General Motor’s HydroGen3
Hydrogen cars are exploding, at least figuratively, onto the automaker’s pedestal reveals this week in Detroit. General Motors is unveiling the Sequel, an eleven-inch skateboard that precedes the HydroGen3 in performance, acceleration, and drivability. All other Manufacturers have had batteries in their vehicles. General Motors had one in the HydroGen2, but not the HydroGen3, and they saw the difference in acceleration and have added a lithium-ion battery to the Sequel.
The lithium-ion battery has been used in electric cars and is well-known to those vehicle owners. According to Larry Burns; and listen carefully to this answer, when asked if they were considering the skateboard chassis they are using for their hydrogen car, would they consider using the same skateboard chassis for an electric car, since it has all the components necessary for such a vehicle Burns answered, “We have no plans to do so, but we wouldn’t rule it out if there were breakthroughs in electric cars.”
The well-to-wheel production and consumption of hydrogen are almost as inefficient as the internal combustion engine itself. What does this mean? Simple, the hydrogen (or fuel cell) vehicle produces no emissions except water and heat, the inefficiency is in the production of hydrogen itself. Breakthroughs are coming, and the main ones will start in California where Governor Schwarzenegger is solidly behind the hydrogen highway.
So is Honda. Rarely will you hear another Manufacturer say that a specific Manufacturer is in the lead, but Honda is at the front of hydrogen home refueling.
Honda is unveiling the Honda Civic GX, a natural gas version of their beloved and well sold Civic. Along with the Civic GX, for $2,000 extra you can buy “PHILL,” a home refueling system about the size of a payphone that fit’s into your garage. This is a stunning breakthrough in technology. At first glance you go, cool – I can refuel my car in my garage for about 85 cents compared to about $2.00 at the filling station. Consider this on a longer-term basis. Hydrogen is made from the electrolysis of water, the vibrating water separates the atoms and captures the hydrogen that can go into a fuel cell vehicle. All one needs to make this happen is gas and water. Hondas next project is the hydrogen home refueling station that takes your gas and water and creates hydrogen when needed so that no storage is necessary.
Expect Honda to bring this out the same time after the natural gas home refueling station has caught on. It is their next step Honda is not working on multi-million dollar platforms that require years of cooperation with mega-companies. They are adding fueling products to market in a timely fashion to support the vehicles that they are bringing to market. Other Manufacturers realize this and are silently applauding Honda for those efforts.
Will this be the best way to make hydrogen? No, but the best is the enemy of the good. Right now, this is a good way. The best way is from renewable energy, such as solar, biomass such as ethanol made out of cellulose (which creates less carbon dioxide than ethanol produced out of corn). There will need to be a hydrogen highway for people who travel across the country and can’t refuel their car each night at home, but having home refueling stations will take some of the stress out of the push for that. More and more people are asking each other the same question, what can we do to get off the grid, how can we get off the dependence on foreign oil? It will cost a little more money to do this, but if you are willing, there are companies out there working on the advanced technology to help. They are making breakthroughs each day.
There are things you can do to help. If you can afford solar panels and live in an area where they work, get them. It takes you off some of the electric grid. Hybrid cars are a stepping stone to the hydrogen fuel cell. They are also helping Manufacturers understand what is needed and what will work in fuel cell cars. Most Manufacturers have the same Nickel Metal Hydride batteries in their hybrid cars that they have in their fuel cell vehicles.
Lastly, you can ask the government to continue the tax break one gets when they buy an advanced technology vehicle, such as the hybrid. It’s not just the extra cost they are helping with, but the difference there might be in resale value. President Bush has given 1.7 billion over five years to assist in the research and development of hydrogen. It’s a paltry sum when you consider how much the auto manufacturers are spending to develop these vehicles themselves. But auto Manufacturers have tax deductions for research and development, and they make the profit if the car is a success. It’s the consumers that will pay more for this technology. The government would be wise to help support the demand side of these vehicles.