Electric car fanboys, avert your eyes, because what you’re about to read might hurt. China, which has been a huge champion of electric vehicles, is starting to throw its support behind hydrogen fuel cell technology for cars. Just the mere mention of fuel cells is often enough for a Tesla or Nissan Leaf owner to see red.
Wan Gang, vice chairman of the Chinese national advisory body for policy making, was the one who convinced government officials in China to embrace electric powertrain technology at the close of the Twentieth Century. That really helped fuel EV growth, but now Gang says the future is with hydrogen fuel cells.
One of the biggest drawbacks with EVs has always been battery technology. That was the factor that allowed internal combustion engines to win out over 100 years ago when the first electric cars emerged. Today, lithium-ion batteries are far more energy dense, but to make them requires some materials that aren’t in high supply. Automakers, including Tesla, have had to grapple with this stark reality.
That’s not to say hydrogen fuel cells don’t have their challenges, because they certainly do. One of the greatest is how to make hydrogen for the cars, since known methods aren’t very cost-effective in most areas.
The big question you should ask is what will China backing hydrogen fuel cells really do? Mainstream media is trying to make China out to be a larger contributor to EV tech by saying it has far more EV buses than the United States, but that view is problematic and quite frankly skewed. Will China find an affordable way to use hydrogen fuel cells, or will this become a catastrophic waste of resources? Only time will tell.