Team:Macquarie Australia/Mythbusters


MYTH #1: Fuel Cell Vehicles Burn Hydrogen

Jacob: Doesn’t it work the same way as normal fuel, using hydrogen gas in the combustion chamber?

Fuel cells don’t burn hydrogen; they use an electrochemical process to convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and water [1,2]. They have no moving parts and no open flames[1,2].

Fig 1. Diagram of a proton conducting fuel cell

Fig 1. Diagram of a proton conducting fuel cell.

MYTH #2: Fuel Cell Vehicles Are Expensive

Michelle: I just assume they must be because it's such a new technology compared to petrol cars, all new things tend to be more expensive.

This used to be true, however, as technology evolves so fast, advances in fuel cell manufacturing have lead to immense decreases in cost [6]. By the end of 2017, it is shown that fuel cells will cost $30-$50 per kW hour of output, in comparison to car battery packs which will cost consumers $140-175 per kW hour by 2017 [5,6,8].


MYTH #3: Hydrogen Is Too Expensive Compared to Gasoline

Claire: Well, considering that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe I would just assume that it would be significantly cheaper.

Research has shown that it costs US $0.10/km using gasoline with one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the market (2015 Toyota Prius), whereas it costs US $0.13/km using green hydrogen (from electrolysis from a wind turbine) [8]. Further research has been conducted that indicates that hydrogen sourced from natural gas will cost half this much [8]. So, although green hydrogen is more expensive than petrol, the difference is only US $0.03. Petrol, as a non-renewable resource, will likely increase in cost compared to hydrogen, which is more likely to remain constant, if not decrease [8].


MYTH #4: Hydrogen Storage Tanks Are Dangerous

Nathan: As hydrogen is highly explosive, I feel like it'd probably be dangerous.

This isn't false. Hydrogen is explosive. Pressurised fuel tanks,however, are not a new mechanism of storage. A number of cars already run on compressed natural gas,a similarly explosive fuel source [8]. Toyota have engineered their hydrogen storage tank to withstand a 50 caliber rifle shot, without bullet penetration [8]. Able to withstand a localised pressure of 14-18 Kilojoules of force on impact, these pressurised gas fuel tanks are actually in many ways safer than the petrol ones found in the majority of cars [8].


MYTH #5: Hydrogen Storage Fuelling System Are Dangerous

John: To be honest, I wouldn't think they're too much more dangerous than regular petrol stations. Like, I mean, petrol and gas can also ignite, so what's the difference?

This isn’t too far from the truth. The technology to fill up compressed natural gas power cars is much the same as the technology to fill up hydrogen powered cars [1]. There are 16 million cars worldwide as of 2015, however, using compressed natural gas as a fuel source. And there hasn't been one pressurised fueling system failure [7].


MYTH #6: Hydrogen Filling Station Are Too Expensive to Build

Jessica: I reckon it'll be the same, why would it be more expensive than a regular petrol station? You'll still have a big fuel tank under the ground and still need a pump.

Fuel companies Linde North America and First Element Fuel have both stated that hydrogen fuelling station will on average cost around $2 million [3]. This is very similar to the price of a regular petrol station [3].


MYTH #7: Battery Electric Cars Are Obviously Better Than Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Brett: I'd want to look at the the science behind a statement like that.

To assess which is better, we conducted a comparison between the hydrogen 2016 Toyota Mirai and the battery electric 2015 Tesla Model S 60kWh. The test showed:
Re- charge/ Re- fuel
Av.time (min)
Range between re-charge
Retail price

When comparing the Hydrogen powered Mirai to the battery electric powered Tesla, we see that the Mirai is better in all three categories [4]. Although this is just one comparison, it indicates that battery powered electric cars are not significantly better. At the moment, hydrogen powered cars are better in these three key aspects. In the next decade it will be interesting to see the comparison between hydrogen-powered and battery electric powered cars, and to see which has made the greatest technological advancements.


  1. Hwang JJ. Sustainability study of hydrogen pathways for fuel cell vehicle applications. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 2013 Mar 31;19:220-9.
  2. Karim GA. Hydrogen as a spark ignition engine fuel. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. 2003 May 31;28(5):569-77.
  3. Linde preparing its first retail hydrogen fueling station in US. Fuel Cells Bulletin. 2014;2014(11):9.
  4. Nikowitz M, editor. Advanced Hybrid and Electric Vehicles: System Optimization and Vehicle Integration. Springer; 2016 Apr 5.
  5. Nykvist B, Nilsson M. Rapidly falling costs of battery packs for electric vehicles. Nature Climate Change. 2015 Apr 1;5(4):329-32.
  6. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. HYDROGEN AND FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGIES FY14 BUDGET AT-A-GLANCE. 1000 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20585: Fuel Cell Technologies Office; 2016 p. 1-2.
  7. Wang H, Fang H, Yu X, Wang K. Development of natural gas vehicles in China: An assessment of enabling factors and barriers. Energy Policy. 2015 Oct 31;85:80-93.
  8. Yoshida T, Kojima K.Toyota MIRAI Fuel Cell Vehicle and Progress Toward a Future Hydrogen Society. The Electrochemical Society Interface. 2015 Jan 1;24(2):45-9.