Some time ago I ran into a news article about the Chevrolet Equinox fuel-cell car and I wondered why is this car not available yet, and why is everyone talking about electric cars that have to be plugged-in every 40 miles or so, when something that makes more sense is already available.
It is indeed strange, since Chevrolet itself touts the fuel cell technology as
Because hydrogen fuel cells use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions other than water vapor. They’re a sustainable technology for a better environment. And they can ultimately reduce our dependence on petroleum.
on its website.
According to many, among them Kim Reynold of Motortrend, the problem is mostly not with the car but with the infrastructure of gas stations. They are for most part non-existant and a bit unpractical for daily use.
The problem is not only building the hydrogen gas stations. In fact that’s the least of the problems, since some existing gas stations can be refitted to be able to handle hydrogen. The problem is more in the distribution of hydrogen.
The U.S. Department of Energy writes on its site hydrogen needs to be liquefied for a transport over longer distances, i.e. more than 200 miles, to be feasible. For that, the hydrogen needs to be cooled to -253o Celsius (-423o Fahrenheit). This is costly and requires a lot of engery.
However, this only applies if the hydrogen is produced centrally and then needs to be transported to the gas stations over a long distance.
It appears that it is also possible to produce the hydrogen directly at the gas station which would cut the distribution costs but would increase the production costs. They don’t give figures however and I am sure that problem can be solved.
This information is also available as a pdf document named “Hydrogen Distribution and Delivery” and can be downloaded here.
Judging from the information I have found there doesn’t seem to be an unsurmoutable problem holding this up. It is more the political will that’s lacking. This is strange as that technology looks like the silver-bullet for the auto industry and could well be used as a stimulus project that makes actual sense.