Meet the New Electric Car That Doesn’t Require Batteries

September 28, 2019 at 12:46 am

Hydrogen cars make electricity from the world’s two most abundant resources —hydrogen and oxygen — instead of fossil fuel.

There’s a new kind of electric car on the block. It’s called a fuel-cell electric vehicle, or hydrogen car. Unlike a traditional electric vehicle, there is no heavy battery to store electricity, often created by fossil fuel.

Instead, the car pulls in oxygen from the air and mixes it with hydrogen, stored in its tank, to produce a steady supply of electricity as the car runs.

Hydrogen-electric cars are zero-emissions vehicles, which produce nothing but water vapor as a byproduct. What comes out of the tailpipe is so pure, you can drink it.

One major advantage of hydrogen cars is they have a much longer driving range than traditional electric cars.

All current models can travel well over 300 miles per tank, with Hyundai’s latest model getting 380 miles per tank. Most plug-in electric cars have a drive range well under half of that distance, with Tesla providing the only models that exceed 300 miles per tank.

Another convenient advantage of hydrogen-based electric cars is that they don’t require the typical 8 to 12 hours of charging. In fact they never even have to be plugged in. They can be refueled in 5 minutes at a hydrogen pump, which is about how long it takes to fill up a tank of gas, and then they charge themselves as you drive.

Because they are still very new and haven’t been mass-produced yet, they still cost about the same as a plug-in electric car (about $60,000), but researchers expect that price to go way down as the technology improves and governments provide as much infrastructure (i.e. charging stations) as they have for gas and traditional electric cars.

Fiat Chrysler is funding research on a material that could make hydrogen-based cars far cheaper to manufacture than battery-based cars:

“The cost of manufacturing our material is so low, and the energy density it can store is so much higher than a lithium-ion battery, that we could see hydrogen fuel cell systems that cost four times less than lithium-ion batteries, as well as providing a much longer range,” lead researcher and chemist David Antonelli told NBC.

A 2017 survey of found nearly 80% of 1,000 senior auto executives believe hydrogen fuel cells have a better long-term future than electric cars.

Only 6000 have been sold in the U.S. since they first became commercially available two years ago. That’s primarily because there are only 40 refueling stations in California so far.

The cost of hydrogen fuel is another hurdle, as it currently costs about three times as much as gasoline, but experts say that they cost could be equal is governments subsidized hydrogen as much as gas.

Once we get “a few hundred thousand” hydrogen cars on the road, “we can really start to sunset government subsidies and be self-sustaining,” chief development officer at FirstElement Fuel Shane Stephens told NBC.