Amidst the growing calls for more Americans to buy or lease electric vehicles, whether they can afford them or not, there is something being left out of the discussion by government, media, and the general public. That is the matter of what fuels the batteries powering the elective motors in these vehicles which then requires the vehicles to be plugged into electrical outlets and recharged. The substances found in the batteries of these EV’s are either lithium or cobalt. While these materials may be fairly efficient in providing power from the batteries to the motors, that doesn’t mean that they’re cheap to obtain or don’t present other problems in their long-term usage.
My understanding is that lithium and cobalt are both difficult to find and expensive to mine. Added to this, these minerals contribute their own forms of environmental damage once the batteries in such vehicles wear out and have to be discarded. Both lithium and cobalt can contaminate ground water and soil, adding to the problems we’re already battling in our environment with our discarded waste. On top of this, we have the problem of added strain on our electrical grids with all the charging of the batteries in these vehicles from day to day. Further, the supply of lithium and cobalt are not nearly as plentiful as are fossil fuels, and the push to market and sell EV’s with batteries powered by these minerals will only lead to another fuel crisis as their supplies dwindle.
So what is the real answer to the problem of ending exhaust emissions from motor vehicles by replacing fossil fuels with something sustainable? Unless you’re a Marxist who believes the solution is the elimination of motor vehicles, (along with 90% of the world’s human population), the answer lies in hydrogen. Derived from water, it is the most plentiful gas in the material world and universe. When hydrogen atoms are fused together to produce energy, the only biproduct is water. This is the irony in the whole discussion of “green energy” by environmentalists that’s either being overlooked, or ignored. While there are difficulties in the harnessing of hydrogen energy safely, the long-term rewards and benefits to the world are staggering when it comes to meeting energy needs with clean energy.
Without a doubt, hydrogen is a highly explosive gas that releases tremendous energy when it explodes as we learned form the Hindenburg tragedy, and from experiments with hydrogen warheads. Finding ways to safely use hydrogen as an energy is a challenge, and is costly. The process of removing it from water, is complicated, I understand, and is expensive. But at some point we have to ask, What is cheap about exploring more places to drill for oil, or finding more places with lithium or cobalt to mine? There is considerable expense in all of that, and it still doesn’t provide a good long-term solution to the energy problem.
The building of hydrogen-fusion power plants, and the carrying of hydrogen fuel cells in cars necessitates the construction of stronger, tougher materials in the building and tanks housing both. The explosive nature of hydrogen requires the strongest materials possible to guard against rupture from accidents. This is why I have read that auto companies are reluctant to experiment with hydrogen fuel cells in their vehicles, because of the expensive tanks that have to be installed in the vehicles to house the fuel cells, Most auto companies have stayed away from hydrogen fuel cells to power electric vehicles, except for two: Toyota and Hyundai.
Each of these companies has produced an electric car that operates on hydrogen fuel cells. For Toyota, it’s a mid-sized, rear-wheel drive sedan called the Mirai, which according to Consumer Reports, has lowered its price this year to a base price of $49,500. Hyundai’s entry into the hydrogen fuel cell EV class is a small SUV called the Nexo. It’s price is around $60,000. Both of these cars are only currently sold in certain urban areas of California, because those are the only places where you’ll find hydrogen fuel cell refilling stations. It only takes about five minutes to refill these cells, as opposed to twenty minutes to charge a lithium or cobalt-powered EV at one of Elon Musk’s fast-charging stations, or overnight at one’s home charging outlet.
As for the cost of these vehicles, there is research being conducted at places like The University of Buffalo to find strong but cheaper materials to make fuel cell tanks that won’t easily rupture or cause explosions. Such research needs to be encouraged by the government and more of the auto industry, to where more such EV’s will be produced not only by Toyota and Hyundai, but other automakers as well. Those two companies deserve a lot of credit for sticking their corporate necks out and experimenting with hydrogen fuel-powered EV’s. As for the availability of hydrogen fuel cell refilling stations, the infrastructure is already there if the oil companies were willing to pick up the ball and run with it, installing hydrogen pumps at their gas stations across the country. Until these things are in place, I have no interested in buying an electric vehicle, no matter how many environmentalists and government bureaucrats say I should. Until I can afford one and until I can have a hydrogen fuel cell powered EV that I can refuel all across the country, I won’t be buying one.