As a whole, fuel-cell vehicles are a commercial failure.
Numerous other OEMs have dropped out including Mercedes-Benz.
There are many reasons why fuel-cell vehicles are not as viable as EVs.
Audi is only the latest in a long line of automakers that have pulled the plug on hydrogen-powered vehicle development. The interest in fuel-cell technology was based in large part on its range potential however with EV battery development roaring full-speed ahead, further investments are being cut.
One of Audi’s reasons for dropped fuel-cell development is that they think it will be virtually impossible to produce enough CO2-neutral hydrogen for a huge number of passenger cars in the near future. According to Innovation Origins, and wise business people, the weak potential return on the vast investment makes the technology uninteresting.
A study released by IDTechEx outlines many of the technology’s shortcomings including:
- Currently, fuel cell cars cost over 1.6x as much to buy and up to three times as much to run in fuel costs, depending on your location (compared to the average internal combustion engine). In contrast, BEVs are increasingly reaching TCO parity with ICE vehicles in different markets around the world today.
- FCEVs rely on Li-ion batteries for high power and energy harvesting, increasing costs (the Nikola One has a 250kWh battery).
- Fuel cells have moving parts, which means maintenance costs can be higher than BEVs.
- Batteries are heading towards million-mile life and 1000-mile range with 2 – 4C charging this decade: by the time fuel cell cars are affordable, batteries will have caught up, and will be cheaper.
- Fundamentally, it costs more energy to drive per mile using hydrogen than a battery because of the 60% efficiency with heat losses, in addition to using electricity from the grid to create green hydrogen.
Despite all of these points, Porsche still believes that FCEVs have potential while bit Audi and Volkswagen have put an end to development. Mercedes-Benz (Daimler) and PSA have also cut investments while BMW is still on the fence.
Asian automakers such as Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai are still pushing forward if mostly because countries like Japan and South Korea have a more advanced refueling infrastructure.