advocates are completely and totally irrelevant.
10 Questions For GreenCarReports.com (and FCV haters in general)
1. Why do BEV advocates cling to a highly irrelevant electricity efficiency argument? The argument goes like this:
- Separating hydrogen from water is a great way to drive without contributing CO2 to the atmosphere, but it “wastes” electricity
- Therefore, making hydrogen isn’t a “good use” of electricity…that energy should be stored in a battery pack instead.
The trouble with this argument is that it doesn’t acknowledge a fundamental economic reality: battery packs are expensive, but electricity is cheap. The relative efficiency of using hydrogen as a transportation fuel vs. electricity as a transportation fuel can’t be discussed in a vacuum. If wind energy costs less than 4 cents per kW, it’s likely cheaper to “waste” that electricity separating hydrogen than it is to buy expensive battery packs.
In other words, “waste” has nothing to do with it. Economics is the only concern.
2. Why do BEV advocates insist on contrasting the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, etc. with FCVs? Don’t they know that 97% of the vehicles on the road today are powered by gasoline or diesel? Doesn’t it make more sense to compare both FCVs and BEVs to the market leader than to one another?
3. Why assume that refueling time is the only advantage FCVs have over BEVs? We created a nice little FAQ here that explained fuel cell stack costs are expected to be cost-comparable to gas-powered hybrids in just a few years (2018). FCVs aren’t just going to be fast and easy to refuel. They’re going to have lower up-front costs than BEVs too.
4. Why do FCV critics ignore all the investment in (and excitement for) fuel cell technology outside of transportation? Fuel cells aren’t just for cars – they’re being used to create grid-sized power stations, industrial power generation, fork lifts, buses, etc., and the technology is being pursued by industrial heavyweights like GE, Microsoft, and (ahem) Toyota.
In the post on GreenCarReports.com, you wrote:
A small but strong and vocal lobby of owners, supporters, and advocates has advocated for electric cars for 20 years now. Where is the similar groundswell of fuel-cell advocates?
Shouldn’t you walk that back a bit? Or perhaps acknowledge that a “groundswell” of support is irrelevant when evaluating the efficacy of a particular technology?
5. Why don’t BEV advocates understand that fuel cells are the only workable technology for trucks and large SUVs? The energy density of battery packs makes their use in large vehicles unlikely – this is why fuel cell powered buses a better option than battery electric buses (according to the US DOE). Even unabashed BEV advocates acknowledge that fuel cells are best for larger vehicles.
Can’t we have FCVs in the mix, if for no other reason than to use them in big vehicles?
6. Why don’t BEV advocates acknowledge that battery chemistry has stagnated? The CEO LG Chem – one of the largest battery manufacturers in the world – says that “we’ll have lithium ion for at least the next 10 to 15 years“, suggesting that today’s lithium ion battery technology is in no danger of taking a giant leap forward anytime soon. Yet BEV advocates assume that Tesla, Nissan, etc. will somehow significantly increase BEV range and decrease cost over the next 3-5 years.
How are BEV manufacturers going to accomplish significant improvements with the same old battery chemistry? And why is the CEO of LG Chem soft-pedaling the possibility of future advances?
7. Why are BEV advocates so willing to overlook battery range problems? Most BEVs that have been sold in the last few years struggle to live up to their published range – one need only read GreenCarReports.com to see that.
Why don’t BEV advocates acknowledge that BEVs might not ever be feasible for climates with wide temperature variations (aka most of the planet), and/or that they may have long-term degradation problems?
8. Why do BEV advocates talk so much about the lack of hydrogen infrastructure? We’re in the earliest stages of FCV use. Saying that FCVs are “doomed” because of a lack of fueling points is like saying that the very first gasoline powered cars should never have succeeded.
Infrastructure isn’t an insurmountable obstacle. No one had ever heard of a gas station in 1900.
9. Why does Elon Musk criticize FCVs so regularly? If Musk is right and FCVs are “fool cells,” than he wouldn’t give them a second thought, right? Musk doth protest too much, don’t you think?
10. Why can’t Tesla and Nissan Leaf fans just relax? What’s with all the hate? Even *if* battery packs become the best option for most cars, it’s likely that fuel cells will power pickup trucks, large SUVs, and probably even some cars too.
Can’t we all just get along?