First Hydrogen Corp., based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is making waves in the RV industry by developing a zero-emission hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered RV. As the world shifts towards cleaner, greener energy solutions, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are gaining attention. The practical science of FCEVs, their advantages over battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs), and the differences in the range between the two technologies represent a clear advantage to the hydrogen-powered vehicle.
Viability of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles
First Hydrogen announced a hydrogen fuel cell-powered van in March 2023. Building on the momentum of the commercial vehicle, the company unveiled an RV design developed in a joint effort with EDAG Group AG, Wiesbaden, Germany.
First Hydrogen CEO of Automotive Division Steve Gill said: “The First Hydrogen camper van is an example of how we see hydrogen fuel cell and other electric vehicle technologies having wider applications. We are successfully demonstrating the potential fuel cell technology has in the LCV class but are exploring how the technology can benefit other sectors, including leisure vehicles. Connecting with nature is incredibly important for recreational vehicle owners, and this concept indicates how a hydrogen vehicle could help people preserve the environment while enjoying van life.”
Hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen to produce electricity, generating only water as a byproduct. This clean energy source holds promise for a sustainable future, particularly in the automotive sector, where the zeal for electric vehicles has outpaced the technology developments to combine true environmental sustainability with reasonable range and practicality.
Hydrogen FCEVs are efficient and scalable, and they have the potential for significant cost reductions as technology advances. Fuel cell stacks can also fit various power requirements and applications. These factors, combined with a growing global interest in reducing carbon emissions, make FCEVs an increasingly attractive option for transportation.
Advantages of hydrogen FCEVs over battery-powered EVs
Hydrogen FCEVs have several advantages over battery-powered EVs.
- They boast a quicker refueling time. While EVs can charge anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours, depending on the charger type, FCEVs can refuel in just a few minutes. This quick refueling time is particularly attractive for long-distance RV travelers.
- FCEVs typically have a more extended driving range than EVs. While most EVs have a range between 100 to 200 miles, FCEVs can travel up to 400 miles or more on a single tank of hydrogen. This extended range can make FCEVs more suitable for those who frequently travel long distances or require vehicles with greater operational flexibility.
- FCEVs perform better in extreme temperatures. Battery-powered EVs can lose efficiency in very cold or hot conditions, whereas FCEVs are less impacted by these fluctuations, making them more reliable in diverse climates.
Range differences between FCEVs and EVs
The range differences between FCEVs and EVs stem from their respective energy storage systems. EVs rely on large battery packs, which can be heavy and take up significant space. The size and weight of these battery packs can limit an EV’s range, as more energy is needed to propel the vehicle. Furthermore, charging times can vary widely, with fast-charging stations being less common than traditional ones.
In contrast, FCEVs store hydrogen in high-pressure tanks, which are lighter and take up less space than EV batteries. This reduced weight allows FCEVs to achieve longer ranges with a single tank of hydrogen. Additionally, FCEVs can be refueled in minutes, similar to traditional petro-powered vehicles, making them a more convenient option for RVers.
First Hydrogen Corp.’s development of a hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered RV is a testament to the potential of FCEVs as a clean, sustainable transportation solution. FCEVs offer an exciting alternative to battery-powered EVs with quicker refueling times, longer driving ranges, and better performance in extreme temperatures. As technology advances and the infrastructure supporting FCEVs expands, we may see more hydrogen-powered vehicles, including RVs, on the roads in the future.
40-foot busses utilizing fuel cells have been running for two decades in Los Angeles and several other cities world-wide. Clearly a class-A motorhome could easily be built using this technology, and I hope eventually we’ll see that. But the bus company has it’s own refueling stations. Traveling across the country in one will require a lot more infrastructure that may or may not ever happen. Montpellier in southern France just cancelled an order of 50 fuel cell busses in favor of electric busses because the cost per mile using hydrogen would be 6 times higher than cost per mile using existing electrical grid. The flip side of that is when the electrical grid can no longer support all the new EV’s everyone is supposed to buy. It takes decades to get new electric grid infrastructure built. Think bureaucratic red tape, approvals, funding, building, etc. At that point we might reconsider hydrogen.
If anyone thinks Propane represents a fire hazard, think about Hydrogen that burns without a visible flame. You or the things in a Hydrogen fire might be flaming, but not the Hydrogen and Oxygen that are reacting. And too, Hydrogen fuel can be used in an internal combustion engine too. But why, so can Natural Gas and Propane fuels be used in internal combustion engines. I have toured the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership in West Sacramento, CA. Fuel cell vehicles that I have been in lack horsepower and hydrogen storage tends to be a problem on the vehicle and on the ground. To include any abundance of Hydrogen fueling stations.
Hydrogen, what could go wrong? Said the pilot of the Hindenburg.
While extracting hydrogen from NG is the most prevalent technology, it is not the only way to obtain hydrogen. None the less, I agree that all methods of producing hydrogen have a cost.
Fuel cells were used by NASA nearly 60 years ago and Toyota has been playing with the technology for decades. The biggest obstacle has been and remains that hydrogen is neither easy to transport nor store in bulk.
If someone wants to demonstrate their “new idea” why not take a Class A motorhome and convert it to EV or FCEV to show how good their idea is, so far all I’ve seen is Class B or small trailers. Show their ideas with the average size RV, then we’ll see how conceivable their idea is. I would guesstimate a Class A EV would be so heavy from the battery pack it would weigh as much as an eighteen wheeler and probably couldn’t go more than 250 miles without recharging 8-10 hours in a Target store parking lot blocking traffic. All these startups better wait until the infrastructure is in place or they will have many, many disgruntled customers.
If class A sales were not plummeting while class B and C are on a steep rise you might have an argument.
Hydrogen fuel is produced from natural gas reforming (Natural gas and 1000 deg C steam) with the same greenhouse gas, Carbon Dioxide waste produce. Both the reforming process and internal combustion engines are around 70% efficient. So the Hydrogen vehicle is NOT a zero emission vehicle. Period. What a Hydrogen powered vehicle provides is a future transportation fuel supply (for those CARB sensitive folks) when our oil supplies have been depleted over the coming decades. Why not simply convert to Natural Gas fueled vehicles and bypass that whole reforming process?
I agree with all your points Tom. The only thing is the oil supply depletion timeline of “decades”. We have over 4 centuries of oil that we have discovered. Maybe we discover more oil deposits in the next 400 years, maybe we don’t, but it’s a pretty long runway for any technologies to develop and evolve. The gasoline automobile has only been around for a little over one century so we have plenty of time to procrastinate.
I’m not taking into account peoples view of dirty oil and its potential effects on the climate in my comment. I’m just stating a reported volume about oil reserves and the runway length it provides. Even if Big Oil has exaggerated by double the quantity in reserve, 200 years is pretty long runway.
By that time we’ll need to be intubated just to think about driving our ICEmobiles.
How much of an infrastructure is currently available. for refueling these vehicles? Right now. I know of zero refueling stations for hydrogen vehicles.
I believe there are 4 in BC, with one more on the way. If you want to go anywhere outside of the lower mainland or southern Vancouver Island, good luck. One is planned for Kelowna.
I would prefer the one in Kelowna. Might get to see BC’s Lochness monster, the Ogopogo. Highly recommend.
Nearest one to me in south central TN is about 30 miles away in Fayetteville.
Irrelevant. How many gas stations were available when Henry Ford began developing the Model T? Or interstate highways to drive on?
If it proves to be a cost effective, environmentally clean and scalable technology, the infrastructure will follow.
Thank you Joe for reminding all of us of horses before cars 🙂
What was before horses?
I remember gas stations on just about every corner before the interstate was built. As a matter of fact there were more gas stations before the interstates were built. As for the rest of your statement, you’re right there was no infrastructure for gas vehicles, there was electric back then, but battery technology was so poor gas became the standard. Also back then there were no highways, just dirt wagon tracks and no one went much farther than 8-10 miles. Today it’s much different and range of driving is a great concern. Once you leave the metropolitan areas recharging station become fewer, especially away from an interstate. I live 72 miles from Nashville in a rural town of 25,000 and I have yet to see 1 recharging station. 11 miles from here next to I 24 there is 6 rechargers in a town of 14,000. But it’s close to the interstate. All the EV proponents live near a metropolitan area and they see no problems, think about all the people who live in apartments and condos where do they charge economically?
Hence battery electric.