When Tesla’s Elon Musk and Renault-Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn criticise you, especially in the same week, chances are you’re on to something.
Both executives denounced the flood of hydrogen fuel cell news from the recently concluded 2013 Tokyo and Los Angeles motor show media previews. Parsing the tea leaves, their actions reveal the potential vulnerability of betting heavily on battery electric technology – which both companies have done – when a rival electric drive system appears ascendant.
Honda, Hyundai and Toyota grabbed the Tokyo and Los Angeles spotlight with announcements of fuel-cell passenger cars coming in the next two years. Meanwhile, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz have put in decades of work to put fuel-cell vehicles on the road.
Today’s fuel cells are competitive in driving range, size and power to modest internal-combustion powertrains, and the cost hurdle is being lowered, too, without the attendant range and recharging limitations of battery EVs.
While fuelling infrastructure is all but absent for fuel cell vehicles, these automakers are betting that the technology is sound, and given consumers’ wan embrace of battery-electric cars, the climate seems ripe for a green-tech disruptor. (Photo: American Honda Motor)