Every day, it seems we read more about hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, most of which appear to be written purely to further confuse people who don’t really understand this in the first place. An excerpt from the article linked above: “Fuel-cell vehicles …. can operate on renewable hydrogen gas.” As the author must know, the concept of “renewable hydrogen gas” has no meaning at all.

Insofar as hydrogen exists only in trace amounts in the Earth’s atmosphere, it needs to be created by zapping water with electricity, splitting apart the oxygen and the hydrogen. Some of this energy is then collected when the two elements are re-introduced. The questions then become:

• What are the costs and efficiencies of this process? (The answers aren’t encouraging.) And more to the point,

• Where did the electricity necessary to drive this process come from in the first place? (Obviously, if it came from solar, wind, etc., that’s better than if it came from coal.)

• Add in the concept of retrofitting 230 million cars and trucks (in the U.S. alone – over one billion worldwide) with fuel-cells.

• Then consider the cost of building a brand new fuel-delivery infrastructure that serves the U.S., whose land-mass is 3.5 million square miles in the “lower 48,” in an era where we’re having trouble affording education, healthcare, and the repair of roads and bridges.

It’s preposterous. But don’t count on this asinine discussion going away, in favor of one that could possibly make a difference.

I don’t pretend to understand the forces that lie behind all this media attention, but I do know this: they have nothing whatsoever to do with a transition to sane and eco-friendly transportation.


About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.


  1. Since Hydrogen is clean burning and if I understand this correctly, most autos can be converted to run on Hydrogen why not use it.

    I understand that there are now much more efficient way to extract Hydrogen from water.If Hydrogen can be obtained at a reasonable cost what is the downside?

  2. So which oil company do you work for? Obviously this piece was written solely to sow doubt in readers minds, no solutions are offered, only criticism. And implying that the new fuel supply infrastructure would be funded by the taxpayers who pay for health care, education, etc, is truly preposterous. Unless the industry that currently provides our fuel supply is paying for our health care, education etc…in which case they need to step up their game. I ask that this website screen the content of their articles more closely.

  3. I don’t know where all the negativity comes from but fuel cells are already powering vehicles. See http://www.plugpower.com – lift trucks or http://www.ballard.com/fuel-cell-applications/bus.aspx. Yes there are obstacles to overcome but guess what… it’s what people do, overcome obstacles, and given today’s technology we are overcoming obstacles faster then ever before. We will be even faster tomorrow. Hydrogen power is coming and sooner then most people think.