Will The Hydrogen Car Share The Same Fate As The Electric Car?

Hydrogen has often been seen as the holy grail of fuel, but has existed only as a series of experiments and concept cars. But now manufacturers are beginning to lease hydrogen cars to regular customers, with other manufacturers soon to join in. But are these efforts by manufacturers a serious commitment, or a mere publicity stunt?

If you’re an environmentally conscious driving enthusiast, you’re no doubt already drawing parallels between hydrogen vehicles and the electric car. Both have promised a revolution in clean, efficient driving, and both have only been offered as leases.

The big three American manufacturers: General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford, each had trial leases of electric vehicles in the late ’90s. Most notorious was the GM EV-1, which was produced between 1996 and 1998. Despite enthusiasm from leasers, GM refused to sell them the cars, and had the entire run crushed. The controversy behind the EV-1 was documented by Chris Paine’s film, “Who Killed The Electric Car?” Models produced by other manufacturers shared similar fates, and car companies have been accused of sabotaging the success of electric vehicles.

Comments from GM suggest that their hydrogen efforts may be more of a public relations stunt than a serious endeavor. GM is hoping to counter critics, who say their models are gas guzzlers, by showing off its environmental technology, said GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz.

“We have this undeserved image of being an environmental antichrist,” Lutz said.

Not only that, but Honda says that their hydrogen vehicles are commercially infeasible, costing at least a million dollars to produce each one.

But what may make the difference this time is the fact that business and government both are investing in hydrogen fueling stations. For instance, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has led an initiative to get hydrogen fueling stations on California roads, with millions of dollars in state funds going into hydrogen technology. If automakers do indeed sabotage their hydrogen efforts, they might have some very angry officials on their doorsteps.

Hydrogen fuel is a promising technology, but its fate remains to be seen. Let’s hope that it’s given a chance.

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