Elon Musk calls hydrogen cars a waste of time

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, has already made disparaging comments about his electric car competitors the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. Now, Elon Musk has a few choice about hydrogen cars. 

Stephen Lam/Reuters/File
Elon Musk, Chief Executive of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, attends the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San Francisco over the summer.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is not a man to mince his words. We already know he's not a fan of other electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt, he doesn't really like plug-in hybrids, and he's quick to step in and defend his company whenever there's a hint of negative publicity.

So it's not surprising that when the subject of fuel cell cars came up at the recent Tesla service center opening in Munich, Musk was only too happy to share his thoughts.

They're "a waste of time", according to Musk. Well, he uses a slightly different phrase to that. But the meaning is similar, we guess...

The trouble is, Musk says, that hydrogen and fuel cells are a technology that the manufacturers dabbling in the tech don't really believe in. It's more like "a marketing thing", he says, without elaborating. "If you take best-case scenario," he adds, that in terms of power density and cost, "fuel cells don't even equal the current state-of-the-art in lithium-ion batteries".

Hydrogen does have its supporters of course, at least publicly. Several automakers are in partnerships with other countries to develop the technology, while firms such as Hyundai, Toyota and BMW all aim to have production fuel cell vehicles on the road in the next half-decade.

Toyota--who has worked with Tesla on cars like the RAV4 EV--will launch its hydrogen fuel cell car in 2015. We'd love to be a fly on the wall in any meetings between Musk and Toyota representatives if fuel cells come up in conversation...

Ultimately, Musk says hydrogen is useful for the first stage of rockets (something we imagine he knows a bit about, as CEO of SpaceX) but not a lot of use in cars.

Given how seriously some automakers are starting to take Tesla, we wonder if the manufacturers themselves are getting a little nervous?

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