Fuel cell electric cars are some of the most advanced vehicles on the road today – and they’re here in the United States. Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda all have models commercially available.
We recently added two fuel cell electric vehicles to our fleet (the first for a government agency) and are using them for public outreach. What we’re finding out is that there’s a lot of interest in these cars – and some misconceptions. So, in order to separate fact from fiction, we decided to tackle the top five fuel cell myths.
MYTH: REFUELING A HYDROGEN CAR IS MORE DIFFICULT THAN A GASOLINE CAR
False. It’s actually very similar to what you do now, just slightly different. This video explains it all in 45 seconds.
MYTH: FUEL CELL CARS EMIT WAY MORE WATER THAN GASOLINE CARS
Fuel cell cars produce roughly the same amount of water as today’s gas-powered cars. This is mostly in the form of water vapor. For example, if you drove from Washington, D.C. to New York City, water emissions would be roughly 9 gallons with a fuel cell car, compared to 7 gallons with a gas-powered car. As both vehicles become more efficient, the amount of water per mile will decrease.
MYTH: HYDROGEN IS DIFFICULT AND EXPENSIVE TO PRODUCE
Hydrogen is a standard industrial chemical commodity today. In the United States, approximately 10 million metric tons of hydrogen are produced every year, most of which is used for petroleum recovery and refining purposes as well as ammonia production. Today, most hydrogen comes from natural gas. This pathway delivers hydrogen at roughly $4/gallon of gasoline equivalent. If projected at a high volume, it's well on its way to be cost-competitive in today’s market.
MYTH: FUEL CELLS ARE EXPENSIVE AND WILL NEVER MAKE IT MAINSTREAM
Fuel cells are getting closer to cost-competitiveness. Our research and development efforts helped cut fuel cell costs in half since 2007, while increasing its durability four-fold. They are widely used in variety of applications, ranging from vehicles to material handling. For example, you can now buy or lease a hydrogen fuel cell car in California and companies such as FedEx, Sysco, Walmart and Coca-Cola are using fuel cells to power forklifts. In addition, Sprint and AT&T are using them as emergency backups to power cellphone towers across the country.
MYTH: HYDROGEN IS NOT SAFE
Hydrogen is just as safe as any other transportation fuel (i.e. gasoline, diesel and natural gas). The tanks are put through rigorous testing (including crash tests and gunfire) and performance requirements. They are also made of high-strength composite materials that are much stronger than steel. For example, testing tanks are subjected to more than twice the maximum pressure they experience under normal service conditions to ensure high-quality performance. In addition, hydrogen fuel stations have redundant protection systems in place, so it’s virtually impossible to over-pressurize a vehicle fuel system.
Learn more about high-pressure hydrogen tank testing.