The statistics show that the majority of automakers have moved their attention to BEVs. This shift happened after they considered the lithium ion battery vs the hydrogen fuel cell debate.
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Battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs), which debuted with the Nissan Leaf (2010) and Tesla Model S (2012), are indeed the central focus of the automotive industry.
The velocity at which this structural change is occurring is astounding; in China, 3 million BEVs were sold in 2021, up from 1 million the year before. By 2024, the number of models on sale in the United States is anticipated to double.
However, the International Energy Agency asserts that the auto industry will need 30 times more minerals annually to satisfy global climate commitments. Many are concerned that this would strain the supply.
Fortunately, there are other ways to reduce transportation’s carbon footprint besides BEVs. In this infographic, Marcus Lu and Miranda Smith of Visual Capitalist describe the operation of a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV).
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How Does Hydrogen Fuel Cell Work?
FCEVs are a class of zero-emission electric vehicles (aside from the environmental cost of production). The key distinction between the two is that whereas FCEVs produce their own electricity using a hydrogen fuel cell, BEVs feature a sizable battery to store electricity.
Let us review the principal FCEV parts’ functions.
The lithium-ion battery comes first, which serves as a power reserve for the electric motor. Because the battery in an FCEV is not the main power source, it is smaller. For perspective, the Toyota Mirai FCEV has 330 lithium-ion cells, compared to 7,920 in the Model S Plaid.
Hydrogen Fuel Tank
Hydrogen gas is kept in a fuel tank that is part of FCEVs. Because it demands cryogenic temperatures (below 150°C or 238°F), liquid hydrogen cannot be employed. The hydrogen fuel cell’s two inputs are hydrogen gas and oxygen.
Fuel Cell Stack and Motor
Hydrogen gas is used by the fuel cell to produce energy. In simple terms, as hydrogen gas enters the cell, protons (H+) and electrons (e-) are separated to complete the reaction.
The electrolyte, a liquid or gel, is traversed by protons. Electrons must travel outside of the electrolyte since they can not pass through it. In turn, the motor is powered by the electrical current created.
The oxygen is combined with the electrons and protons at the conclusion of the fuel cell operation. Water (H2O), which is created as a result of the chemical reaction, is subsequently released through the exhaust pipe.
Which Technology is Winning?
The table below shows that the majority of automakers have moved their attention to BEVs. The biggest automaker in the world, Toyota, is conspicuously absent from the BEV alliance.
Prominent business leaders have criticized hydrogen fuel cells, including Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Hyundai and Toyota are at odds because both businesses are still making investments in the development of fuel cells. The distinction between them is that Hyundai (and sister manufacturer Kia) have nonetheless produced a number of BEVs.
For Toyota, which invented hybrid vehicles like the Prius, this is an unexpected mistake. BEVs are a logical progression after this success, it seems to reason. Toyota, according to Wired, bet everything on the development of hydrogen while ignoring the reality that the majority of the industry was headed in a different direction. The corporation has turned to lobbying against the adoption of EVs after realizing its error and realizing that it has to stall for time.
Over a decade after Tesla introduced the Model S, Toyota is anticipated to debut its first BEV, the bZ4X crossover, for the 2023 model year.
Challenges to Fuel Cell Adoption
A number of obstacles prevent the widespread implementation of FCEVs.
One is performance, but there is not much of a difference. The top FCEV (Toyota Mirai) obtained an EPA rating of 402 miles for its maximum range, while the greatest BEV (Lucid Air) received a rating of 505 miles.
The inefficiency of hydrogen and the scarcity of refilling stations are two major problems. There are only 48 hydrogen stations in the entire nation, according to the US Department of Energy. 47 of them are in California, and one is in Hawaii.
On the other hand, BEVs can be recharged at home and have access to 49,210 countrywide charging stations. Given that the Biden administration has given $5 billion for states to develop their charging networks, this number is certain to rise.