Are hydrogen-powered cars different from electric cars?But Toyota is not about to give up

Automakers and California will spend millions to lure consumers to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Netease Technology News February 29 news, according to foreign media reports, in the United States, plug-in electric vehicles are gaining popularity, while hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which enjoy more government subsidies, have a poor start, and early users are also facing problems such as hydrogen refueling stations. Rare puzzle. Still, Toyota is trying to push the car forward.

Trials in California

Amateur photographer Tadashi Ogitsu, 54, usually treks about 160 miles on Saturdays to Yosemite National Park to capture the beauty before sunset. However, he wants to get an electric car to reduce the environmental impact of the car’s emissions.

He was concerned about the charging time and range of a plug-in electric car, and he settled on a Honda Clarity. Instead of gasoline, the four-door sedan uses hydrogen fuel cells, and a full tank of hydrogen fuel will allow him to commute between the San Francisco Bay Area and Yosemite National Park.

Ogitsu, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said, “I wouldn’t choose a pure electric vehicle because they’re not flexible.”

Ogitsu is one of about 8,000 early adopters in the state that automakers, industry advocates and California officials are teaming up to launch in a trial that lets consumers apply to buy or lease hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. All parties hope to drive a zero-emission driving future by turning to hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe. Such cars have electric motors but run on hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen is mixed with oxygen to generate electricity within the fuel cell to drive the motor. The only product of this chemical reaction is water, which is expelled from the car in the same way that exhaust gas exits the tailpipe of a gasoline car.

In California, buying such a car usually saves $10,000 in taxes, and you get a fuel card worth $15,000, which can use hydrogen for about three years for free, so it can ease the $60,000 price burden. Electric vehicles typically travel 100 to 370 miles on a single charge, while hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can travel 300 to 400 miles per refuel, on par with the most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered cars.

Obviously not as popular as electric vehicles

But despite these selling points, hydrogen-fueled vehicles have been lagging behind electric vehicles in popularity, and the gap to the latter appears to be widening. Tesla has helped drive growing consumer acceptance of electric vehicles that are easier to charge at home and on the road. In contrast, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have yet to reach people other than early adopters. Such vehicles have been plagued by a scarcity of hydrogen filling stations, with only 44 public hydrogen filling stations in California as of January this year; they are also more expensive.

Outside California, construction of hydrogen refueling infrastructure has stalled over the past decade as electric vehicles rise, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2012, there were 58 hydrogen refueling stations (both public and private) in the United States, but by the end of 2019 that number had grown to only 61. Moreover, these sites are increasingly concentrated in California (whose sites have doubled over the same period).

According to Karl Brauer, an automotive industry analyst and executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, “The challenges faced by fuel cell technology 10 years ago have been met by the proliferation of pure electric vehicles over the past decade. become more complicated.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has bluntly called the technology “stupid” and its components were “stupid fuel.”

Meanwhile, California has more than 500,000 plug-in electric vehicles. Tesla touts its electric cars as having far better range than rivals, affordable luxury cars and huge government tax breaks. The publicity has attracted many buyers in recent years. Experts point out that as these electric vehicles continue to grow, the fuel cell industry and its years of investment and effort are likely to be left far behind.

The efforts of Japanese car companies

Still, Japanese automakers are doubling down on efforts to persuade consumers in California, Hawaii and East Asia to switch to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. For the 2021 model year of the Mirai fuel-cell vehicle, Toyota will create an all-new version aimed at mass consumers, much like the Tesla Model S introduced about 10 years ago. The production of this model will be increased by 10 times.

Honda and South Korea’s Hyundai are launching their own fuel-cell models to appeal to consumers in California. Toyota first entered the California market in 2015 with the Mirai. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, resource-starved Japan began to turn to a cleaner hydrogen fuel economy, and domestic automakers have followed suit and launched consumer-grade hydrogen fuel vehicles.

By betting on fuel cells, these automakers say, they are investing in the popularization of electric vehicles.

“Frankly, it’s too early to say which technology to support, because people still want a variety of product choices,” said Stephen Ellis, marketing manager for fuel cell vehicles at Honda America. One thing we’ve learned is that multi-unit dwellings don’t offer a lot of opportunity to recharge, so they don’t cover the needs of all occupants. That’s one area where fuel cells work well by comparison.”

So far, however, retailers have struggled to achieve economies of scale to lower product prices due to the extremely low penetration of hydrogen-fueled vehicles – despite substantial government funding. The cars are so expensive to produce that dealers have to rely on tax incentives and free fuel to persuade buyers to opt for hydrogen. Hydrogen typically costs $13.99 per kilogram, but the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates it could drop to $10 to $8 per kilogram between 2020 and 2025, according to a California study. (Regular gasoline in California costs about $3.49 a gallon, according to AAA data released Tuesday.)

“I think hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles could be as much as 10 years behind electric batteries,” said fuel cell advocate Tyson Eckerle, who is currently a zero-emission vehicle at the California Office of Business and Economic Development. Deputy Director of Market Development. “I would say that you’ve seen a proliferation of electric vehicles, which is very exciting, isn’t it? The challenge now is how to expand fuel cell vehicles from the early adopter market to the mass market.”

Supply conundrum

The biggest challenge to the popularity of this type of car in California is the lack of fuel and lack of convenience.

For car owners, the first problem is that hydrogen refueling stations are scarce, and they are only scattered in large cities like Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

In June last year, an explosion occurred at the Air Products & Chemicals factory that supplies hydrogen refueling stations in the San Francisco Bay Area. With no backup plan, this single event directly reduced supply across much of the state.

This has exacerbated fuel shortages, forcing owners to decommission their cars and turn to Toyota and Honda for replacement vehicles.

Erin Fogarty rented a Toyota Mirai because he could get $15,000 in free fuel. However, she later found herself unable to refuel easily. This car rental experience can be said to have taught her an unforgettable lesson.

“In San Jose, I’ve tried to fill up my car with hydrogen many times, but the fuel door flapper was often out of order and needed to be repaired. We’ve missed dance classes, personal training classes, and some life-changing things.” Despite all the trouble, Fogarty continued to use the car.

Big car companies have to figure out how to keep early renters from abandoning their cars because of the hassle of refueling. Last fall, Toyota waived the fee for owners and offered alternative vehicles to renters who couldn’t add hydrogen. Jackie Birdsall, a Toyota senior engineer involved in the development of fuel cell vehicles, said the fuel shortage was “regrettable” and the company was already working to alleviate the problem.

“California is a very unique use case where we have the largest number of fuel cell vehicles and the smallest number of hydrogen refueling stations,” said Bersol, comparing California to Japan and Europe. Efforts are made to strengthen the deployment capacity of hydrogen infrastructure, and the world is watching how the California region works.”

The same is true in Los Angeles, where hydrogen refueling stations are still scarce compared to widely available gas and electric vehicle charging stations. Ally Rose said she was driving her 2018 Toyota Mirai to the Woodland Hills hydrogen refueling station one day when the driver of another hydrogen fuel cell car suddenly approached behind her and snatched it from her. The fuel lever in her hand.

“Enough is enough,” he said, for fear that Ross’s car would suck up all the hydrogen left in the only supply station within a few miles.

With her long-term inability to refuel her car, Rose persuaded Toyota to pay for her rental car: a Tesla Model 3.

Shane Stephens, founder and chief development officer of FirstElement Fuel, operator of hydrogen retail network True Zero, said the Santa Clara explosion was a lesson that prompted suppliers and retailers to plan ahead and create filings to prevent a single incident Widespread hydrogen shortage.

Future prospects

California officials have pledged to support the construction of dozens of new hydrogen refueling stations across the state over the next five years. The goal is to build 1,000 hydrogen filling stations by 2020, bringing coverage to the level of California’s 8,000 filling stations. As of January this year, True Zero had 20 operating sites, and it hopes to increase that number to more than 70 within the next five years.

Meanwhile, Toyota will expand production of the 2021 Mirai from 3,000 to 30,000, with the goal of bringing it to more mass consumers. In the future, the car will become more like a sports coupe: with a more minimal profile, a sloping roof and a shift from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive, performance and handling are further enhanced.

“We originally launched this car to prove that the technology would work,” said Birsall, a senior engineer at Toyota. “Now what we want to do is to build a car that really appeals to the masses and makes people feel.” She It added that the car “needs to have an attractive exterior design that will entice consumers to try and accept it.”

But even if some say it’s too early to tell the future of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, pressure is mounting on automakers and public officials in the face of hydrogen’s challenges. After all, early adopters will have to hand over their first leased cars in a few years and then make a decision on whether to go on to a long-term hydrogen vehicle.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles enjoy roughly equal federal subsidies and higher state subsidies than electric vehicles. However, while Tesla is gradually gaining a foothold in the electric vehicle market, the development of fuel cell vehicles is completely incomparable. Ecker, a government official, believes that hydrogen fuel cells, which essentially drive the electrification of vehicles, also pose some inherent challenges.

“I think it’s really all about building the infrastructure,” he said. “The main difference is that you can roll out electric cars to families with single-family houses with garages, whereas hydrogen fuel cells are completely dependent on public infrastructure for Supplies. So, you can’t really open up the market until hydrogen filling stations are commonplace.”

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