Roughly 100 days into the Obama administration, Steven Chu has announced that the hydrogen fuel cell will not be a practical power source for cars in the next 10-20 years and does not merit the emphasis placed on it. Funds for vehicle development have accordingly been cut off.
That didn't take long. (Pity Europe was 3 years ahead of us, but better late than never.)
Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles always had a long list of barriers to widespread use:
It might be reasonable to expect one of these problems to fall to an intensive R&D program in a reasonable period. But four of them? When two of them are completely intractable matters of physics or infrastructure? Freedom Car was a boondoggle from day one, never intended to get anywhere.
Unfortunately, Detroit appears to have gone into the crapper with it. We have lost 8 years, during which peak oil has come and gone. Had we stayed the course, we would have had PNGV vehicles on sale 2-3 years ago. A robust American program to produce cars that achieved 70+ MPG would have enjoyed huge popularity as fuel headed for $5/gallon, and the parts business (especially batteries) would have perhaps kept the Chinese company BYD out of auto manufacturing.
What to do now? I still think independent investigations and trials on charges up to and including high treason are appropriate on this matter (and others). But scrapping our gas-guzzlers and converting the plants which made them to HEV, PHEV and EV production and other manufacturing (such as wind turbines) should top the list of initiatives to start immediately.
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