Next week, I will spend a few hours test driving one of a hundred experiemental GM Chevy Equinox powered by hydrogen fuel cells. These vehicles promise zero emissions are represent one of several alternatives to gasoline. The problem, as an MIT professor friend of mine pointed out recently, is that the pure diatomic hydrogen to power fuel cells either comes from fossil fuels like natural gas or coal and requires significant energy in the refining process. Indeed, where is all this pure hydrogen going to come from? And what will it cost? The Dept. of Energy (DOE) in 2005 doubled its target for hydrogen costs based on a GGE or gasoline gallon equivalent calculation.
The more you dig into what will power vehicles in the future, the more daunting the challenge seems to become. If you accept the DOE’s target price of $2-$3 GGE for hydrogen (before taxes!!), driving won’t be cheap even if we could power our engines with dirt. The only hope for cheap transportation is a purely electric car that you plug in at night and the power comes from solar panels or a wind turbine. Then again, none of power sourcees are cheap either!
I am looking foward to driving the Equinox and learning more about hydrogen. I also take comfort in the fact a lot of smart people are working on what will replace fossil fuels or substantially lessen our dependence on them. And you can expect a full report in video, words and photos on my driving experience and continuing indepth coverage on renewable fuels.