Will Batteries or Hydrogen Fuel Cells Be the Automotive Tech of the Future?


Quora Question: Do you think battery electric cars will be the cars of the future, or will it be a different technology like hydrogen fuel cells?

My Answer: I would like to see a mixture of options in the future instead of an all eggs in one basket like we have now. Since fuel cells and batteries are virtually interchangeable, I see no reason why a vehicle cannot be made to run either way; much like many of the current plug-in cars also have combustion-only versions of themselves.

A mix of energy options instead of a single source makes sense on several levels. We’d have more localized production and use. For example, in some parts of the United States, some energy is more accessible than others. Where I live in Wyoming, for instance, solar panels aren’t realistic as a power generation source, but both wind energy and natural gas are abundant here. In the northeast, access to hydrogen is easier than is solar or wind. Etc. Utilizing the best local option for most local transportation makes sense. Further, batteries aren’t realistic for long-range transport, especially heavy hauling. Hydrogen does make sense there.

I believe hydrogen has a place in transportation, as do batteries and as do several other options. Fuel cells (including hydrogen) have a lot of potential and would greatly simplify things. Some options (zinc air, natural gas, etc) are more efficient in the overall energy cycle than are batteries, for example, and are actually simpler in design than are battery chemistries.

The goal shouldn’t be to find a winner. The goal should be to find the best option for each need. I honestly see a lot more fundamental change coming to transportation with automation than I do with powertrain changes.