The U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, has changed his mind about using hydrogen fuel cells. There is an abundance of natural gas (and thus hydrogen) that is being extracted from shale through newer processes, and hydrogen fuel leaves a low carbon footprint.
When Mr. Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, was put in place as the Secretary of the Department of Energy for the Obama administration, he concentrated his efforts on automotive research for battery electric vehicles due to a “fuel crisis.” That concentration was so focused that the proponents of hydrogen fuel started an outcry on their behalf. They said the Secretary was “starving their research efforts.”
The biggest automakers, Hyundai, BMW, Daimler, Honda, Toyota, Ford, and General Motors will welcome that change of heart on behalf of the Secretary since they claim that they can have fuel cell cars ready for the showroom by 2015. Although research and testing is still ongoing for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the development of battery-powered vehicles is still ongoing. Those vehicles are the “Plan A” for green vehicles and the “Plan B” is the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that are yet to come. That appears to be a great plan for a cleaner environment.
It has to be said that electric vehicles and hybrids are not selling at the rates that were projected. That fact is true in most of the world markets. The DOE estimated a target cost for batteries at $125 per kilowatt, but the current cost is in the $500 to $600 range. That’s above what some consumers are willing to pay. With natural gas in abundance, the hydrogen fuel cells are an emerging technology that Secretary Chu is happy with. He states that the new technology means that “The economics are looking good. The carbon footprint looks much better.”