Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics
newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Leave your feedback
NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels talked in April to electric car maker Tesla Motors' founder and chairman, Elon Musk -- an entrepreneur who previously founded PayPal -- about the future of the electric car.
So is this the future, do you think? Is this — I mean electric cars — really coming at us at this point?
Absolutely, electrics cars are, I cannot tell you how much electric cars of the future, they are absolutely what we will drive […] and not that far away. I've actually made a prediction that within 30 years a majority of new cars made in the United States will be electric. And I don't mean hybrid, I mean fully electric.
And not fuel cell but plug-in electric?
Plug-in electric. The fuel cell will never ever, ever, ever be a mainstay.
You say that very emphatically and yet some of the folks at Toyota and so forth say they will be a mainstay eventually.
Well then, time will tell who is right.
Why do you say what you said, though?
The fuel cell is just a fundamentally inferior way of delivering electrical energy to an electric motor than batteries. First of all, you have to say what is the fuel source for a fuel cell? Okay, so there is not naturally occurring hydrogen in the world. There's carbon element in the universe but not in the world, so you have to get the hydrogen from somewhere. Where do you get it from?
Yes, but it takes an enormous amount of energy to break down the water. So where did you get the energy to break down the water?
Okay, so you could do all those things. But it's a tiny fraction as efficient to do that as it is to use those same solar panels just directly to charge a battery pack, as opposed to using the solar panels to split water, then take hydrogen, oxygen, separate them, compress the hydrogen into either a very high pressure gas or liquid, and then put that into a car and then run a fuel cell process and then generate electricity. It's incredibly inefficient to do that. You'll always win by taking that same electrical source and just directly charging a battery. Always, guaranteed. This is a fact of physics.
Some people will say, well what if the technology were improved? It's not. You can say, you can take the ideal case, let's say all the technology was perfect for a fuel cell. It still doesn't work. It is still not competitive for a battery, not even close. And one last item, you know on fuel cells. If fuel cells were good, don't think you'd see them somewhere, like maybe in a laptop or a cell phone or a $200 million military satellite maybe? And yet, where do you see them?
Support Provided By: