Hydrogen Combustion Engines: The Dirty Secrets That Cost Them The Spotlight

Hydrogen combustion engines have often been hailed as a promising third option to electric vehicles and fossil fuels. Many people may think that hydrogen-powered engines provide emission-free transportation, but there’s a silent issue that many are not aware of. 

Hydrogen engines saw a lot of attention as a promising alternative to fossil fuels in the past, but now electric vehicles are taking over in popularity. What happened? Will we still see more hydrogen combustion engines in the near future?

Hydrogen Combustion Produces Harmful Emissions

Though hydrogen combustion engines are praised for their ability to produce energy without emitting carbon dioxide, they are still emitting nitrogen oxides. These compounds still harm the environment and negatively affect vegetation and crop yields. Because of this, they cannot be considered zero-emission. 

Hydrogen Combustion Engines Have Efficiency Concerns

Their lack of efficiency has been a big turn-off. Hydrogen-powered cars have an efficiency range of only 20-25% compared to gas-powered counterparts. This means they are less powerful, have a limited range, and are less desired because of it. 

Hydrogen Production Isn’t Sustainable

Although these engines produce less emissions and cause less harm to the environment than gas-powered cars, hydrogen production relies on limited natural resources and may eventually run out. Questions about long-term sustainability make it hard to justify investing in large productions of these engines. 

Hydrogen Engines Are Expensive To Refuel

In the United States, gas costs $3-$4 per gallon, but hydrogen costs around $16 per gallon, making it four times more expensive. The only way to produce hydrogen in an environmentally friendly way is with renewable resources, such as solar energy. And while solar energy is a great idea, the reality is that it makes up such a small percentage of power produced in the U.S. to be significant.   

It looks like electric vehicles will remain in the spotlight for now, at least until we can figure out how to produce hydrogen less expensively. Until then, recharging an electric vehicle costs about half as much as refueling a gas-powered car, making EVs a cost-effective an environmentally friendly alternative.