Cheap Hydrogen Cars In A Decade, Researchers Say

The research by Maric, who is internationally recognized for her work with fuel cells, thin films and nanomaterials technology, could not have come at a better time. Several major auto manufacturers are in the process of developing their own hydrogen fuel cell cars. Honda and Mercedes-Benz are already leasing them to customers in Southern California while Toyota and Hyundai plan to bring out their own models by 2015. General Motors, meanwhile, has produced a limited number of hydrogen-powered SUVs, some of which have been leased to the military.

Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative military

image via Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative

Much of the interest for hydrogen fuel cell cars has been thanks to California’s clean air rules, which have forced car buyers in the state to think more seriously about investing in non-polluting vehicles.

The state’s powerful Air Resources Board issued rules in February this year which, when finally approved, will mean that by 2025 one of seven new vehicles on California roads—1.4 million altogether—must be zero-emission. By 2050, it hopes, four of five cars will be powered by batteries or hydrogen.

Car makers say they have already managed to slash the cost of building their prototype fuel cell cars. Even so, with the prices starting at around $100,000 they remain way too expensive to be commercially viable.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.


  • Reply April 6, 2012

    Alex Lester

    Well there are a few other issues.  How are you going to produce the H2, I guess using water and electricity.
    How are you going to store the H2 so that it does not leak out?  No long term answer yet.  Still seems to be a less attractive alternative to better batteries.

    • Reply April 24, 2012


      “I guess using water and electricity.”

      You shouldnt guess.  Low temperature electrolysis is the least efficient way to produce hydrogen.  Large scale production would be more efficent by SMR (natural gas reforming 70% efficient) or by the SI process using solar or nuclear heat.

      There are now thousands of hydrogen powered vehicles (including cars, buses, forklifts) that store hydrogen in high pressure carbon fiber reinforced tanks.  This system works, but cheaper systems are still being pursued.

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