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A Battle for the Future of the Auto Industry: Electric Vehicles vs. Hydrogen Vehicles

Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) , Hyundai, and Honda are introducing hydrogen vehicles in the next couple of years, which pits them against electric vehicles in the alternative fuel space. That's where Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) has seen a lot of success, and where Ford (NYSE: F  ) and General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) are making a big push. Which type of auto will end up the winner? 

Erin Miller sat down with Fool contributor Travis Hoium to discuss this emerging battle. Travis points out in the video below that despite spewing zero emissions from the tailpipe, hydrogen vehicles may actually be dirtier than electric vehicles, especially when you combine a Tesla with a SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY  ) solar installation. 

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Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2013, at 8:59 PM, Supersyd wrote:

    Hydrogen-powered cars? You gotta be kidding me. Would you enjoy sitting on top of a tank of hydrogen while zipping around in traffic?? No thanks!

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2013, at 9:32 PM, justmeok wrote:

    Travis Hoium is off his rocker

    Like usual, Honda, Toyota, etc... will kick ass with their jump start on hydrogen. Hydrogen is the future, no if ands or butts...

    Travis, hydrogen can be produced/ converted using solar, hydro, etc..

    A fuel cell converts hydrogen into electric (get it - electric) so a hydrogen car is an electric car...

    Guy's like you do nothing but confuse the issue...

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2013, at 11:33 PM, DocG1956 wrote:

    Check out the technology coming from HYSR. They are close, very close to solving all the issues for hydrogen infrastructure and making fuel cells use cheap metals. Hydrogen will become cheaper as battery technology cannot be cheaply made it still takes charging overnight.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2013, at 11:58 PM, jkey wrote:

    @ justmeok - You are the one who is confused. Hydrogen for fuel cells is merely a way to store electricity, and a poor way at that.

    Solar, hydro, or just plain old coal burning power plants generate electricity that is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The fuel cell then converts that hydrogen and oxygen back into water. The problem is that the process of splitting the water is only 50% efficient and then the fuel cells themselves are 60% efficient. That means the total efficiency from electricity to electricity is only 30%.

    It's much more efficient to charge and then discharge a battery, with efficiencies approaching 80%.

    This of course assumes no one will come up with a more efficient way of generating hydrogen, but as of today scientists have not identified any breakthroughs.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2013, at 12:03 AM, predfern wrote:

    Electric cars and windmills use rare earths in their magnets. Rare earth mines in northern China produce toxic lakes and radiation from thorium. People living there are losing their teeth and children have soft bones.

    Big Winds Dirty Little Secret Toxic Lakes and Radioactive Waste

    By Institute for Energy Research (Bio and Archives) Wednesday, October 23, 2013

    Comments at bottom of page | Print friendly | Subscribe | Email Us

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2013, at 7:22 AM, dimestop wrote:


    no thanks...Tesla "smoker" ...I'LL HAVE TIME TO GET OUT...



    my "relatives will probably be fighting over the INSURANCE CLAIM...



  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2013, at 8:05 AM, gumby wrote:

    A few factual problems:

    1) First most electricity in US the is from coal.

    2) Hydrogen vehicles are electric vehicles. There using fuel cells to produce their electricity.

    The question is whether battery technology will be able equal the superior range of fuel cells and whether fuel cells can overcome the lack of fueling infrastructure. My bet is that fuel cells will have the superior energy density needed for vehicle use. Running cars on laptop batteries is not the answer.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2013, at 12:01 PM, jeffhre wrote:

    1) First most electricity in US the is from coal.

    Looking at your EIA citation, by "most" I have to assume that you mean the 37% of electricity that EIA calls out as produced by electricity in 2012. That kind of ignores the rest of the electricity not created by coal. Which according to the webpage you cited is 63% not generated by coal! (100% - 37%)

    Furthermore, for 2013 even less US electricity was made from coal. I would say that from the information that you cited, the exact opposite of your statement is actually true. Most, 63% in fact, US electricity was not generated from coal in 2012. And furthermore, it's clear that the US grid is getting cleaner year by year.

    You must have thought no one would go to the web page you cited. Well, on the bright side perhaps no one will look closely at your other assertions.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2013, at 3:00 PM, gumby wrote:

    Was not trying to be misleading. Only showing that coal was the highest proportion of fuel for electricity generation. The citation also indicates 68% of electricity is generated from fossil fuels. Hydropower and other Renewables only account for about 12%. Don't know what this years numbers will be, but I would suspect natural gas will increase its percentage.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2013, at 3:49 PM, jeffhre wrote:

    Gumby, thanks for the response. In fact coal prices are down and NG is up so basically all bets are off for the moment. Coal was lower than EIA website shows and NG was higher (2012) until the pricing directions flipped. Have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2013, at 6:56 PM, Stockllama10 wrote:



    1.) Hydrogen Bombs work by nuclear fusion, i.e. two hydrogen atoms combining to form a helium atom. Which is why stars burn. Hydrogen Fuel Cells split hydrogen and oxygen (about 25% of the air) atoms to form electricity.

    2.) Nobody is claiming that their car is faster than a speeding bullet. Instead of posting, READ.

    3.) Learn to use quotation marks correctly.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2013, at 6:41 AM, duozen wrote:

    Don't like having to spend my time to go get my vehicle refuelled every week or more, so regardless of hydrogen potential I'll stick with Elon on this one for sure. Time saving is just as valuable, if not more than most other issues on this topic.

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