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Why haven’t fuel cells become more popular?

Why haven’t fuel cells become more popular?

Update Time:2023/9/12

Why haven’t fuel cells become more popular?

When it comes to new energy vehicles, most people define them as "pure electric vehicles", including plug-in hybrid vehicles. To be precise, the "pure electricity" here mainly refers to battery packs. For example, the current mainstream is ternary lithium battery packs, and new technologies such as solid-state batteries will appear in the future. But no matter what kind of battery it is, it has shortcomings, such as charging efficiency, pollution of the battery itself, etc.

In this regard, another voice appeared. The best “energy source” for new energy vehicles is actually hydrogen fuel, also known as “hydrogen fuel cell”. At present, new energy car owners all over the world are still using lithium batteries, and hydrogen fuel cells are also very popular. So, what can enable the longer-term development of new energy vehicles, electricity or hydrogen fuel?

The difference between ternary lithium battery and hydrogen fuel cell

What needs to be noted here is that whether it is ternary lithium battery or hydrogen fuel, it is ultimately electric energy that drives the vehicle. However, the difference is that they come in different forms. Among them, the battery is more like an energy storage device, which directly stores electrical energy and releases it when needed; the hydrogen fuel cell is like a power generation device. But hydrogen fuel itself is not electrically charged, but converts chemical energy into electrical energy through "chemical reactions", and the final form of both is electrical energy.

The advantages of hydrogen fuel cells are obvious

Why the call for hydrogen fuel cells? I think this has to start with the pain points of traditional batteries. The first is charging time. Everyone knows that if current pure electric vehicles want to obtain a good cruising range, they must be equipped with a large-capacity battery pack. But if the battery pack is too big, the charging time will naturally be short. Even in the fast charging state, it takes more than half an hour to charge 30% to 80% of the electricity, which is far different from the refueling time of traditional fuel vehicles. In addition, the premise is that it supports fast charging, including fast charging equipment and so on.

Hydrogen fuels do not have this problem. Take Toyota, which focuses on hydrogen energy, for example. Its hydrogen model only takes 3-5 minutes to refill, which is similar to refueling. It can be said that the efficiency and experience have been greatly improved.

In terms of battery life, Toyota's hydrogen-powered vehicles can now reach more than 600 kilometers. Combined with the fast and efficient "energy replenishment" method, hydrogen-powered vehicles are closer to the experience of traditional fuel vehicles. More importantly, hydrogen fuel cells can achieve truly zero pollution. Because only water and heat can be discharged from production to use. However, compared with traditional battery packs, when the battery is scrapped, how to dispose of it without polluting the environment is still a big problem.

What limits the widespread application of hydrogen fuel cells?

The points mentioned above, including zero pollution, high energy replenishment efficiency, and long cruising range, are enough to make hydrogen fuel cells better than traditional lithium batteries. But why aren't hydrogen fuel cells as popular as lithium batteries? The point is that hydrogen energy itself is special. In simple terms, it's about security, how it's stored, and how it's served. In addition, hydrogen fuel cells have high technical content and higher input costs. Most critically, hydrogen fuel cells can easily explode in the event of an accident.

In comparison, traditional batteries are much simpler. As long as there is a power grid or an area with electricity, you can use charging facilities to charge. However, current technology, including input costs, cannot support the large-scale layout of hydrogen energy supply stations.

Of course, this is only one aspect. On the other hand, due to the preconceived advantages of electric energy, all major car companies in the world are currently focusing on electric energy. Traditional battery packs include charging facilities, which are pretty much unidirectional. Only in regions like Japan, Toyota has vigorously engaged in hydrogen energy technology, and this technology can only radiate to its own country. In other words, hydrogen energy is more suitable for Japan's national conditions, and in a small area, it can be better realized.

Because of this, the global new energy direction is not hydrogen energy. After all, it is difficult to overcome the problem of hydrogen energy and apply it in large quantities in a short period of time. On the contrary, since most people choose electric energy from the beginning, they will work together in one direction. I believe that pure electric vehicles will make rapid progress.