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Hydrogen Vehicles

With the increasing concerns regarding global warming and dependency on oil in the U. S. , the search for alternative fuel sources is becoming a major point of discussion among economists, environmentalists and politicians. According to a director at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, dependence on Middle East nations for oil supply poses a threat to national security. This has more to do with the fact that the relationship of the United States with the Muslim world is “at an all-time low,” than it does with the political instability of its nations.

As such, flexible non-oil fuel alternatives may be a means of eliminating the political liabilities inherent in supporting oil producing nations. Carson & Vaitheeswaran (2007) have observed that this political liability, coupled with environmental concerns and the constantly rising prices of oil have become the underlying motivation for the development of alternative propulsion technologies to power the future of the automobile, and one of these technologies is the hydrogen car.

Amory Lovins endorses the adoption of the hydrogen car. Admittedly, the Colorado based environmentalist and scientist has a vested interest: he works with the people who developed the ultra-efficient but hydrogen-fueled Hypercar. There is an inherent aesthetic appeal that makes hydrogen cars so attractive to the casual environmentalist: By means of fuel cell conversion technology, they produce electricity to power the motor while exhausting only water.

But Hypercar notwithstanding, Lovins opines that the future of automotive energy lies within hydrogen. He reasons that in addition to cleaner exhaust, hydrogen can be catalyzed from numerous sources and can be transported far more safely than gasoline. However, some pundits are concerned that adopting hydrogen energy as the sole strategy for the issues facing the automobile’s future is problematic because of the lengthy time frame in which they are projected to become ubiquitous.

Furthermore, the present infrastructure for the distribution of hydrogen fuel sources or the production of hydrogen fuel cells is not only insufficient, but slow to develop. As such, fossil fuels are presently the main source for hydrogen production, which means that hydrogen vehicles do not successfully decouple the automobile from a fossil fuel economy. This is also widely inefficient because it will generate four times the carbon dioxide emissions generated by gasoline efficient automobiles.

Furthermore, compressing hydrogen for the purposes of liquid storage consumes even more energy. Also, both Joseph Romm and Tom Gage contend that there is something faintly ridiculous in generating electricity (through renewable sources or through fossil fuels) to manufacture hydrogen fuel cells: it adds an unnecessary step to something that could be as simple as connecting the automobile directly into the power grid, which is what hybrids propose to do, and effectively linking them with the diversity of energy sources that have already been embraced by the power generation industry.

Automakers are counting on finding cost efficient ways of producing hydrogen fuel cells through renewable energy sources and enable it to be market competitive with the best gasoline cars present today, but the problem is that counting on long-term solutions overlooks the urgency of retrofitting automobiles as soon as possible, not just for the sake of the environment, but the economy as well.

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