Another issue for companies attempting to make FCVs popular in the future is the lack of infrastructure from where customers can obtain hydrogen to use their cars. A big change in groundwork is required to make these cars a viable alternative to people. Some analysts expect the price of building the amount of hydrogen stations throughout the USA required to reach all Americans to be as high as half a trillion dollars.
Right now there are only 20 functioning stations in California, with an expansion plan of 8 more later this year. However, some experts agree that another more cost-effective solution, rather than installing thousands of hydrogen delivery systems, is to implement a small hydrogen plant into customers’ garages as an alternative to fueling up at a hydrogen station. This is still in research, as a great leap in technology is needed for customers to have a medium sized, and not very expensive hydrogen converter in their homes.
For all these reasons, fuel cell cars can only be leased in California and other countries like Germany or Japan, where there is a very limited infrastructure for these cars. The number of fuel cell cars on the streets is of roughly 300 worldwide. Therefore, in recent years there have been endless debates on whether these cars will be worth investing in, since there are already less clean but cheaper alternatives to FCVs like hybrid cars.
Vehicles using electricity and gasoline are called hybrid cars and they cost around $40,000 compared to hydrogen-fueled cars, which cost about $400,000 now. The vast majority of citizens will not be able to afford these cars, for this reason only a few cars can be leased in several countries. However, in the future these costs will dramatically reduce while engineers continue to innovate cheaper methods that make fuel cell cars work properly. The two main options for customers who do not want to use gasoline are: the electric cars and the FCVs.
Experts claim that electric cars are not be very customer-friendly since they have a very limited driving range, of about 160 km and decreasing after each complete recharge, before their battery is depleted and have to leave them at night somewhere where there is an electrical outlet, not a very convenient way for the vast majority of people. Therefore, leaving only as a viable option to eco-friendly customers the FCVs that have in contrast a driving range of up to 400km on one tank of hydrogen, giving about 95km per kg of hydrogen, which is equal to about a gallon of gasoline.
If all these challenges are surpassed in the future many benefits to society will be seen. For example, the dramatic reduction in green house gases, which affects the planet’s average temperature, will stop the planet from heating up as it has done for over 200 years now. The evolution to fuel cell cars will also help reduce USA’s and other countries dependence on other oil producing nations for petrol, helping to keep the economies of these countries free of the volatile prices of gasoline.
This will consequently lead, in many decades, to a hydrogen-based economy in the more developed countries, meaning all the energy needed to power vehicles, buildings and electronic devices will come from the most abundant element on the universe, not from petrol or electricity. This term was first used in 1970 during a conference at the GM technical center and it refers to the change from any source of power being used now to hydrogen, which will create a cleaner and simpler way to power up anything from computers to cars.
However, for these changes to happen globally the customer acceptance towards the product, in this case the FCVs, has to be excellent and therefore exceed everyone’s requirements in order to be become a fast selling product. Also to meet the demand for these cars almost all, if not all companies have to start producing them, not only firms like Honda or GM. Another point that will imminently take us to the use of hydrogen as our main fuel is the fact that eventually the planet will run out of oil, some expect this to be between the year 2050 and 2100.
However, governments do not want oil to finish before making this transition, since there are others manufacturing uses of oil, thus an alternative fuel has to become popular in the next decades. However, a downside of this forward shift, in economic terms is that many countries operate based on the exportation of oil, their main driving economic factor. For instance, if Qatar’s main buyers of oil like the USA suddenly stop buying as much oil as before the country will enter an economic recession, which it will be difficult to get out of since they depended so much on this exportation.
Therefore, a change in the fuel we use now cannot be made globally since other factors can affect a country’s decision, for example the lack of economic resources and also the need to keep selling oil to some countries. In conclusion, it can be said that progress will be made towards making the transition to using hydrogen as a fuel in the next years or decades in first-world countries like the USA, Japan and probably in Europe, however, it will not reach the current level of market penetration the gasoline already has, even in those countries.
In other regions of the world like Latin America and parts of Asia this transition will be seen even at a slower rate, even if governments are committed to being eco-friendly, the economic factor will lead it to be impossible in such a short period of time. Even though, the evolution to another fuel from gasoline will not be completely made in 2030 it is possible to say it will happen towards the end of the year 2060 worldwide, giving enough time to most countries to accommodate to all the changes required to support hydrogen as their main fuel.