Watch Elon Musk Explain Why Hydrogen Is An ‘Incredibly Dumb’ Alternative Fuel

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Elon Musk may be leading the automotive alternative energy revolution, but that doesn’t mean he’s a friend — or a fan — of his competitors’ endeavors.

During a press conference at the Automotive News World Congress last month, the Tesla Motors CEO gave a crowd of reporters a chemistry 101 explanation of why he doesn’t think hydrogen fuel cells — which are currently under development by Toyota — are an efficient, viable or even safe alternative to electric or gasoline. (RELATED: Tesla Stock Tanks After Musk Press Conference In Detroit)

“I don’t want to turn this into a debate on hydrogen fuel cells, because I just think that they’re extremely silly,” Musk said before comparing the efficiency of converting solar power to electricity in a battery against using electrolysis to extract hydrogen from water, and the additional steps necessary to create fuel cells.

He also expounded on the potential dangers posed by hydrogen, which emits no smell in the event of a leak, is extremely flammable and can ignite via an invisible flame.

“If you’re going pick an energy source mechanism, hydrogen is an incredibly dumb one to pick,” Musk said amid his explanation, which begins 10 minutes and eight seconds into the video below.


Though at first glance Musk’s criticisms may appear as one competitor bashing another for market share, the head of the most successful alternative fuel car company’s comments go straight to the core of Tesla’s engineering philosophy, of which efficiency is a core virtue.

The very idea of Tesla’s AC induction motor is to make up and go beyond the 62 percent of gasoline energy lost in an internal combustion engine, which is caused by mechanical inefficiency (i.e., lots of moving parts and heat). The result is a revolutionary drivetrain that produces massive, instant torque with zero energy loss — the reason for the latest Model S’s 3.1-second 0-60 m.p.h. launch time — the fastest in the world for a production sedan. (VIDEO: Tesla Is Making The Fastest Sedan In The World Even Faster With A Software Update)

Earlier in the conference, Musk expressed support for the Chevy’s new all-electric Bolt unveiled during last month’s North American International Auto Show. Musk said he expects all automakers to go electric in the future, and that his prediction of hydrogen’s failure will be obvious in a few short years. (RELATED: Chevy’s New Electric Could Give Tesla Some Serious Competition)

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