Fuel cell vehicles use the most abundant element in the universe, but here on Earth the production of the lightweight gas is still in a conundrum. A new study now predicts the price will reach a tipping point in the next few years.
Automakers today are split between two green technologies for electric cars – battery operated vehicles and fuel cell autos. The latter have the advantage of range and refill time (both very close to traditional gas powered cars) but they’re not mainstream yet – the technology is still expensive and there’s a general lack of refueling infrastructure.
“We seem to be tantalizingly close to the beginning of a hydrogen transition,” says the lead author of a new University of California study. “The next three to four years will be critical for determining whether hydrogen vehicles are just a few years behind electric vehicles, rather than decades.”
“The boom in low-cost natural gas makes possible low-cost hydrogen, especially in the United States,” noted the study. “Methods for cost-effectively producing low-carbon hydrogen from renewable sources hold promise for greater greenhouse gas emission reductions. Hydrogen FCV emissions are already less than half that of conventional gasoline vehicles, due to the greater efficiency of the fuel cell.”
The research now stresses that a “convergence of factors” can lead to the cost of hydrogen dipping to around $7.50 a kilogram over the next five years. A kilogram of the respective gas is around the same as a gallon of gasoline. Don’t be disappointed – fuel cell cars are far more energy efficient than any traditional engine. In fact, Toyota Senior Vice President Bob Carter said last week that if the price threshold is reached, the automaker’s new fuel-cell vehicle would need $30 to drive for 300 miles.