Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hydrogen Cars Drive Across USA

It's called Hydrogen Road Tour '08. A fleet of these alternative fuel vehicles, a combination of concept cars and production models from several manufacturers, are driving from Portland, Maine to Los Angeles to prove that hydrogen powered cars are an important part of the future.

The 4,000 mile, coast-to-coast tour is taking twelve days, and includes more than 30 stops, finishing in Santa Monica on Saturday, August 23. Perhaps the most important of these stops is in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, the Senators and Congressmen who should see and be impressed with these vehicles that use no gasoline whatsoever -- those legislators won't be there. They are all on vacation with their families, or busy raising money for their re-election campaigns.

The hydrogen road rally is a partnership of the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the National Hydrogen Association and a group of seven automobile manufacturers and hydrogen fuel providers.

Vehicles included models running on hydrogen fuel cells only, hydrogen-electric hybrids, and BMW's liquid hydrogen and gas bi-fuel model, a combo of sedans and SUVs. The collection also includes a combo of gas-powered production models retro-fitted to hydrogen, and prototypes designed from the ground up to be non-gasoline powered. BTW -- the initials FCEV mean it's a fuel cell/ elecrtic. From these manufacturers --
  • BMW 7 Series Hydrogen
  • Mercedes-Benz F-Cell
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Honda FCX Clarity
  • Hyundai Tucson FCEV
  • Kia Sportage EX FCEV
  • Volkswagen Hy-Motion Tiguan FCEV
  • Nissan X-Trail FCV
BMW is the only manufacturer with a hydrogen-powered luxury sedan that is already in production and available to consumers. It's the spectacular 7 Series Hydrogen, which switches seamlessly between hydrogen power and regular gasoline at the flip of a switch. I test drove it recently, and it performs equally well either way. Some 100 of these vehicles are being tested in Europe and the US by regular consumers and what the marketing industry calls 'opinion leaders'.

Honda's FCX Clarity sedan also is being road-tested by a combination of ordinary consumers and opinion leaders including celebrity and environmentalist Jamie Lee Curtis.

Volkswagen is participating with its concept HyMotion Tiguan, and will be providing daily updates and photos from the historic trip on a dedicated VW Hydrogen Tour website. Take a look. You can be sure I will be checking in periodically.

Hydrogen is not the entire answer to reducing dependency on foreign oil, but it certainly is part of the answer, along with hybrids, plug-in hybrids and compressed natural gas, or CNG.

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