Letter of the day

Consider hydrogen fuel cell cars

A Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle being refuelled in Australia yesterday. The writer says we should not ignore the potential benefits of another green technology, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
A Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle being refuelled in Australia yesterday. The writer says we should not ignore the potential benefits of another green technology, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

As petrol stations gear up to offer charging points for battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs), and the debate on alternative power for automobiles continues, we should not ignore the potential benefits of another green technology, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) (4 Caltex stations to offer electric vehicle charging points; March 23).

FCVs bring a host of practical benefits compared with EVs.

For drivers, FCVs offer greater convenience.

A hydrogen tank can be replenished in a mere five minutes, whereas EVs typically take half an hour for a quick top-up, and three to six hours for a full recharge.

There is also the advantage of usable range.

FCVs, like the latest Toyota Mirai, can travel more than 640km on a single tank, matching or bettering petrol-powered cars.

While some EVs come close (like the highest-specification Tesla Model 3's 570km range), most manage less than 320 km.

Most significantly, one must consider the wider environmental impact of the two systems.

The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs originate from pollutive mining operations and energy-intensive refining processes.

Hydrogen, meanwhile, can be produced by separation from natural gas or seawater.

EV batteries also present serious challenges with disposal after decommissioning, whereas FCVs can be disassembled and repurposed largely using existing vehicle recycling techniques.

This is not to say that we should abandon EVs entirely for FCVs.

Rather, it would be beneficial to cultivate both forms of technology and present consumers with more options, akin to the current choice between petrol and diesel.

To do so would require balancing infrastructure investment.

Let us complement the upcoming EV charging stations with hydrogen filling stations.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2021, with the headline 'Consider hydrogen fuel cell cars'. Subscribe