When Barack Obama first entered office, he came out swinging in favor of electric cars, promising a million electrified vehicles on the road by 2015. The likelihood of that actually happening is the same as Democrats and Republicans coming together to solve…anything. With electric cars entering a lukewarm (at best) market, President Obama is shifting gears with renewed interest and support in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In fact, it was two of President Obama aides, one of whom, Heather Zical, noted that hydrogen fuel cells represent an “opportunity” for improving fuel economy. Hydrogen fuel cells were favored by Bush, but Energy Secretary Stephen Chu slashed funding for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles under Obama, funnelling that money towards electric cars.
Unfortunately, EV’s haven’t really panned out, with cars like the Chevy Volt becoming heavily politicized. In January, Obama outlined an “all-of-the-above” energy plan, and in recent days hydrogen fuel cells have been the hot topic. At my recent visit to the Forward with Ford conference, hydrogen fuel cells were mentioned as a very real possibility for fueling future vehicles. In our recent review of the Honda Fit EV’s, the engineers responsible for Honda’s EV also felt that hydrogen was the future.
Obviously, hydrogen fuel cells still face the same issues as battery-electric vehicles, including an under-developed infrastructure and crazy-high costs. Still, Honda, Mercedes, and GM have all pledged to put hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road, and hydrogen is even getting some love on the race track.. Could a renewed push by the Obama administration make hydrogen a more viable option for automakers?