The long term validity of hydrogen cars has been in question for years, particularly with electric cars seemingly stealing a march on their green rival: and now General Motors has placed more doubt on their future.
Just two weeks ago at an event in Dearborn, General Motors’ Bob Lutz commented that “not many people in this room will be alive” when hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are affordable for the public at large – despite the fact that many other automakers have announced plans to release fuel cell vehicles within the next few years. Now, General Motors is changing its research approach to the vehicles too.
The American automaker has decided to close its hydrogen fuel cell research centre, which is based in Rochester, New York, and switch operations to its engineering centre in Pontiac, Michigan. According to reports, the majority of the research centre’s 220 employees will be offered the chance to move to Pontiac.
Officially, GM has commented that the move is based on business advantages, such as the cost effective nature of bringing its technical expertise to one location. GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter stated that the company would “continue to develop this technology” and refuted claims that it represents a pull-back in its approach to fuel cells.
However, the move has raised eyebrows among critics who believe the technical hurdles and cost concerns may prevent hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from becoming widespread in the market. Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford had previously commented on the hydrogen super-highway concept by asking: “who is talking about that now?”
Nevertheless, several automakers remain committed to the technology with Honda, which already offers the FCX Clarity (pictured), recently announcing plans to launch a new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle by 2015 (see article).
Paul is a freelance writer with a background in everything from motoring to finance; and holidays to women's undergarments he just writes about them, honestly! He has now sadly crept into his early 30s and seems to have forgotten everything learned at school Still, he's a green car fanatic and isn't that what counts?
The Maynex H2-Flex is a much better and cheaper approach to fuel cell and/or electric vehicles.
October 14, 2012
Er.. is Bob Lutz still employed by GM?
October 09, 2012
I was never all that enthusiastic about hydrogen. Sure, a hydrogen-consuming fuel cell vehicle might be more efficient than a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. But we need to remember that an Otto-cycle ICE (most auto engines are that kind; the only other kind in use in any significant numbers is the Diesel engine) can use natural gas directly.
A fuel cell has to first process NG to yield hydrogen. So some of the fuel cell's efficiency advantage is negated by the need to process natural gas (or other hydrocarbon) to yield hydrogen.
Re electric vehicles (pure electric or plug in hybrids): We already have electric power distribution networks in place. We also have (at least in the USA) a substantial network of natural gas pipelines. We don't have a hydrogen distribution system. Therefore, fuel cells have one heck of a disadvantage to overcome.
If one doesn't mind the hazards associated with pure methanol, said substance can be used in fuel cells for special purposes like fork-lift trucks in warehouses, or the Zamboni vehicles one sees at ice skating shows and ice hockey arenas.
October 09, 2012