hydrogen fuel cellsThe hottest field in automotive technology is not on increasing the mileage and efficiency of electric vehicles. It doesn’t have anything to do with increasing the mileage that an electric car can deliver per hour of charged energy. It also has nothing to do with decreasing the charging time of the typical electric cars. I would argue that the future of automotive technology has nothing to do with electric cars at all.
If Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is serious about truly revolutionizing the automotive industry the same way that the iPod revolutionized the mp3 players and the iPhone revolutionized the mobile phone industry, it should look into hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells use hydrogen to create power that drives vehicles. Its only byproduct is water. Can you imagine that? You get something that runs on one of the cheapest forms of fuel available, and doesn’t harm the environment in the process. It is a win-win, right? Well, not so fast.
Thanks to the fact that hydrogen fuel cell technology is quite new, there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding this technology. A lot of its critics say that it is too costly and cumbersome to convert hydrogen into energy. Moreover, the engine designs currently in existence aren’t all that efficient. If these arguments sound familiar, these are precisely the kinds of arguments that were leveled against hybrid technology, solar technology, and almost any other kind of alternative energy system.
The good news is that, given typical technology cycles, the price of hydrogen fuel cells will go down in the future. In fact, it should be a matter of time before they decrease to the point where they can become commercially viable. Indeed, hydrogen fuel cost has been declining, and it looks like its overall cost profile will reach that of gasoline-powered engines.
The main drawback to the automotive industry adopting this technology wholesale is that it would cause a massive disruption in the global gasoline distribution system. There are no hydrogen stations. The same argument also applies to electric cars. But we are making progress regarding more charging stations. On the whole, I think these arguments are essentially baseless. They are only looking at current technology and current capabilities. If there is anything true about technology, it is that it has an uncanny ability to surprise.