The Obama administration has cut DOE, department of energy, funding for hydrogen research. This is unfortunate, battery technology at present is wholly incapable of replacing gasoline use in cars let alone trucks and SUVs.
I am concerned that the hydrogen infrastructure that is needed to make fuel cell cars and hydrogen internal combustion engine cars practical will not be built any time soon. This is unfortunate for a number of reasons.
It is a better bet according to Honda that the problems blocking commercialization of fuel cell cars will be solved than it is to bet on advancement of battery technology. Even if battery technology improves so much that the Volt's 40 mile battery can be replaced with a 300 mile one, unlikely in my opinion, it will probably still take hours to recharge that battery. It is not just capacity limitations with current batteries that are worrisome. When a battery drops to 80% of it's maximum capacity, it is considered to be used up. In the lab, 5-7 years is how long the best batteries last. In the real world, the 10 year target GM has set for the Volt is over promising. Sadly, quick charging a battery with higher current tends to wear that battery out sooner than if you charge it at a lower current.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the only option if the goal is to produce vehicles that are gas free which reduce automobile CO2 and particulate pollution by 80% once enough of them disruptively replace gas burning cars. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is the only practical way to power a vehicle for 200 to 500+ miles off of a tank that can be recharged in 3 minutes. Hundreds of pounds of battery for 40 miles does not make sense when a fuel cell stack the size of a small tower PC and a reasonably sized high pressure hydrogen tank can take you 200-500+ miles. There are BEV vehicles, but the amount of battery you have to carry to get the mileage up to even 160 is prohibitive. The best batteries are still cost prohibitive, mass produced fuel cell cars will be cheaper using today's technology.
Cutting back on hydrogen research is unfortunate unless this spurs wealthy individuals in the private sector to step up and make up for the current administration's lack of vision.
Hydrogen pipelines are cheaper than high voltage transmission lines and they can be hidden underground. Sadly, government funding is apparently needed to get companies trying to increase the number of hydrogen pipelines doing so. Hydrogen pipelines distributing hydrogen to a large town from say a solar concentrator site 100s of miles away make a lot of sense at $500k a mile compared to the eyesore of high voltage transmission lines that are over a million a mile.
Nuclear power plants should be built to produce hydrogen in bulk. There is a lot of radioactive uranium that is decaying naturally. Why leave that radioactive material in the ground when it can be dug up to produce power where it's radioactivity afterwards will be less? There is so much fear of nuclear power and hydrogen for that matter even though the U.S. has been instrumental in exploring both. The safety record for both nuclear power and hydrogen is impressive world wide.
The price of OIL has dropped substantially and people argue that there is years and years worth of OIL and natural gas available both domestically and world wide. Well great, but the problem is that the damage done to the environment digging these fossil fuels up and burning them is probably greater than the benefit. No matter what the price of OIL is, the function of oil and other fossil fuels like coal is to trap carbon dioxide, heavy metals, methane, you name it. These pollutants don't belong in the air, but that is where they go when fossil fuels are burned. Hydrogen can be acquired via renewable resources unlike fossil fuels and when hydrogen burns it doesn't pollute the air.
So many people voted for Obama and are willing to trust that he will, "do the right thing." In my opinion, Obama is trying to bring change to what Bush did for political instead of strategic and scientific reasons. If battery electric vehicles verses fuel cell vehicles is a democrat verses republican issue, that is truly sad. Obama's lack of leadership on hydrogen infrastructure expansion is disturbing. It's time for people in the private sector to step in.Go Back