The big lie of the hydrogen car

Juan Antonio Menendez
5 min readJun 13, 2021

News of hydrogen-powered vehicles appear practically every day and almost all of them are positive. From nonsense such as Toyota’s hydrogen combustion engine, announcements of new fuel cell cars (hydrogen), billionaire subsidies or scammed taxi drivers who will pay the price of misinformation.

Why are hydrogen cars a very bad idea?

Quite simply, because its energy efficiency is awful. A fuel cell car consumes 4 times more energy than an electric one. I don’t think any more arguments are needed, but there are indeed some more.

This x4 energy waste is by using hydrogen with a fuel cell that powers an electric motor that has (the engine) an excellent efficiency of 95%. If instead of using hydrogen to generate electricity, we burn it in a combustion engine, which wastes 65% of energy, they make Toyota’s invention the biggest stupidity ever to start (it consumes 7 times more energy than battery electric).

The hydrogen recharge infrastructure

These lame donkey vendors tell you how wonderful it is to recharge the hydrogen tank in 5 minutes, comparing it to what an electric car takes. 5 minutes, great, but where do I recharge it?…

As if the disastrous energy efficiency of the hydrogen car were not enough reason to discard it, we must also spend trillions — yes with t — in setting up a network of hydrogen stations which are like the current gas stations, but with tanks with thousands of liters of a hydrogen that is stored at pressures of 700 atmospheres and that explodes just by looking at it. Indeed, what we all want to have next to home.

On the other hand, most of the infrastructure to recharge the electric car already exists. Obviously, many more public chargers are needed and the distribution network will have to be strengthened, but that is peanuts compared to the magnitude of the investment required for hydrogen. Everywhere there are street lamps and sockets.

The price of recharging your car

Charging your electric car at night at home (something you can never do with hydrogen) without subsidies, the cost is € 0.64 per 100 km (real data that I pay for my car).

With subsidized prices, the cost of 100 km in hydrogen car is about € 6.6. Yes, 10 times more expensive.

So why is all the news I read about hydrogen positive?

I answer with another question, do you know who is behind the hydrogen industry? Well, those who want to maintain the gas station model: oil & gas companies. Industries that have been earning lots of money for many years and see that their business is running out, and so they cling to the last burning nail they have left: hydrogen.

Because, although they sell you that hydrogen is green because it only produces water when it burns, the truth is that 95% of the hydrogen produced in the world comes from reforming fossil fuels; a process that, surprise, surprise generates lots of CO2 that contributes to the climate crisis.

This industry is adept at lying, misinforming and lobbying ignorant or just corrupt politicians. They have all the money and experience; They have been doing it all their lives and here they are again trying to make us commune with millstones.

Hydrogen, for those about to crack we salute you

Oil and gas companies are not the only ones who see a dark future.

On the one hand, there are the car manufacturers who have been caught napping, who see their Nokia moment come by leaps and bounds and with their homework undone. An electric car is basically software, electronics and batteries; just what traditional manufacturers have no idea of ​​making because they have been outsourcing it for decades.

Add this to the group of petrol-heads that they have as managers and you get to the hydrogen solution. That they are petrol-heads, but they are not stupid: they know perfectly well that this is ridiculous, but hydrogen is something 10 years from now (and always will be) and with the batteries they are already late and do not even know where to start. So, lets sell the hydrogen tale, hook up some subsidies, collect our bonus, buy a few years until we retire and let the next one take care of it.

And then we have the politicians in the countries who live off these manufacturers. Europe is completely out of the game in battery technology, which is the most important technology for the most radical industrial paradigm shift in history. These politicians see the picture and tremble, and with good reason: Europe will depend on foreign suppliers — mainly Chinese — for the accelerated transformation of two industries that will change more in the next 10 years than in the last 100: transport and energy.

And the burning nail of these politicians, influenced or directly bought by oil companies and car manufacturers, is again hydrogen. Let's throw away a few billion in grants and see if we come up with a miracle solution that goes against all the laws of physics and logic to not depend on the Chinese. It will not happen. That does not work like that.

By hydrogen — or lack thereof — you will recognize them

Recognizing those who can survive this paradigm shift is easy: Volkswagen’s CEO has asked politicians and industry simply to “listen to the science” and stop burying billions in the hydrogen scam.

Because investing in hydrogen cars is not only wasting money, it also has the opportunity cost of not investing in the right technology — batteries — which will not be easy, but at least it will give you a chance. The same can be said of those who think that combustion cars will continue to be sold from 2025.

Although the champion is undoubtedly Toyota’s hydrogen combustion engine. Come, have a cookie.

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

Versión en español en disrupted blog