Skip to main content

Fuel-Cell cars set to gain momentum in US, but will consumers want to pay for the vehicles?

Mercedes-Benz B-class Fuel Cell A group of automakers have teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy as part of a collaborative effort to support more fuel cell cars in the U.S. 

According to Automotive News, Hyundai Motor Co., Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit, Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have joined the U.S. Department of Energy to form a partnership to focus on the development of hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

The public-private partnership, named H2USA after the chemical symbol for hydrogen, is aimed at making fuel cell vehicles a more viable option for consumers in the US.

“By bringing together key stakeholders from across the U.S. fuel cell and hydrogen industry, the H2USA partnership will help advance affordable fuel cell electric vehicles that save consumers money and give drivers more options,” David Danielson, an assistant secretary at DOE, said in a statement, as reported by Automotive News.

Much like electric cars, fuel cell vehicles are powered by an electric motor. However, instead of storing power in the batteries, fuel cell electric vehicles convert natural gas or hydrogen into electricity using a chemical process inside a fuel cell that produces an electro-chemical reaction to produce electricity, as explained by NextGreenCar. Fuel cell technology is not new and has been used for decades in the U.S. space program.

Considered by many to be more efficient than even electric vehicles, fuel cells aren’t limited by the dynamics of thermodynamics, notes NextGreenCar, which enables them to achieve higher conversion efficiencies than conventional engines that only make use of 20 percent-25 percent of the fuel’s energy (as in gas-powered cars) – fuel cells can achieve up to 60 percent.

M-B-Hydrogen-FCVHowever, unlike a battery the reactants – fuel and oxygen – have to be continually supplied for an electric current to be produced.

Fuel cell vehicles have been known to have a driving range of up to 240 miles or more.

To date, the technology has been significantly hampered in the U.S. by a lack of natural gas or hydrogen infrastructure (gas stations) and the high cost of the vehicles. The CEO of Volkswagen has even gone so far as to say FC vehicles have no future.

According to Automotive News, the only fuel cell electric vehicles currently sold in the US are Honda’s hand-built FCX Clarity, which costs nearly $1 million per unit to build, and the limited Mercedes B-Class F-cell, which when it was first introduced in California in 2014 was available for a three year lease at $849 a month.

Not exactly pocket change by most standards.

Toyota has said with a substantial cut in production costs that it could introduce a fuel cell vehicle in 2015 that will cost consumers around $100,000.  But you have to wonder who would even be willing to pay that much for one of the vehicles.

Would you?  

Marcus Amick
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Marcus Amick has been writing about the world of cars for more than ten years and has covered everything from new automobiles…
Best electric car charger deals: $100 off home charging stations
The handle of the Grizzl-E EV charger plugged into a vehicle.

While they may not dominate the market just yet, electric vehicles have become pretty massive in the past few years, with many people seeing them as the perfect alternative to traditional combustion engines. Of course, because EVs aren't as widespread, that means that there aren't always a ton of charging stations around, and sometimes those have inoperative or full chargers, leading to quite a few issues down the road. Luckily, you can get some excellent car chargers at home, which is why we've collected our favorite car charger deals for you below to save you trouble.
Seguma 16Amp Level 1/2 EV Charger -- $120, was $160

If you need a more basic charger, this Level one and two charger from Seguma is a solid option and can deliver 16 amps and 3.84kW, which is pretty substantial. It also comes with a NEMA 6-20 plug and a standardized J1772 connector, which should work on most EV vehicles out there except for Tesla, which has its own connector. There are also some intelligent charging features, which include things such as protection against things like under and over voltage, leakage, and lighting, and it has an automatic cut-off when your EV is fully charged.

Read more
Revamped Lucid Air shows this luxury EV’s bandwidth
Front three quarter view of a beige 2024 Lucid Air Touring.

If you’re only going to sell one car, you’d better make it count.

The Lucid Air electric car finally took flight in 2020 after years in financial limbo. While Lucid plans to launch an SUV called the Gravity and a line of smaller, more mainstream models, the Air remains Lucid’s sole product nearly four years after its launch. The Air has evolved in that time, adding multiple configurations that allow this one car to fill several niches.

Read more
With 1,800 horsepower, Bugatti’s Tourbillon brings plug-ins past the Prius
The Bugatti Tourbillon is a plug-in hybrid.

Plug-in hybrid technology has reached the automotive industry’s upper echelon. Bugatti has unveiled the Tourbillon, the long-awaited successor to the Chiron, with a gasoline-electric drivetrain rated at 1,800 horsepower, 3D-printed parts in the suspension, and an unusual sound system that has no speakers.

Bugatti developed the Tourbillon on a blank slate. The big coupe’s proportions are relatively close to the Chiron’s because the two cars need to fulfill a similar mission: cruise safely and comfortably at jaw-dropping speeds. Bugatti hints that hitting 250-plus-mph is well within the Tourbillon’s scope of capabilities. For context, the Chiron set a speed record and became the first car to break the 300-mph barrier when it reached 304 mph in 2019, so the brand knows a thing or two about speed.

Read more