A parade of hydrogen concept vehicles is undertaking a two-week sweep across the U.S. The Hydrogen Road Tour, sponsored by nine automakers, the Department of Energy, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the National Hydrogen Association, and the Department of Transportation, began on Aug. 11 in Portland, Maine and will arrive in Los Angeles, Calif. on Aug. 23, making 31 stops along the way (Smyrna, Tenn: Aug. 18 is your lucky day.)
The tour features a familiar cast of characters: the Honda FCX Clarity, the Toyota Highlander FCHV, the GM Chevy Equinox FCV, the Volkswagen Touran and Tiguan HyMotion; and some less well-known: the BMW Hydrogen Series 7, the Daimler F-Cell, the Hyundai Tucson FCV, the Kia Sportage FCV, and the Nissan X-Trail FCV.
With the exception of a pro-hydrogen guest essay by Geoffrey Holland, Gristmill reactions to hydrogen-powered vehicles have been conflicted (at best) to downright damning. The controversy over hydrogen surrounds the fact that while the element may be universally abundant, it is usually found in tightly bonded water and natural gas molecules for which the hydrogen extraction is very expensive and energy-intensive.
The main difference in the ride from what you might expect today is the sound. It’s something of a wind, but not a whine, as air is sucked in through the grill. That was without the radio on, but it wasn’t distracting by any means and we conversed normally the whole time. It had plenty of go, as I said, and quickly smoothed out to a comfortable ride. If not for the difference in tone coming from the drive system, you really wouldn’t know you weren’t in a standard gasoline powered vehicle.
You can build a Hydrogen car, but what good is it if you can’t charge, or fill it up? And car makers and energy suppliers are two separate entities with different goals and priorities. If we want their capital, as opposed to only the taxpayer’s dime to fund the massive investment to get us where we want to go, we may have to incent for initial investment, as well as take into account that these are on going business concerns responsible for employing many people and meeting even a larger number of varied consumer demands.