Don’t Throw Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Out the Window

hydrogen fuel cell vehiclesWhile some of you may think that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are entirely lofty and unrealistic (and sounded good 10 years ago), here are few interesting snippets, and not necessarily just under the hood….

  • Hyundai has committed to supporting the Mayor’s London Hydrogen Partnership in the UK. The city has launched a project worth more than 50 million in pounds, funding hydrogen buses, taxis, scooters, refueling stations, and materials handling vehicles. Hyundai will provide its expertise in fuel cell vehicles to the program, helping to build the infrastructure needed to support deployment of fuel cell vehicles in the region.
  • California Fuel Cell Partnership anticipates 68 hydrogen fueling stations will be in place in the state by 2015, service 10,000 to 30,000 fuel cell vehicles by 2016.
  • Ballard’s ClearGen proprietary proton exchange membrane fuel cells are now powering a stationary power generation platform at the Toyota facility in Torrance, Calif.
  • BMW’s manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, S.C. has more than doubled its fleet of material-handling equipment using hydrogen fueling systems made by Linde North America. Hydrogen powers lifts and trucks that were previously powered by lead acid batteries. Hydrogen now powers 230 of these vehicles at the plant.
  • Aston Martin was scheduled to race its hydrogen-powered Rapide S during 24 Hours of Nurburgring.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will cost 1/20th of the initial pricing years ago when prototypes were being developed, Toyota said. They prototypes were costs makers about $1 million each and are now in the neighborhood of $50,000 – paving the way for a more workable business model. Toyota will start selling its fuel cell vehicle in the US in 2015, though the sticker price will be more than $50,000 and under $100,000.

Why I think hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be a profitable growth segment within 10 years:

  • Honda, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, and General Motors are taking the technology seriously, testing out fuel cell vehicles and appear to be gradually ramping up to production volumes.
  • The fueling is fast. While there aren’t enough fueling stations in place today, as that infrastructure grows, you’re talking about a fueling process that can be completed in three-to-five minutes – just like a regular gas station and sometimes even faster.
  • California Air Resources Board and a few other agencies place fuel cell vehicles at the top, or near it, of its lowest CO2 emitting vehicles. That’s one of the reasons CARB has included fuel cell vehicles, along with battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, on its list of zero emission vehicles required for sale in the state. Fuel cell vehicles are making electricity to power the car’s motor – this one comes from fuel cell stacks while electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are receiving it from battery packs.
  • While it’s expensive and time consuming to produce hydrogen, it is getting better all the time and coming from various sources. There’s a lot of hydrogen going into commercial and industrial applications such as forklifts, so production and distribution of hydrogen is staring to reach economies of scale.
  • The tailpipe emission is water vapor – H20. Not so bad, eh?
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