Mean, Green...and My Machine

June 29, 2005
Petroleum prices are again on the rise, even as war weariness seems to be setting in over our likely long-haul involvement in Iraq. So I wasn't surprised to see a new study conducted for General Motors concluding that Americans more than ever want to declare energy independence. Of course, to GM, the conclusion is that we need to launch a national program, on the order of the "moon shot," to build the infrastructure for a so-called hydrogen economy.

"The survey shows broad support for continued partnership between government and industry in the development of a hydrogen economy, an effort that GM has been aggressively pursuing with the U.S. Department of Energy and numerous corporate and research partners," said (GM Vice President for Environment and Energy Beth) Lowery.

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GM has been one of the most vocal proponents of hydrogen technology, rolling out some sleek prototypes, like the fuel cell-powered Sequel, which made its debut at the Detroit Motor Show, last January. The Sequel, like GM's earlier concept car, the Hy-Wire, suggest that hydrogen could change more than just what powers tomorrow's automobile. Both prototypes use bodies mounted on skateboard-like platforms, which contain all the running hardware, from fuel tanks to fuel cell. Problem is, GM doesn't expect to be selling fuel cell vehicles, or FCVs, until 2010 -- at the earliest, and some folks think that's a decade early.

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Of course, then there's Honda, a company that seems to despise conventional wisdom. TheCarConnection had a chance to test-drive the automaker's FCX a few months back and found the hydrogen-powered hatchback far closer to market-ready than expected. And apparently, so has Honda. Until now, the automaker has "sold" the FCX only to fleet buyers who could limit operation, control service and readily fuel the vehicles up -- you won't find hydrogen down at the corner service station. But the automaker today announced it's leased an FCX to Jon and Sandy Spallino of Redondo Beach, California for two years. "The Spallinos will use the FCX in everyday normal use, including commuting to work to Orange County, trips to school for their children, shopping and household errands," the automaker said in a news release. They'll take advantage of the California Hydrogen Highway program, which plans to dot the state with fuel depots between now and 2010.

There are still plenty of obstacles in the way of a mainstream hydrogen infrastructure, but this is clearly a promising start.

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