Automakers have invested billions of dollars in developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Major auto manufacturers may see these vehicles hit the retail market by 2015, but the Obama administration isn't as confident.
“We feel like the technology is virtually ready to go,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president of product planning at Hyundai.
Hydrogen cars are seen as a possible solution to reducing the US oil dependence. But recently the Obama administration cut the proposed budget for a key hydrogen program for the third year in a row by 40 percent. Instead, the administration has encouraged and championed more hybrid and electric cars.
Robert Walker, a member of the federal hydrogen technology advisory committee, along with Byron McCormick (former director of GM's hydrogen fuel cell team) have both resigned in protest.
“I resigned because of the closed-mindedness of the administration on these matters,” McCormick said. “The dismissive attitude and seeming unwillingness to talk or discuss or even share any real technical basis for believing fuel cells and hydrogen will or won’t work caused me to think I was wasting my time under the current circumstances.
“I just feel sad they’ll be proven so very wrong by history.”
One of the main perceived problems with hydrogen cars is that they would require refueling stations. And as of right now, it is unclear how refueling stations will be financed and built.
In comparison, electric cars can be charged at home or work, and do not require commercially built stations. But, electric cars are much more expensive to manufacture than gasoline cars of equivalent size, making them less desirable as a long term solution to consumers. Precise price estimates for hydrogen cars are unavailable.
Obama has set a goal of getting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, a shift from President George W. Bush, who touted the hydrogen car.
The Obama administration has supported $2.4 billion in spending for electric vehicle battery and component manufacturing plants and other electric car projects. It has also provided more than $2.5 billion in loans to Nissan, Tesla and Fisker to establish electric vehicle manufacturing facilities.
Source: Automakers promote hydrogen cars: Obama administration remains skeptical