September 30, 2005 5:59 AM PDT

Road rally hawks hydrogen cars

BERKELEY, Calif.--No more oil changes. No more pricey gas. No more trips to the service station.

That is, unless your car needs its fuel-cell stack adjusted.

Most drivers would call this crazy talk, but it's the sales pitch for hydrogen-powered cars coming from big carmakers such as General Motors, Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan. From Thursday to Saturday, the companies are driving $1 million-plus prototypes of fuel cell cars, or the "car of the future" as they call it, throughout Northern California, promoting the benefits of fuel cell technology, which, among other things, if widely adopted would remove U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

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"The future of transportation is from electric, not combustion. The advantage of that is you get rid of all your shock complaints, throttle response complaints, et cetera. All the manufacturers are betting on some alternative to foreign oil," according to a representative from Nissan's fuel cell technology team.

The media and public were invited here Thursday to the Golden Gate Fields to test-drive 20 hydrogen-powered vehicles ranging from a small Honda SUV to a military-grade General Motors truck. And according to representatives of the California Fuel Cell Partnership's 2005 Road Rally, the 20 cars comprised roughly a third of all such vehicles in existence in the state.

But if California lawmakers and carmakers have their way, the efficient, clean-running autos will rival oil-powered vehicles by 2010. The California Hydrogen Highway, backed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, proposes that 50 to 100 fueling stations be built in the state by that time.

The goal of this week's fourth-annual rally: to warm the public up to the idea.

"We believe the long-term future is going to be hydrogen. And this kind of vehicle will do to today's cars and trucks what today's cars and trucks did to the horse and buggy of 150 years ago," said Dave Barthmuss, manager of GM's public policy, referring to the company's "Hydrogen 3" minivan on display.

All of the cars being showcased in the rally use hydrogen, with fuel cells that bind oxygen and hydrogen to create an electrical current that powers the motor. The natural byproduct emitted from the tailpipe is water. The process reduces local air pollution and reduces reliance on a depleting natural resource, oil. However, the factories that produce the hydrogen emit carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. As a result, some researchers have proposed powering future vehicles with solar panels.

GM's "Hydrogen 3," a compact minivan that seats five, operates on liquid and compressed hydrogen. It can store the hydrogen at up to 10,000 PSI; and at that pressure, it is a liquid that can power the vehicle for 250 miles.

In April, the U.S. military began testing GM's modified fuel-cell Chevrolet Silverado, which can generate 188 kilowatts and 317 foot-pounds of torque, about the same motor torque generated by GM's 5.3 liter V-8 engine.

8 comments

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Every five years, there are a new crop
of "alternative powered cars". Yet more and more cars are on the road using plan old gas. This will keep going on until gas hits $7/gal.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
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Yeah buddy!
Get some of those H filling stations here in AZ. I'll take a truck running on Hydrogen in a heat beat.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
Public isn't the hurdle
The goal of this week's fourth-annual rally: to warm the public up to the idea. I don't think the hurdle is the public. GM said they were going to make an electric car for decades...I guess they will finally get around to it now. Most of the people I know are very receptive to alternative types of automobiles they just want Detroit, the government, whoever to stop posturing and studying and prototyping and get in gear (pun intended)!!!
Posted by jsweatte (2 comments )
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Politics over progress...
The Gov't. required that all automakers have "alternative energy
- hybrid" cars as a percentage of its' car line by 2006 under the
Clinton Administration.
George Bush killed that requirement when he stole the election &
became the President. (Big Oil man from Texas...?)

The Big 3 automakers in America are obviously in bed with &
deeply invested with Big Oil. They have been pushing big gas
guzzling SUVs onto the public as "fun, safe, recreational
vehicles".
Now they are so big that some are classified as "commercial
grade trucks" which are exempt from pollution & gas MPG gov't.
requirements.
Big Oil is making record profits & they own the President & the
Big 3 auto makers.
This is all about politics & power NOT about technology &
ecology.
Even during Bush's recent speech about being "conservative"
with your auto trips & gas, he blasted the "environmentalist"
about holding back refineries being built which has cause a
supply & demand problem in America.
BS-Bush. If the American Government challenged the Automobile
Industry to "land on the moon" with NEW renewable / hybrid cars
with tax incentives for the Big 3 Auto makers, then America
would be leading the world in new technologies which we could
EXPORT for a profit & not be dependent on foreign oil today.
Millions of hybrid cars would be on the roads today.

INSTEAD, JAPAN leads the hybrid car sales & technology & they
cannot make them fast enough.

How much energy does it take to make a hydrogen fuel cell
compared to the amount of energy being saved by the car?

Funny, the same companies that drill for oil & natural gas are
drilling for hydrogen gas too... coincidence?
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
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politics over progress
When do liberals get off your relentless attacks on Bush and come up with something original? I bought 2 small cars at the end of 2005. Guess what the big American 3 had when I stopped in their show rooms? A stupid looking cavalier, neon and a focus. That's it! That's the choice they offered. But when you look at foriegn cars everyone has not only small cars but all of them were cute looking, efficient and each one had several models to choose from. Roll back on gas milage only helped the big three. Not the foriegn car makers! If not for that thousands of auto workers would have been laid off from all three American car companies. All americans should get off their ass instead of complaining should replace their cars with Hybrids, or small cars. Even if I was pissed off at Bush, oil companies or GM, ford or Chrysler, I could not buy a decent small american car . And you know what? GM cars cost couple thousand dollars more than similar foriegn car because they have to provide retirement equal to their salaries. Finally they came around cutting or buying out the pension plans of x-employees. So if I bought a GM car I would be supporting their retirees who by the way made a hell lot more money than average american worker back in those days. So you liberals and alike..stop blaming everybody's mother for you problems and when it is time to replace you car go buy a small car. This the only way market forces work to get us fuel efficient cars.
Posted by franny195 (4 comments )
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Hydrogen Economy - Haaaah !
I work for a manufacturing company that uses hydrogen in part of the manufacturing process. Well, Katrina as some of you have heard made a mess of shipping in the Gulf. Since most of the hydrogen moves through that port, we could not get any hydrogen. Yes, there is a hydrogen shortage crisis. Currently we are cracking Anhydrous Ammonia into hydrogen for our processes. Garnering hydrogen from the most commonly thought of source, water, is terribly energy intensive / costly.

So, I do not get it with the on-paper-looks-good-hydrogen economy. Unless something revolutionary happens it will be another ethanol in gasoline, let the taxpayers subsidize the heck out of the process rather than free market place.

Efficiency is the answer. Put a heavy yearly tax/fee on vehicles that get less than 20 mpg. Use that money to find a solution. Push the CAFE standards up 4-5 mpg. That will reduce our use of foreign oil by millions of barrels a day.
Posted by mark fox (9 comments )
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Good reading for conspiracy theorists!
Makes good reading for conspiracy theorists!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
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One step at a time?
Perhaps we will see high mileage gas vehicles like the SMART car or OBVIO from Brazil first as well as electric vehicles. Then as we build ou hydrogen infrastructure we will shift to hydrogen vehicles.
Posted by (1 comment )
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