Popular TV host and auto journalist James May has been very vocal on his pro-ev stance. He happens to own both a Tesla Model S and a hydrogen fuel call vehicle, the Toyota Mirai. As such, he decided to but the two up against each other.
I don’t think anyone will sit here and tell you that a Mirai can out-perform a Model S in just about any aspect. Maybe if there was a prize for uglier car? Clearly a Toyota Mirai isn’t a fair comparison to a Tesla Model S so instead the DriveTribe video leans onto the age-old debate between battery electric vs hydrogen fuel cell cars.
May has made it clear that he believes a future with both hydrogen and battery electric vehicles is what’s best but many seem to disagree. The debate between the two has gone on for nearly a decade and as an owner of both, May decided to argue with himself from both perspectives.
BEV James May: Everybody knows producing hydrogen is energy inefficient. You need electricity to crack hydrogen and then you turn hydrogen back into electricity. Why not just put electricity straight into the car?
Fuel Cell James May: Yea but in the bright future of abundance sustainable energy from wind and sunshine and nuclear fusion efficiency isn’t the issue. Hydrogen becomes a transportable fuel. It’s like oil.
BEV James May: Yea but you can use renewable energy to charge batteries.
Fuel Cell James May: But you still have the battery and it’s heavy and it uses valuable materials. Imagine the size of the battery you’d need for a ship or an airliner. Imagine how many batteries you’re going to need if everything goes electric.
BEV James May: Well batteries will get smaller. This is just the beginning.
Fuel Cell James May: Well fuel cells will get smaller and more powerful.
BEV James May: There’s no hydrogen infrastructure. There’s already an electricity grid.
Fuel Cell James May: Yea but the infrastructure is growing. It’s already growing massively in Germany and Japan. The grid will have to expand to charge everybody’s car. Hydrogen can be dispensed from existing fuel stations, quickly. Where are all of these battery cars going to be charged?
BEV James May: At home.
Fuel Cell James May: Well what if you live in a flat or in a city terrace?
BEV James May: Well you’ll have inductive charging in the road.
Fuel Cell James May: Yea, more massive infrastructure change.
BEV James May: Look, hydrogen is difficult to manage, it has to be stored under pressure, it’s inefficient, it attacks metals, it leaks out.
Fuel Cell James May: Yea, but they’re working on that. Storage in matrices, that sort of thing.
BEV James May: Hydrogen is explosive and is used in massive bombs.
Fuel Cell James May: But they’re nuclear bombs using uranium and plutonium. Hydrogen is just the accelerator.
BEV James May: What about the Hindenburg?
Fuel Cell James May: Well that was like a carrier bag full of hydrogen, not a carbon fiber tank. And anyway, the fire was mainly the inflammable skin.
BEV James May: Most people are going to be terrified of hydrogen.
Fuel Cell James May: Look my garage at home contains a hydrogen car, a car with a massive battery, and a car with a tank full of super unleaded in it. The hydrogen car scares me the least.
A few good point were made from both sides but I’m doubtful anything has been settled. The pros and cons of both BEVs and HFCEVs is something we will hear brought up time and time again throughout this next decade.
An interesting note is that May is best known for his previous co-host position on the notorious auto-focused show dubbed Top Gear. A show which has been labeled as both anti-Tesla and anti-EV. There’s been multiple instances which put a negative taste in Tesla fanatics mouths.
Regardless, James May seems to draw his own opinions and is genuinely impressed with electric cars as a whole and our future alongside them.
James makes it sound like Hydrogen is competitive but Hydrogen is very limited, it may work in very high use vehicles or trucks, but I doubt it. It would be far easier and cheaper to develop battery swap technology. Also, individuals and companies can charge from their own very cheap rooftop solar cells, whereas Hydrogen is expensive and you have to buy it from a station.
Hydrogen is just a dumb idea that will never be economic.