Ballard Reacts to 'Who Killed the Electric Car?'

Letter from Ballard Media & Public relations seeks to set record straight on hydrogen fuel cell technology in wake of 'Who Killed the Electric Car?' documentary.

Published: 14-Jul-2006

As you may know, there’s a film out at the moment (or coming soon to a theatre near you) entitled, Who Killed the Electric Car? You may have seen trailers at the movie theatre. You may have heard a story about it on the radio, or read something in the paper. And, whilst the film is about the EV1 program specifically, there is, of course, discussion about hydrogen and fuel cells -- not much of it positive. And I wanted to provide some comment because there’s a distinct bias at work in the film, and it’s always good to hear another perspective!

Point #1: Hydrogen & fuel cells are a very inefficient way to power cars (someone in the movie says "three-to four times more energy required than using batteries").

Response: Like all fuels, it takes energy to produce hydrogen and deliver it to a vehicle. The amount of energy required depends on how the hydrogen is made. Some methods require more energy than others.

While it may take more energy to produce and deliver hydrogen than it takes to produce and deliver gasoline or natural gas, the hydrogen fuel is used more efficiently in hydrogen vehicles. Fuel cells are two to three times more efficient than internal combustion vehicles. In many cases, the overall "well-to-wheels" energy usage can be much lower for hydrogen vehicles than for gasoline or natural gas vehicles using a conventional internal combustion engine.

Point #2: Hydrogen & fuel cells are really just a diversion the car companies used to get rid of the Air Resources Board’s ZEV (zero-emission vehicle) rules.

Response: First, fuel cell vehicles are not a diversionary tactic. All of the major automakers have fuel cell development programs. And that’s because they see hydrogen fuel cells as being the ultimate replacement for the internal combustion engine. And remember that fuel cell vehicles are electric vehicles too! They’re just not battery-electric vehicles. Some fuel cell vehicles run only on fuel cells, others are fuel cell / battery hybrids.

As far as hydrogen … the movement towards a hydrogen economy is already underway. Major corporations, small businesses, governments, universities and research institutions all over the world are looking into hydrogen as a possible solution to global energy issues.

Hydrogen can be produced and used in ways that have a minimal impact on health-related air quality and on greenhouse gas emissions. And, when hydrogen is used in a fuel cell to generate electricity to power a building, appliance or vehicle, no air pollution or greenhouse gases are emitted.

I think it's great that Who Killed the Electric Car? is already initiating and inspiring discussion about the need for the world to find ways to reduce emissions from vehicles; for us to transition to cleaner-running vehicles; to highlight that there are options on the road today. I just want to make sure that you get the whole story! If you’d like to talk to a Ballard spokesperson about hydrogen and fuel cell technology, please give me a call. I can also point you towards other industry experts who may be able to offer their perspective.


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