Hydrogen fuel cell cars promoted in various states, but U.S. federal funding cut

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

American Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is cutting US$100 million dollars from hydrogen fuel cell vehicle research and diverting the remaining $69 million to hydrogen fuel cell research for household current.

Hydrogen vehicle re-fueling

Former president George W. Bush advocated the zero-emission vehicles and launched $1.2 billion for hydrogen fuel cell research over a number of years.

President Barack Obama is proposing a "corporate average fuel economy," or CAFÉ, placing standards for gas mileage at 39 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks at 30 mpg.

"The probability of deploying hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles in the next 10 to 20 years is low." said Tom Welch of the U.S. Department of Energy. "We asked ourselves, 'Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy?' The answer, we felt, was 'no,'" said Chu.

In response, the U.S. Fuel Cell Council and the National Hydrogen Association said, “The cuts proposed in the DOE hydrogen and fuel-cell program threaten to disrupt commercialization of a family of technologies that are showing exceptional promise and beginning to gain market traction. Fuel-cell vehicles are not a science experiment. These are real vehicles with real marketability and real benefits. Hundreds of fuel-cell vehicles have collectively logged millions of miles.”

“I just got the Clarity, which is a wonderful hydrogen vehicle,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He lent his car to The Hydrogen Road Tour.

On Tuesday, The Hydrogen Road Tour began in Chula Vista, California. Twelve hydrogen fuel cell cars by seven auto makers will arrive in Vancouver, British Columbia June 3 for the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells 2009 conference, a global hydrogen and fuel cell event. "The point really is to raise awareness about fuel celled vehicles and hydrogen, their benefits both to energy efficiency and the environment as well as to consumers because we really believe these vehicles are going to be a market winner," said Catherine Dunwoody, the Executive Director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership.

The Hydrogen Fuel Cells 2009 conference began June 1. "Our global environmental challenges, such as climate change, do not stop at the border," " said John Tak, conference Chair, "I am pleased that scientists, engineers, government representatives and businesspeople from more than 35 countries are coming to Vancouver, an active hub for hydrogen and fuel cell development, to help create solutions to these challenges."

The Ohio Fuel Cell Symposium was held in North Canton, Ohio on Wednesday and Thursday. "The hydrogen and fuel cell industries are at a stage where they have the momentum and energy to accomplish some truly revolutionary things in terms of how they apply their technologies," said William Whittenberger, president of Catacel Corp. These fuel cells produce electricity and exhaust carbon dioxide and water.

A hydrogen powered municipal street cleaning vehicle is currently being tested for the next year and half in Basel, Switzerland. "Our aim is to take fuel cell technology from the laboratory onto the street," said Empa's Internal Combustion Engines Laboratory Project Leader Christian Bach.

Dan Lutz, the fleet manager for the Beloit, Wisconsin public works department, experimented with retro-fitting his personal truck. The department now has a large pickup truck, a garbage truck, a recycling truck, a police squad car and a small pickup truck using hydrogen technology increasing gas mileage from 14 to 22 and 31 mpg. "We know the basic technology works, but the issue is, is it practical," said City Manager Larry Arft, "Can it be used realistically?"

The drawback is that the technology may rely on platinum, a rare metal, or palladium. Infrastructure would need to be changed to supply hydrogen fueling stations. Critics are also concerned about hydrogen fuel storage and the costs of retro-fitting existing vehicles.


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