Great synopsis on LinkedIn by Tom Tsogt about Bloomberg’s Taxi Firm’s Hydrogen Cell Experience Highlights Fuel’s Pitfalls.

“You’d have to be crazy to buy a Fuel Cell vehicle, even considering the environmental angle,” he said.

Almost seven years on, things aren’t turning out entirely as politicians may have hoped.

The president Yoshiaki Aoki from MK West Group, a taxi operator in Kobe, a city on Osaka Bay in central Japan said that the experience has been somewhat underwhelming.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong specifically with the cars, which are good-looking mid-size sedans with Lexus-level accoutrements. Rather, it’s the high 👉cost of hydrogen👈, which Aoki says should be subsidized more aggressively if the government is serious about using the fuel as a greener option.

Two months into using the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the cars 👉aren’t cost-competitive👈 compared to gasoline ones, Aoki said.

The cars’ biggest selling point is they can be refilled, super quick — handy for a taxi company…

But compared to a hybrid car, for example, the cost of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle rises by around ¥1 million ($7,100) if it runs 150,000 kilometers (93,200 miles) a year as a taxi, Aoki said.

“You’d have to be crazy to buy a FCEV, even considering the environmental angle,” he said. “And customers aren’t prepared to pay extra money because the taxi they’re using is good for the environment.”

⚡There are only around 8,000 hydrogen-powered passenger vehicles in Japan, a minuscule portion of the some 80 million cars on the nation’s roads.

⚡”There’s no demand so there are no stations, and there are no stations so there’s no demand, and this has been going on for quite some time,” Yoshihiro Ueno, a senior executive manager at Air Liquide in Japan, said.

⚡It’s “a chicken-and-egg problem,” said Ueno.

Then there’s the problem of building out Fuel Cell Hydrogen filling stations. Ten years ago, Toyota planned 72 hydrogen filling stations in California to supportive launch of Mirai. They stopped at 40 and half of those were inoperable. Why are the so expensive?

1. Infrastructure Costs: Building a fuel cell station requires significant investment in infrastructure. It involves the construction of hydrogen storage facilities, high-pressure pipelines, and safety measures, which can be expensive.

2. Hydrogen Production: Producing hydrogen is itself an energy-intensive process. Most hydrogen is currently derived from natural gas through a process called steam methane reforming, which releases carbon dioxide. To make fuel cell technology truly environmentally friendly, more hydrogen needs to be produced from renewable sources like electrolysis, which requires a significant scaling up of green hydrogen production facilities.

3. Safety Concerns: Hydrogen is highly flammable and can pose safety risks. Therefore, strict safety measures are necessary for designing, constructing, and operating fuel cell stations, adding to the complexity and costs.

4. Regulation and Permits: Establishing a fuel cell station involves complying with various regulations and obtaining permits from local authorities, which can be a lengthy and complex process.

5. Lack of Infrastructure: The chicken-and-egg problem comes into play here. Manufacturers may be hesitant to produce fuel cell vehicles if there are too few fueling stations available, and fueling station developers may be hesitant to invest in building stations if there are too few fuel cell vehicles on the roads.

6. Public Acceptance: Fuel cell vehicles are not as widespread as conventional gasoline or electric vehicles, leading to a lack of public awareness and acceptance. This can affect the demand for fuel cell stations and hinder investment.

7. Technological Complexity: Fuel cell technology is relatively new compared to internal combustion engines and battery electric vehicles. It requires specialized expertise, and the lack of skilled personnel can make it harder to construct and maintain fuel cell stations.

Despite these challenges, there has been progress in the deployment of fuel cell stations in some regions, especially where governments and private companies have made commitments to promote hydrogen fuel cell technology. As technology improves, costs come down, and awareness increases, the construction of fuel cell stations may become more feasible and widespread in the future. But that is looking more doubtful everyday.

VHS vs. Betamax folks.