The future of the automotive industry lies in sustainability. Consumers seek to reduce their carbon footprint, and a significant way to do that is with eco-friendly vehicles. Governments and other ruling bodies like the European Union are moving away from fossil-fueled cars. The next question is, what does the future of vehicles hold? Will people be using more hydrogen or electric cars?
Why Are Electric Vehicles the Future?
Electric cars are more mainstream than hydrogen-powered vehicles at the moment. They’re more prominent because people have researched them for much longer. Electric cars date back to 1890, when William Morrison successfully ran an electric six-passenger vehicle. Henry Ford’s gas-powered vehicle significantly delayed electric car innovation. But they’ve entered the mainstream since the late 1990s and early 2000s.
One of the primary advantages electric vehicles have is the existing infrastructure. Most of the world has an electric grid that can support charging electric cars. These battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) can charge at stations across the country, but issues arise with the lack of stations and working charging stalls. Charging a vehicle takes from about five minutes to nearly 30 minutes, depending on the battery size and the charging station.
Another advantage of electric vehicles is the cost. The price of electric cars is lower than hydrogen-powered machines. Drivers have an opportunity to lower their vehicle expenses and carbon footprint. While electric cars have some emissions, solar-powered charging stations offer drivers a much smaller carbon footprint and are one of the most sustainable options on the market.
Why Are Hydrogen Vehicles the Future?
The development of hydrogen vehicles is behind electric, so the options aren’t widespread yet. The roots of hydrogen-powered cars go back to the 1960s. In 1966, Chevrolet unveiled the Electrovan, which ran on hydrogen as the primary fuel source and could travel about 124 miles (200 kilometers).
Though they’re not prevalent in the mainstream, hydrogen-powered cars have advantages. One of the primary benefits of hydrogen vehicles is that they take much less time to refill than an electric car takes to recharge. In fact, drivers can fill their hydrogen cars just as quickly as they could a gasoline-powered vehicle.
Hydrogen is the most abundant resource in the universe, so cars using this element are as sustainable as electric vehicles. The problem lies in producing hydrogen gas. It can be complex, which is why they’re not more popular. Earth contains little pure hydrogen due to its high reactiveness. Converting this element into fuel is complicated because it relies on electrical energy, meaning more fossil fuels are necessary for the process. Using fossil fuels takes away from the clean energy factor.
Another advantage of hydrogen vehicles is their range. As mentioned above, hydrogen-powered cars take less time to refill than electric cars. In addition, it seems as though hydrogen cars can go longer distances. For example, the Hyundai Nexo, a hydrogen-powered vehicle, can travel 414 miles and takes five minutes to charge. Tesla’s Model S Long Range has a ceiling of 375 miles.
Hydrogen and Electric: Who Is Winning?
Hydrogen could win out in the long run because of the long-haul trucking industry. Truck driving is one of the most prevalent professions worldwide, and its shift to cleaner energy would be a significant feat in lowering carbon emissions. These trucks need dependable batteries because of the long distances they drive.
Hydrogen would be beneficial for truckers because of the time required for refilling. Battery-powered trucks need close to six hours for recharging, but a hydrogen-powered semi only needs about 15 minutes to refuel completely. Less fueling means more time on the road, higher productivity for fleets of trucks, and lowered emissions simultaneously.
However, electric vehicles seem to be in the driver’s seat for the moment. More extensive infrastructure exists for these vehicles and many are on the road. As of 2021, there are nearly 16.5 million electric vehicles worldwide. In contrast, with hydrogen-powered cars, there is a limited market. Only two vehicles are available for commercial use: the Hyundai Nexo SUV and the Toyota Mirai.
The Future of the Automotive Industry
Consumers have become more intelligent and more environmentally conscious when choosing their products. They want something that represents sustainability and won’t tax the environment with carbon emissions. This change has led automotive companies to think greener with their vehicles. Electric cars are more prevalent now, but hydrogen-powered cars could have a bright future in industries like long-haul trucking.
Jane Marsh, Contributor
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fuel Cells Works, its directors, partners, staff, contributors, or suppliers. Any content provided by our contributors or authors are of their own opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.