Batteries and Fuel Cells: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Transportation is changing. Throughout the auto industry, companies are beginning to focus their efforts on developing vehicles that produce zero emissions. Many are doing so in order to comply with emissions regulations being instituted in their most prominent markets, while others are looking to cater to changing consumer behavior, answering the call for cleaner vehicles and cleaner transportation. The issue, however, has become quite divisive for many people.

There is currently a somewhat caustic debate concerning what sort of clean technology should power the future of transportation. The fight is being waged between batteries and fuel cells, both of which have become quite prominent within the auto industry. Because clean transportation has become such a prolific issue throughout the world, people have come to support one clean technology over the other, similar to how people favor particular sports teams.

Lithium-ion batteries are often considered the best option for clean transportation. Batteries have been used in electric vehicles for several years, but these vehicles have only very recently begun to attract any significant support from consumers. Many people believe that batteries are the only option when it comes to the future of clean transportation, highlighting the existing infrastructure that can support conventional electric vehicles as well as the cost and efficiency of battery technology.

Fuel cells are another option and these energy systems are quickly gaining favor with automakers. These energy systems are capable of producing electrical power through the consumption of hydrogen. These energy systems are being favored by automakers because of their electrical output, which allows new vehicles to perform on par with their more conventional counterparts. The problem with fuel cells, however, is that they are very expensive and there is no comprehensive infrastructure that can support them.

batteries and fuel cellsBoth batteries and fuel cells have their drawbacks. They are both expensive technologies that do not actually have comprehensive infrastructure support, making them somewhat unattractive in terms of transportation. They are both somewhat inefficient as well; batteries because of their low operational range and fuel cells because of the faults of conventional hydrogen production. Technological advances for both batteries and fuel cells are slow to progress, pronouncing their current failings.

Batteries are often considered to be the best option, but batteries had once faced the same problems that fuel cells face currently. Battery technology had once been inordinately expensive and battery-powered vehicles lacked the infrastructure support to give them even the semblance of viability. Batteries are still working to overcome these challenges, and fuel cells are as well. Perhaps the argument for or against either technology is irrelevant, if they are both able to bring about a new era of clean transportation within the relatively near future.

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2 Thoughts to “Batteries and Fuel Cells: Two Sides of the Same Coin”

  1. Just_Chris


    2 similar technologies with different draw backs, both better options than tar or coal to liquids in the short to medium term followed by walking (or wading if you currently live in a coastal area) in the long term.

    30,000 people killed per year by air pollution in the UK, 1,600 per year in Australia. Feel free to add the number of those killed in the nations that you live in below.

  2. Bob Wallace

    It’s not unreasonable to think that both batteries and fuel cells will drop significantly in price. If economies of scale are created that bring down costs. Both Nissan and Toyota have talked about the sorts of sales/production levels needed and there’s a lot of similarity.

    Let’s say that somehow both batteries and fuel cells manage to come down to make the purchase price of same model EVs, FCEVs, and ICEVs about the same. Then the purchase decision becomes one of operating cost per mile. Because of H2’s very low efficiency and the need to pay for a fueling infrastructure the cost per mile is likely to be more than 3x higher for a FCEV than EV.

    Now, let’s look at reaching the critical annual volume of production to reach cost parity. EVs have a very significant head start. Some people in the business are predicting major cost reductions in battery price over the next couple of years. The first FCEV won’t be available for purchase for another year.

    If FCEVs don’t really, really hustle EVs will be embedded. And with their much lower operating costs, hard to dislodge.

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