Faster and faster the PTB are allowing Tesla technology to be rolled out for public use. They even started a company with his name to shove it in our faces that the government and military have had free energy available since Tesla was alive in the early 1900’s.
Since the 1900’s the auto industry has not improved on its combustion engine, though technology has changed how we interact. Why? Because it has been too profitable to change.
FCVs (Fuel Cell Vehicles) started out over a decade ago as technology that was in its infancy stage, and clearly not ready for prime time. A decade later, and it appears the time has come for fuel cell vehicles to reclaim the mantle as the most energy efficient, practical and realistic choice for the zero-emission car-buying consumer.
Arguably, the most challenging issue facing Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) is the further development and prevalence of FCVs in the global automotive industry. Fuel cell vehicles are gaining traction. And with major auto makers, such as Toyota (NYSE:TM), Hyundai and Honda (NYSE:HMC) starting to invest, it is only a matter of time before the technology becomes mainstream. The existential threat that could derail Tesla is not just smoke and water. The eventual shift from EVs (Electric Vehicles) to hydrogen-powered FCVs is real, and Tesla may be in serious trouble.
There are many different types of fuel cells available. For vehicle purposes, the most common is the Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell.
Source: Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
The process works by taking fuel (hydrogen) and oxygen molecules into the fuel cell. Hydrogen is channeled to the anode, and oxygen to the cathode. They are split through the use of a catalyst, which in most cases is platinum. The hydrogen splits off into positive hydrogen ions (protons), and negatively charged electrons. The PEM cannot let the electrons into the membrane or else it would short circuit the fuel cell. Once the hydrogen is split, the positive ions flow through the membrane to the cathode. The electrons that were broken off from the hydrogen also travel along an external circuit to the cathode, which in turn creates an electrical current. At the cathode, the electrons and the positive Hydrogen ions meet with oxygen to form water (H20), which exits the fuel cell.
There are a few trade-offs with this system. The first is the use of platinum as a catalyst for the breakdown of the molecules. Platinum is an expensive material, and without a replacement catalyst or a reduction in price fuel cells will always be expensive to produce. Secondly, separating oxygen significantly reduces electricity that can be generated due to the difficult nature of splitting oxygen molecules, which makes the process of producing electricity from the circuit less efficient.
Fuel cells are also extremely sensitive to any permutation in the system. Electrons need to flow through the proper channels; they cannot leak into the membrane where the positive hydrogen ions pass through to meet oxygen. Furthermore, hydrogen is volatile to store. In order to safely house hydrogen, fuel tanks in cars need to maintain pressure in a PSI range of 5000-10,000.
While fuel cell technology has advanced in recent years, the infrastructure for hydrogen refueling stations is currently not where it needs to be for fuel cell vehicles to become mass-market. This issue seems to be the Achilles heel of fuel cell vehicles, as a lack of refueling stations would lead to marginal sales volume. However, major investment into hydrogen fueling networks have begun in California and the Northeastern states. With time and capital, the network of hydrogen refueling stations will continue to grow as fuel cells gain efficiency and popularity.
California has been the leader in support of zero-emission vehicles; offering rebates in the range of $3000-$5000. In 2014, the California Energy Commission announced it would invest $46.6 million to speed the development of hydrogen fueling stations, with the hope of reaching the goal of 100 refueling stations that would allow for the commercialization of FCVs in California. The state is planning to double the number of hydrogen refueling stations that are currently available this year. According to the California Fuel Cell Partnership, there are twelve available hydrogen refueling stations in California. The map also shows about another 30 retail locations that are in development. In an interview, Hyundai Motor America CEO David Zuchowski anticipates 40 refueling stations to be open before the year’s end of 2016.