The fundamental reason that gasoline is the favored fuel for most passenger vehicles is its energy density, which means that it packs a lot of energy into a small space. By weight, hydrogen, which drives fuel cell cars, is about three times as energy dense as gasoline.
According to the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels website, one kilogram of hydrogen has the same amount of energy as 2.8 kilos of gasoline.
Several manufacturers, including Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and BMW, are working hard to improve hydrogen fuel cells for light duty passenger vehicles. We’ve all heard that hydrogen fuel cells produce no hazardous waste. They generate energy, water, and heat while they are in use. That’s all.
This week, Bloomberg is reporting that BMW chief executive, Oliver Zipse, is a firm believer in fuel cell powered passenger car. In fact, he thinks 30% of the cars his company sells could be powered by hydrogen in the future.
Last August, the BMW plant in South Carolina manufactured a fleet of 100 iX5 SUVs, which were subsequently transferred to Germany for fuel cell system upgrades. They are being employed in a two-year technological test throughout Europe, the United States, and Asia.
Zipse sees hydrogen cars as the ideal alternative for drivers who often make longer travels and struggle with battery-electric car charging facilities.
BMW is far into the development process for their Neue Klass cars. They are likely to be battery-powered, but the corporation may be hedging its bets by including options for fuel cell powertrains as well. Fuel cells are currently not cost competitive with battery-electric vehicles in terms of production plus the hydrogen refueling network is virtually non-existent in the US and sparse at best in Europe.
It’s not that hydrogen couldn’t help decarbonize transportation. It could, but not any time soon, and certainly not soon enough to handle the impending climate disaster.
Reference- Electrek, BMW Online Newsroom, Inside EVs, Hydrogen World