What’s Next for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles?

Here’s coverage and perspective from Green Car Journal on the EPA’s decision to cut funding for hydrogen fuel cell vehicle development. It’s a bit of a shame; the Obama administration is focused on plug-ins and electrics. Hydrogen will probably become mass market transportation someday, but that’s going to take longer now. And manufacturers are still devoted to making it happen–

The 2010 budget submitted to Congress reduces the Department of Energy’s (DOE) hydrogen program by $100 million, representing an almost a 60 percent cut, essentially cutting all government support for developing fuel cell vehicles. Research will continue for stationary fuel cells where hydrogen storage is less of an issue.

While disappointing hydrogen advocates, considering the huge amount of deficit spending of the Obama administration some think it’s is a rational cut. However, the National Hydrogen Association believes it is too early to be picking winning and losing technologies.

According to DOE Secretary Steven Chu, it is unlikely that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy in the next 10 to 20 years, with the biggest challenge being the huge investment required for a nationwide fueling infrastructure. Thus, in this recession period the government perspective is that funds are better spent on more ‘shovel ready’ projects, such as President Obama’s goal of a million plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2015.

So what’s next? Even though fuel cell vehicle development will slow down in the U.S., it will still progress. Significant activity is already underway, including GM’s groundbreaking Project Driveway program that’s fielding 100 Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles in an ongoing demonstration program. Plus, hydrogen activities will continue worldwide. For example, Daimler AG will start small-series production of its B-Class sedan with a fuel cell drive system by the end of 2009. Based on the Mercedes-Benz BlueZERO F-CELL model shown at the 2009 North American International Auto Show, it will join the Honda Clarity as one of the first ‘production’ fuel cell vehicles (FCVs).

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