No Hydrogen-powered Car in Your Future

Michael Giberson

Joseph Romm, writing at Grist, notes that a recent Economist story on hydrogen-fueled cars comes to the same conclusion he had reached when he wrote about the Honda Clarity prototype for a Technology Review blog. To wit, there is no hydrogen-powered car in your future.

The Economist notes that hydrogen cars do have supporters – the automakers and energy firms seeking government funds for development and the politicians and bureaucrats willing to oblige:

One thing on which carmakers and energy firms do agree is the need for government funding and the appropriate public policies in order to promote the commercialisation of hydrogen vehicles. Governments in Europe and America have been more than willing to oblige. Since President George Bush launched his Hydrogen Fuel Initiative in 2003, America’s Congress has provided over $1 billion for hydrogen research–though not everyone approves. The Bush administration’s enthusiasm for hydrogen has worked “to the detriment of nearly all other renewable energy sources,” says Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute at Berkeley.

In Europe the flow of funding for hydrogen research has been slower to come, but no less substantial.

But, as the Economist reports, the hydrogen-based automobile concept continues to suffer from a long list of barriers, any one of which would be sufficient to prevent successful deployment of the technology. After noting the long list of ‘fatal flaws’, Romm remarks:

Seriously — how many fatal flaws does the technology need? Hydrogen cars were apparently killed in the drawing room by the knife, revolver, lead pipe, rope, and candlestick.

Romm leans toward all electric and gasoline-electric hybrids as a more likely road forward. While normally I find Romm’s analysis annoying in the extreme, on this issue I find myself in agreement with him.

4 thoughts on “No Hydrogen-powered Car in Your Future

  1. The barriers are not as large as they might seem. ITM Power of the UK is coming out with a home hydrogen fueling station later this year along with a retrofitted Ford Focus (a $6,500 kit) that is converted to run on hydrogen. If the political will is there the H2 fueling stations will follow.

  2. Myself, I expect to have a compressed-air jitney in the carport in about five years, for going to the store and to pick up the kids at school.

  3. A home-based fueling station is good enough for short trips around town, and longer trips up to the range of the vehicle, but without a wide distribution network a hydrogen-based car will be unsuitable for some consumer uses. A compressed-air jitney with a respectable range offers similar characteristics. These sorts of options can work for some consumers, but don’t seem to offer sufficient all-around appeal to displace the gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine for typical U.S. drivers.

  4. greed is the problem with other peoples, imagine this breakthrough of hydrogen cars, and still some companies or oil companies to be exact, are working their way to destroy it, but we all should do our part in spreading this kinds of technology, so that we will have a better future ahead.

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