Some Automakers Question Fuel Cell Viability


Bloomberg News

Nis­san Motor Co. CEO Car­los Ghosn  joins Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk in ques­tion­ing the future of hydro­gen fuel cell auto­mo­biles as con­cepts appear at auto shows.

Find out more from Ghosn and Musk. Didn’t we hear that about EVs a few years ago?

Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer Car­los Ghosn said the mar­ket won’t be ready for fuel-cell vehi­cles before 2020, join­ing Tesla Motors Inc.’s Elon Musk in ques­tion­ing the future of hydrogen-powered cars.

Such cars only have a few loca­tions to refuel and the required infra­struc­ture would be pro­hib­i­tive to build, accord­ing to Ghosn, echo­ing sim­i­lar com­ments by Musk last month. Nis­san is push­ing back its plans for fuel-cell cars as the same issue that has dogged elec­tric vehi­cles will also work against hydro­gen cars, with con­sumers wait­ing for facil­i­ties to be built and investors want­ing the cars to be more wide­spread, Ghosn said at the Tokyo Motor Show today.

“I would be very curi­ous and inter­ested to see com­peti­tors who say they are going to mass mar­ket the car in 2015,” said Ghosn, an early pro­po­nent of elec­tric vehi­cles who also heads Renault SA. Where is the infra­struc­ture? Who’s going to build it?’’

Automak­ers from Toy­ota Motor Corp to Gen­eral Motors Co. have invested in fuel-cell tech­nol­ogy as an alter­na­tive to elec­tric vehi­cles, which have been dogged by con­cerns includ­ing cost, safety, lim­ited range and access to recharg­ing facil­i­ties. Tesla, under U.S. scrutiny for vehicle-fire risk, said yes­ter­day that it made an adjust­ment to its Model S sedan to reduce the risk of bat­tery packs being punc­tured and catch­ing fire after hit­ting objects in the road.

Both Toy­ota and Honda Motor Co. have said they plan to sell hydrogen-powered cars by 2015.

Toy­ota, the world’s largest automaker, is work­ing on fuel-cell vehi­cle research with Bay­erische Motoren Werke AG. The Toy­ota City, Japan-based car­maker is dis­play­ing a con­cept ver­sion of a hydrogen-powered car at the Tokyo show.

“Five years on, we don’t think there’ll be any dom­i­nant tech­nol­ogy but var­i­ous dif­fer­ent green tech­nolo­gies,” said Satoshi Ogiso, a man­ag­ing offi­cer at Toy­ota. “For Toy­ota, we try to be pre­pared for any kind of demand that’s expected to arise.”

Honda and GM signed a pact this year to work on the tech­nol­ogy, while Renault and Nis­san are part­ner­ing with Daim­ler AG and Ford Motor Co. to develop hydro­gen cars.