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Why Can’t I Buy A Hydrogen Car Now?

Several people have emailed me recently who want to buy a hydrogen car now, so I thought I would do a post on why we must wait a bit for this to happen. Bryan S. sent in this question regarding buying a hydrogen car, “Why is it these automakers will only ‘lease’ these hydrogen cars to people and not ‘sell’ them? It reminds me of the electric car (EC1) all over again.”

Hydro Kevin: Of course, I cannot speak for any one of the automakers, but I can take a few educated guesses as to why they are not offering hydrogen cars for sale instead of lease now.

First, the “chicken or egg” problem with the infrastructure means that if the automakers were to sell a few hundred hydrogen cars, there would be few public stations in which to fuel them. GM, Honda and BMW have to be mindful of handing out their hydrogen vehicles to people in certain zip code areas who live near a functioning public hydrogen station or else make some other temporary accommodations for them to refuel. California has the most refueling stations right now, but try driving across the Heartland and one will be sadly disappointed in the lack of stations.

Second, there would be very few buyers of hydrogen cars at current prices of somewhere between $100,000 and $500,000 or whatever the automakers would want to charge at this point in time. Prices, especially of fuel cell vehicles need to come down, and this will happen due to economy of scale when more vehicles are manufactured.

Third, as a lease, the automakers can continue testing the vehicles. They can continue to collect technical data from the vehicles as well as do market testing. The market testing would include collecting information on customer satisfaction, attitude toward hydrogen cars, etc. to help them market these vehicles on a broader scale in the future.

Fourth, and this is one of the most important points, is that if hydrogen cars are sold, the automakers need to support them nationwide. When a consumer purchases car from one of the major auto manufacturers right now, the assumption is that if the car breaks down, that can get it serviced at the dealer anywhere in the U. S. So, if you drive your car from Barstow, California to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Boise, Idaho, and something mechanical happens on your car, you can get it serviced at the dealer.

To sell 100 or 200 hydrogen cars to consumers, then needing to train thousands of mechanics nationwide on how to fix these cars, would be a major undertaking indeed. Before the Honda FCX Clarity is rolled out to under 100 consumers in the Los Angeles area this summer the company is building a special service center in the area that all cars will be brought from area dealerships for servicing. This could serve as a future model for the rollout of service areas and cut down on the sheer number of mechanics needing to be trained, but it will still be a major undertaking, nonetheless.

To sum up these four points, I think the major issue right now for the automakers is control. They wish to control how many vehicles are rolled out, in what locations, where the vehicles will be refueled, where they will be serviced, the price point they can get consumers to pay for a lease (if they are leasing them) and the power to end the lease and recall the vehicles if needed at any time.

Hopefully, hydrogen cars will be a smashing success rather than a smashing failure such as happened with the electric cars a few years back. But, you never know. If state regulators do not work with the automakers, we could see the same debacle happening again. Some wise man once said that history repeats itself because no one is listening. We’ll see who is listening this time.

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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8 comments

  1. love you’re info I’m doing my best to get the word out and have posted you’re site link on my facebook page thank You

  2. lol, and I mean, that lol. i thought these would be new cars.

  3. hydrogen cars will create millions of jobs. Should be building plants whereever there is water. Not portable water but river, ocean water. Remove one gas tank from all stations and put in a hydrogen tank. Hire someone to pump it if your scared to, and maybe get your windshield washed. How about that? Make these cars at a reasonable price. I don’t need or WANT all that fancy crap on vehicles. Get ride of all computers in cars, just GPS OnStar for big city driving. I can still read a Atlas. Remove power mirrors, windows, turn signals in mirrors, front & rear bumpers the same height so you can push them instead of calling a tow truck. Bring back headlights that only cost 8 bucks to replace, no horn honking, lights flashing crap. All that stuff and you will have built a car for around $30,000.

  4. With regard to TheTinkster’s comment, all I must say that these things that he mentions are very unrealistic. First, replacing a gas station with a hydrogen station will only change jobs, not create more. Removing computers from modern cars with would entirely stone-age these vehicles as most of the emissions control systems and other electronics that help improve fuel economy and emissions control run on computers. Not to mention the safety systems that also run on these computers; traction control, stability control, early warning systems,etc. Now a simple counter argument would be to not let stupid people drive, thus reducing accidents and eliminating the need for these systems, but how realistic is that? By the way a GPS is a computer, and On-Star uses just about every single sensor and computer in the car to do what it does. However, I do have a mutual wish that cars would go back to being as simple as they used to be, but that’s just the gearhead in me. In reality we can only hope and wait for hydrogen powered vehicles to come down in price and for the market to accept them as a feasible mode of transportation.

  5. I’m not sure why a person would need a GPS in the first place. Secondly, why would a hydrogen car need an emissions control system? It’s hydrogen, which converts to water as its emission. Third, cars have been running without computers for a hundred years. There is no real reason to have one. Mechanics used to be able to listen to a vehicle and diagnose it from the sound it made. The only industries hurt by simplifying a car are the mechanic training trade tech schools and the manufacturers of the “extras” on cars now. Imagine if cars went back to “arm strong steering” and “hand crank windows.” Oh, the horror! There are actual societies which will order a vehicle stripped of everything but the necessities in the US, e.g. the Mennonites.

  6. Please stop making hydrogen cars a science fiction. First and the most important, hydrogen is the cleanest fuel in the world. The cars are here, Chevrolet Equinox FCEV and Honda FCX Clarity. There are 36 hydrogen fueling stations in the United States. Who cares if you can’t repaire it all over the United States. People will soon make millions on account of this cars. If you can’t support it in USA, they will be supported in China and India first. It will be soon very cheap like normal cars. 600 USD a month is not a fortune.

  7. it just so hard to hear all this stories with hydrogen gas station. Stanley Meyer’s created normal hydrogen fuel cell car years ago .those cars do not need hydrogen station.(said he was killed)
    Fuel cell create more then required HOH gas to run car .
    you can Create gas on board with direct water intake yes and water is every where .!
    why do this bogus gas stations with pressurize hydrogen?
    who knows
    distribution system exist and cost very little defensively not 10000 and not 100000
    http://www.waterpoweredcar.com/stansgifs.html

    http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/68950/Stanley_Meyer____Water_car_inventor_murdered/

    Stanley Meyer’s Water Fuel patent 4,936,961
    Stanley Meyer’s hydrogen injection system for vehicles patent 4,389,981
    Stanley Meyer’s hydrogen gas burner patent 4,421,474
    Stanley Meyer’s hydrogen generation and enhancement patent 5,149,407
    Stanley Meyer’s water fuel generator patent CA 2,067,735
    Stanley Meyer’s WFC control circuitry patent WO 92/07861

  8. here http://www.rwgresearch.com/
    just go there and see injectors system that can be fixed on any cars
    it is open research so use it ……
    save planet ,yourself, and your money
    we simply need bottle of water with us ,not a station

    Tell me who and why they are holding hydrogen car release ,hydrogen engines, generators etc

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