You may have heard of electric cars and how great they can save on monthly driving expenses. There are not a lot of them on the road yet (last year, 0.6% of new car sales in the US went to electric cars), but many people see electric cars as the future. Talking about future, it makes sense that carmakers do not put all in on electric cars. So, while electric cars are still making their case as your next car, fuel cell cars start to join the competition, like Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell.
A little background – a fuel cell uses fuel and oxygen to electrochemically generate electricity. Then the electricity can be used to power a car. Regarding the fuel, hydrogen is a common one and as you can see, the product of hydrogen and oxygen is pure water. To some degree, a fuel cell car is also an electric car, but is very different from the more popular lithium-ion battery powered electric car.
Fuel cell cars (FCV) have distinct advantages and limitations over battery electric cars (EV).
In terms of advantages, 1) FCVs take comparable time to fill up hydrogen as regular cars do with gas; 2) the range on a single tank of hydrogen can easily reach 300 miles.
In terms of limitations, 1) the cost and the dependence on platinum catalysts need to be significant reduced; 2) the availability of hydrogen stations is very limited right now and it is not something you can do at home.
There are a few noticeable models around or planned to launch in the near future.
Toyota seems to be the most devoted carmaker when it comes to FCV. In fact, it considers FCVs to be the prevailing car technology in the future rather than battery electric cars. Toyota Mirai was launched in Japan in late 2014 and was introduced into the US one year later. The MSRP is $57,500. The leasing is $499/month with $3,649 down payment. The EPA range is 312 miles or 512 km. The hydrogen tank can accommodate 5kg. The total power is 113 kW or 151 hp. 0-60 mph acceleration takes 9 seconds. 2016 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell is available through leasing. The 36-month lease is with $499 monthly and $2,999 down payment. The max range is 265 miles. The hydrogen tank can store 5.63 kg. The fuel cell outputs 100 kW and the car has 134 hp. 0-60 mph acceleration takes 12.5 seconds.
Moreover, Honda Clarity plans to come to the US later this year. Mercedes-Benz GLC EV will arrive in 2017. Audi showed Q8 h-tron concept during 2016 Detroit Auto Show. Lexus LF-LC concept was exhibited during the same event.
FCVs enjoy similar government incentives in the US as EVs. For example, $4,000 federal tax credit is available through Dec 31 2016 for vehicles no more than 8,500 pounds. In California, owners can get $5,000 rebate from the state.