Years after everyone else, GM and Toyota execs skeptical about hydrogen cars
Top executives from General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. Tuesday expressed doubts about the viability of hydrogen fuel cells for mass-market production in the near term and suggested their companies are now betting that electric cars will prove to be a better way to reduce fuel consumption and cut tailpipe emissions on a large scale.
Really? Hydrogen cars of dubious viability? Who ever could have guessed that in a million years? And electric cars are “a better way to reduce fuel consumption and cut tailpipe emissions on a large scale”? I’m shocked, shocked that anyone could come to that conclusion.
Speaking at the Geneva auto show, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told reporters that recent advances in lithium-ion batteries indicate that future electric cars might be able to travel 300 miles, or nearly 500 kilometers, before they need to recharge, making them much more practical as a mass-market product.
“If we get lithium-ion to 300 miles, then you need to ask yourself, Why do you need fuel cells?” Mr. Lutz told reporters. He added that fuel-cell vehicles are still far too expensive to be considered for the mass market. “We are nowhere [near] where we need to be on the costs curve,” he said.
So who feels stupid about killing the electric car now? (I can hear Lutz on a new show, Law and Order: SUV, saying “I’m so sorry. It was all a terrible mistake. Yes, I … I … really love electric cars. I always have. I would never intentionally do anything to harm them. You’ve got to believe me … Of course, global warming is still a crock of shit. But EVs are my life!”
At a separate event at the show, Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe echoed the concern about the high costs of fuel cells and noted the lack of an infrastructure to produce and distribute hydrogen fuel to a wide swath of consumers. These factors leave him with the impression that “it will be difficult to see the spread of fuel cells in 10 years’ time,” Mr. Watanabe said.
The comments indicate a shift in the auto industry’s tone regarding fuel cells, especially at GM, which has spent the past two years highlighting its fuel-cell technologies as one of many initiatives it is pursuing to reduce petroleum consumption.
Looks like those premature obituaries for hydrogen fuel cell cars weren’t premature after all.