Latest Reader Question (Dec. 14, 2017)

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Here’s the latest reader Question, along with my Reply:

John asks: I read your recent article comparing the pros and cons of battery powered vs. gasoline powered vehicles, but there is a third option also worth considering. An electric car which uses a hydrogen fuel cell as its main power source would eliminate most of the battery-related problems, while retaining the advantages of efficient electric drive. It would also eliminate the need for a nationwide, energy-sucking grid of electric charging stations. The distribution network for relatively cheap and clean natural gas is already in place. Perhaps you could post an article on the pros and cons of hydrogen fuel cells vs. battery power for electric vehicles. For example, consider the battery powered Tesla Semi vs the fuel cell powered Toyota-Kenworth prototype. Which approach is superior in terms of efficiency, life-cycle, and environmental costs?

My reply: There are two problems with fuels cells.

The first is cost. While several manufacturers have developed fuel cell vehicles, they are even more prohibitively expensive than conventional electric cars. This effectively negates the advantages that would be gained in terms of the battery issues. Any technology that is simply too expensive is largely a useless technology. This may change, of course, as the technology matures/scales. But that is speculative at this point.

The other problem is that there is no problem. I mean with internal combustion. It is inexpensive, convenient and efficient. The fuel is abundant; problematic emissions have been controlled. There is currently no reason for the bum’s rush to “alternative” forms of propulsion; if that were not so, the mandates wouldn’t be necessary.

This is my macro/take-home point: Let the market – not pushy bureaucrats and rent-seeking douchebags like Elon Musk – determine what makes sense.

. . .

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