Hydrogen is the quiet giant of alternative fuels. It is by far the most promising alternative fuel in a variety of ways, but there are a number of obstacles to widespread adoption. Yet major automakers have continued plowing forward with hydrogen fuel cell research, and GM is at the forefront. The General says it is on track to deliver hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to dealerships by 2016. Is it bluster, or are they for real?
GM has delivered hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to a wide variety of customers for testing as part of Project Driveway. GM has also given a couple of hydrogen vehicles to the Navy to try out as well. Yet it seems like GM has been testing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles foreverrrrr…and the testing will probably continue.
Yet GM is holding tight (at least for now) to the 2015/2016 timeframe for the delivery of actual production vehicles to dealerships, the same time frame as automakers like Toyota. Granted, sales will be limited to highly localized geographic areas with an established hydrogen fueling infrastructure. There has been talk of building hydrogen highways up and down the coastlines of the U.S., but so far no such fueling system exists. If hydrogen vehicles are to make any market penetration at all, there will have to be places to refuel them.
Fuel cell vehicles will also have to come down in price. While automakers like Honda are leasing limited quantities of their FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to the public, the cost can be around $850 a month. That is more than most people can afford to spend on a car. Then there are companies like Hyundai, who have pledged to bring hydrogen cars to market, but keep moving the date back.
Can GM bring the price down, while building the infrastructure up, in order to get hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to market in the next four years? I think it can be done, and should be done, especially given that electric cars aren’t panning out as hoped. But what say you? Is GM and other automakers serious about bringing fuel cell vehicles to market soon? Or are they just stringing us along?