First Ever Hydrogen Vehicle 'Cross-Country' Road Trip Had a Lot of Help

Illustration for article titled First Ever Hydrogen Vehicle Cross-Country Road Trip Had a Lot of Help

I'm all for hydrogen-or any alternative fuel source for that matter (Shai Agassi, my man, let's get cooking already!)-but if you're going to heavily promote your cross-country trek as the "first ever" for hydrogen-powered vehicles, at least make sure large, 1,000-mile stretches of it did not involve having the vehicles carried along on flatbed trucks. This was the case today as the "Hydrogen Road Tour '08" wrapped up in Los Angeles after its 60-strong vehicle fleet entered the Los Angeles Coliseum. From Rolla, Missouri, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, the caravan was carried on the back of carbon-belching flat bed tractor trailer trucks. Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of an alternative fuel road trip right then and there?Part of the gaff was, of course, due to that fact that there are just 60 hydrogen stations in the U.S., and only two of those are open to the public "without prior arrangement," says Reuters. Nevertheless, event promoter Catherine Dunwoody, executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership (a major tour supporter), was optimistic about hydrogen's chances. "There's a hunger out there for clean, safe vehicles," Brubaker said. "The common refrain everywhere we went was 'Where do we get these cars?'" As a personal aside, I, too, would be interested in such a venture, especially if it meant large swaths of my morning commute involved hopping on the back of a truck, and having someone else do the driving for me. More seriously, hydrogen as a major fuel source is pretty much nowhere near becoming mainstream. As the article notes, bigwig auto makers like Honda and General Motors only have plans to test a handful of hydrogen vehicles this year and next in select markets. A best-case scenario out of the car industry has only 2 million hydrogen-powered electric vehicles on the roads by 2020. At least there was some diversity on this cross-country trip: Cars were provided by Honda, GM, Toyota Motor Corp, Ford Motor Co, BMW AG, Daimler AG, Hyundai Motor Co, Nissan Motor Co, and Volkswagen AG. No word on those flatbeds. [Reuters]

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DISCUSSION

At this point, hydrogen is as stupid an idea as ethanol for powering cars. let's have a show of hands: who has a stockpile of hydrogen lying around? anyone? oh right, it's not found just lying around. we need electricity to make it in large quantities. piece of cake, right? i mean we've got plenty of electricity to spare. oh right, most of that shoots crap into the air, which is why we're going to hydrogen in the first place. i guess we're in quite the predicament then. let's revamp the power production infrastructure first. and let's not pretend that we can do it all with wind power or some such nonsense. we need an intelligent mix of power sources. germany moved away from nuclear and invested heavily in wind. now they have to keep gas-fired plants running 24/7 because the wind isn't constant and the power grid is too unstable. guess who's reinvesting in nuclear?

ethanol? easy-peasy. we've got iowa to grow all the corn we'll ever need and then some, right? oops. we'd need nearly all of the plowable land in america to produce the amount of ethanol required to supplant gasoline.

bottom line: consumer vehicles are not the largest users of fossil fuels. we should do what we can to make them cleaner and more efficient, but let's put the big bucks into replacing the aging coal plants with something a little greener.