Hey, folks, Cooley here.
Got another one of your emails about high tech cars and modern driving.
This one comes in from Yusef Ben K who has a question about the sniff test around hydrogen fuel cell cars.
Are fuel cell cars dead or is there hope for me to see one pull up next to me at a red light?
Well Yousseff, somewhere between those two eventualities is the most likely scenario for a fuel cell vehicle.
First of all, they are not dead.
On the other hand, you're more likely to capture a meteor strike on your dash cam than see one pull up next to you at a red light.
Unless you live in California, where these things have largely been And living.
The first fuel cell car was tested on US roads only in 1966.
The GM Electrovan.
Its fuel cell was, of course, derived from furious NASA development into the technology during the heart of the space race.
Today, the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity carry the mantle for fuel cell cars.
Being the most common among what is a pretty short list.
Now fuel cell cars, they sell in tiny, tiny numbers about 2500 of them last year in the US according to sales tracker EV volume, and that's expected to go to maybe 16,000 sold in a year by the end of 2020.
Compare that to the 16 8 17 million total cars sold in the US.
We're talking less than a tenth of 1% even a year or two from now.
All that despite the fact that even is powered by fuel cells have really strong benefits.
First of all they're really clean like a battery electric car but also like a battery electric car.
They've got some upstream.
Pollution and emissions to think about we'll get to that in a moment.
Secondly, we've got the fast refueling of liquid fuels.
No other electric car can do this.
All those cars with plugs that rely on a charge, take many minutes too many hours to charge up.
They disrupt the fabric of how we use cars today.
Fuel cell cars don't do that if you can find a charging station, fueling station.
We'll talk about that in a moment as well.
And hydrogen fuel cell cars well they do often have batteries and they are electric cars.
They are less battery centric than a battery electric we have today, which has that enormous, expensive, complicated battery that also poses a future recycling headache.
The giant batteries in battery electric cars today are the bane of electric car makers existence.
They would love to get out of that business but right now it's their best bet to make electric cars.
Let's look at the downsides they are many and they're pretty stark first of all you've got this whole idea of hydrogen availability.
[UNKNOWN] We've mentioned already, you've got to find a fueling station.
You know how many there are?
If you look at a map in California, where I think we have the greatest density of them in the US, you can actually count them.
Try counting fuel stations, gas stations, you could never do it, you'd lose your mind.
So this is a very small number on a few strategic routes and areas.
You've got to drive much further to get to a hydrogen station.
Then you do to a gas station, but carmakers like Toyota would say we don't need to match the number of gas stations we have today with that number of hydrogen stations, it's overkill.
They argue perhaps one sixth as many would equal the same convenience in metro areas.
Secondly, hydrogen generation is still a wonky thing.
It's often done using processes that involve natural gas and coal, that's that upstream emissions we talked about.
Similar to electricity that charges a battery car, often that is generated by a dirty principle.
So we need to see widespread generation of hydrogen that uses electricity that is as cleanly generated as the transportation the hydrogen fuel cell makes possible while keeping the overall package cost of the fuel manageable which gets us to the next issue.
The cost of hydrogen.
Right now it runs 13 to $16 a kilogram average in the US So I'm told.
That equivalent is about five and a half dollars a gallon if you compare energy to energy to a gallon of gas.
That's pretty pricey fuel.
That's why you'll see most of the fuel sale cars out there, come with a nice fat subsidy to cover your fuel for quite a while after you buy it.
They don't want you to think about that price.
There's the cost of the fuel cell stack.
This is the key component of a fuel cell car that turns hydrogen into electricity by combining it with air.
This is a very expensive component full of high-technology that is not yet scaled to bring the cost down and has lots of very expensive metals and rare minerals in it.
It's kind of like a catalytic converter on steroids.
So that's got to be worked out in terms of cost to really get to scale.
And finally, consumer comprehension, we can barely get consumers to understand plug in hybrids right now at this point in automotive history, try explaining a hydrogen fuel cell car, which is a completely different animal.
Although I would argue it's an easier task because it's much more analogous To using and driving the gasoline car that we're all used to I think once the auto industry leans into it, fuel cell's an easier story than many of the various electrified cars out there.
Now aside from that list of pros and cons, there have been a lot of things in the news lately In the auto business that have me watching fuel cells as closely if not more so than ever in the past.
First of all, Robert Bash a company that's been known for a lot of products is also the largest maker of parts and technologies for the auto industry.
And recently announced an enormous turn and pivot towards fuel cells.
At scale major volume, lower cost.
That is a big investment by the number one company in making automotive components.
Hyundai just bet almost $7 billion on fuel cell cars aiming to produce a half a million consumer fuel cell vehicles per year by 2030.
Cars like the Hyundai Nexo SUV that just recently arrived
Audi is also part of Hyundai's fuel cell technology, doing a deal where they can share tech.
Frankly, a lot of it's gonna move from Hyundai to Audi, as I understand it.
And Audi has recently said they are gonna push hard on fuel cells as the lead R&D house for the whole Volkswagen group in the category.
So that could trickle over to the world's largest car-making conglomerate.
And Mercedes has a fuel cell version of the GLC that's been in kind of early prototype release that's coming in greater, but limited numbers soon.
And the rumor mill says BMW has got a hydrogen fuel cell X5 again for very limited production and testing.
Coming in the next year or two.
So we have an awful lot of major automakers who are doing a lot of work on battery electrics and plug in hybrids also increasing substantially their investment into hydrogen fuel sale.
These companies are doing this not because it's fashionable, but because they see something in between this matrix of credits, yes, in zero emission markets.
But also something they see in the wind is going to increase and more popular rise the availability of hydrogen infrastructure in.
Keep those emails coming I'm here to answer your questions about high tech cars and modern driving its Coulee at the Rose show.com.
Vegan interiors move to the automotive mainstream
How to buy the best year of a car
Pick the right car for driving rideshare
Is Meguiar's tire dressing better than Armor All?
The best products to protect your car from the sun
The best place to get your car repaired is at home
Ride in the back seat at your own risk
Store gas for generator the right way
New cars that keep you from speeding
The 7 best crossovers and SUVs in soaring popularity.