Elon Musk: "A Fuel Cell Is So…"

TTAC Staff
by TTAC Staff

Speaking to Tesla enthusiasts at a Tesla service center in Germany, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk insisted that batteries made more sense for powering electric vehicles than hydrogen fuel cells, calling them “bullshit” and saying that hydrogen isn’t safe to use as an automotive fuel.

“Oh god, a fuel cell is so bulls**t. Hydrogen is suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” said Musk, not missing an opportunity to promote his SpaceX enterprise.

Musk was trying to get his audience to become evangelists for EVs and sustainable transportation to get people to see that electric vehicles are the next step beyond burning hydrocarbons. Getting on to the topic of hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells, the Tesla CEO insisted that the major automakers that were investigating hydrogen either as a fuel for combustion engines or with fuel cells for EVs were doing so strictly for marketing reasons.

Musk went on to lay out what he believes are technical reasons for batteries’ superiority to fuel cells, power density relative to mass and volume along with the fact that fuel cells are expensive. Then he got on to an explosive topic, the safety of carrying around a pressurized vessel filled with hydrogen. “Hydrogen is quite a dangerous gas. you know, it’s suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” he said.

The Tesla head was in Germany to help boost sales of the Model S, which have been slow. Hoping to sell 200 to 300 cars per week in Germany by the end of next year, Musk announced that the company was developing an “Autobahn tuning package” for the Model S that will be offered to existing and future owners, though he didn’t give many details beyond improved high-speed handling. It’s possible that the package would allow more high speed accelerations than the current Model S does before artificially limiting power to preserve the batteries. No word on whether that feature will just be available in Europe.

Germany has higher speeds and the faster you go the less range your EV will have, so Musk also announced that installations had begun for the first six of what will be a countrywide network of Tesla Supercharger stations. Totaling between 40 and 50 stations, nobody in Germany would have to drive more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) to find the next charge. Superchargers have also been upgraded from 120 kW to 135 kW with even greater outputs anticipated. Tesla also will be be building enough service centers to have 80% of the German population within 100 km (62 miles) of a Tesla service location.

Musk’s remarks begin at ~16:20 in the video above.

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Oct 23, 2013

    Musk is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks hydrogen is a threat to his sales of 300 cars a month in Germany. The best way to dissociate hyrogen from water is with electricity, and the most economical way is using nuclear power plants. Germany shut down its nuclear plants, so large volumes of hydrogen at reasonable prices won't be available. Germany also went whole-hog into alternate energy sources, primarily wind and solar, and even with government subsidies, electricity in Germany is now twice as expensive as in the U.S. THAT'S why he can't sell 300 electric cars a month in Germany.

    • See 1 previous
    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Oct 24, 2013

      @Pete Zaitcev Reforming natural gas is another source of hydrogen, not another way to dissociate hydrogen from water. For Germany, which buys natural gas from fickle Russia at whatever price Russia decides, and which uses it primarily for home heating, dissociating hydrogen from water using electricity is the best alternative source. Germany has precluded that by shutting down it's nuclear plants that produce the cheapest electricity, and now has expensive electricity, making hydrogen production for cars, and electric cars themselves, uneconomic.

  • Les Les on Oct 27, 2013

    Urm.. So, just how much more dangerous is Hydrogen... compared to LPG, CNG and/or Propane?

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