Jaguar Design Director: Hydrogen Power is a 'Disaster'

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Jaguar Land Rover’s technical design director Wolfgang Ziebart is decidedly not a proponent of hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

Due to the amount of energy required to produce, cool, and then compress hydrogen for transportation and subsequent usage within a fuel cell vehicle, Ziebart is highly critical of its role as a practical automotive energy source.

Still, a minority of automakers disagree.

In an interview with Autocar, Ziebart affirmed that “The well to wheel relationship from the energy source to the vehicle is a disaster.”

“You end up with a well to wheel efficiency of roughly 30% for hydrogen, as opposed to more or less well to wheel 70% efficiency for a battery electric vehicle. So the efficiency of putting the electric energy directly into a battery is about twice as high as the efficiency of producing and using hydrogen. “If there was a strong reason to have a hydrogen infrastructure, then I think it would be set up, but with this disastrous well-to-wheel relationship, it doesn’t just make sense.”

As things stand currently, there are only thirty-one public hydrogen fueling stations in the United States and 28 of those reside in California. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, that total number jumps to 56 if you include private filling locations. Meanwhile, there are over 14,800 public charging stations dedicated to electric vehicles with more cropping up every year. There’s also thousands of additional 240 volt outlets provided by workplaces and local governments, and most EV owners have the option of simply plugging in at home.

Battery powered cars are also less wasteful in a macro sense, as they draw their electricity from a pre-existing grid — one that transports energy more efficiently and at a lower cost.

Jaguar certainly didn’t see a reason to wait around for a hydrogen infrastructure to develop and the company’s new I-Pace Concept, which Ziebart oversaw the development of, is proof that.

Perhaps it is time for Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda to reassess what little effort they’ve already put behind fuel cell technology.

[Image: Jaguar Land Rover]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Makuribu Makuribu on Nov 24, 2016

    The fuel cell is a technology that turns millions of government research dollars into a small amount of electricity and water.

  • Redmondjp Redmondjp on Nov 28, 2016

    Let's not forget another reason why this idea won't die - because existing energy companies (who will sell the natural gas that will be reformed into H2) will still get a piece of the action. And can claim to be "green" while doing it.

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