If you’ve been thinking about getting an automotive fuel cell car, this post will help you decide if it’s a good investment.
A fuel cell car is powered by an electric motor that relies on hydrogen and oxygen to produce heat and electricity. (A fuel cell can also be powered by natural gas, but that’s not relevant here.) The electricity generated is used to run the car’s electric motor and recharge its battery.
An Automotive Fuel cell uses a small amount of gasoline (at most, one gallon per 100 miles) to replenish the hydrogen and oxygen in their fuel tanks. Otherwise, they don’t consume any gasoline (or any other petroleum-based product).
The fuel cell car’s only emissions are water vapor and a very modest amount of carbon dioxide.
A fuel cell car’s electric motor is much more powerful and efficient than an internal combustion engine (ICE) or a fossil-fuel-powered ICE. In fact, the only significant emissions from a fuel cell car are water vapor and a very modest amount of carbon dioxide. (Cars equipped with dual exhausts can produce two types of emissions: some hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.)
Because of this, the fuel cell car is better for the environment, especially if you drive it in urban areas.
Unfortunately, they’re not very practical for long-distance driving and they are much more expensive than an ICE car.
Fuel cell cars are also rather rare: at the time I’m writing this, there are no fuel cell cars available in the U.S. that can be bought. Honda started leasing its FCX Clarity fuel-cell car in December 2008, and Toyota began leasing its FCHV-adv hydrogen fuel cell car in Japan in 2009 Both cars became available in 2010, although in limited numbers.
But the hydrogen fuel cell car may not be ready for prime time. For example, although hydrogen is relatively abundant (easy to make from natural gas, solar power and biomass), a typical U.S. natural-gas fueled fuel-cell car takes about $1,000 to fill its tanks up to full capacity, and a large tank can cost $4-5,000. That’s a lot of money for something that many people would likely get tired of after a few days. But maybe not.
As I mentioned above, the hydrogen fuel cell car may not be ready for prime time. (Some people think that it probably never will be.)
if your employer provides subsidized coverage for the fuel cell car specifically, if your company pays as much as 80% of the purchase and lease costs then it might be worth considering.
On the other hand, if you want a fuel cell car and your company doesn’t provide any incentives or even imposes a fine for driving one then you might want to forgo the fuel cell car.
If you can’t afford a fuel cell car, and if you don’t have the boss’s support, then you might not want one. But that doesn’t mean that all fuel cell cars are bad investments. If you can afford one, but your company won’t give you any help, then consider getting it even if it isn’t perfect for long-distance driving.