Fuel Cells! We thought we were already passed that after the best case scenario supply chain for hydrogen fuel cell has been proven inefficient compared to even most battery-powered electric cars available today. We thought that only a few major automakers, primarily Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda with deep sunk costs were still focusing on the technology. Even these entrenched players have been showing signs of warming up to batteries.
But now the latest automotive executive survey by KPMG suggest that a strong majority of the automotive industry still believe battery-powered cars will fail and fuel cells are the future.
Research firm KPMG released its 2017 Global Automotive Executive Survey. They surveyed almost 1,000 senior executives from “the world’s leading automotive companies” and found that 62% of them believe battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) will fail due to infrastructure problems.
An even stronger majority, 78% of them, believe that fuel cells hydrogen is the future of “zero tailpipe emission” driving.
It’s hard to believe that this is the actual mindset of the senior executives in the automotive industry today. It’s even harder to imagine how the infrastructure problem is what they believe to be the downfall of BEVs, but somehow the same problem is not existent for fuel cell cars (when in fact it is an even bigger barrier)?
With electric cars, you have to develop an infrastructure equivalent to gas stations for gas-guzzling cars – the charging stations. For fuel cell hydrogen cars, you have to build both the equivalent of the gas stations, the hydrogen refueling stations, but you also have to build the entire backend infrastructure of electrolysis and transport, which could be considered the equivalent to the refineries and pipelines for petrol transport.
You need to build those electrolysis plants and power them. For battery-powered cars, it would be the equivalent of rebuilding the electricity grid, but it’s already there. All you need is to gradually increase the capacity like nations are already doing as their electricity needs are increasing.
In most cases, a battery-powered vehicle infrastructure is almost 3 times more efficient than even the most efficient hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure.
It’s worrisome that the majority of automotive executives believe this is the future.
Interestingly, the majority of executives also believe that battery-powered vehicles are the most important trend for the next year. That’s because they know that they have a better use case and can be useful compliance cars. Hyundai, one of the biggest automakers pushing for fuel cell hydrogen, admitted that they “are making electric plug-ins until hydrogen fuel cell vehicles take hold”.
The only real advantage fuel cells ‘currently’ have over batteries is refueling speed which is quickly being closed by Tesla’s Supercharger and other DC fast charging technology, especially now that some automakers are installing 350 kW charging stations and Tesla plans for the next version of the Supercharger to be well over that.
What is it going to take for the auto industry to drop the idea? Let us know in the comment section below.