Just as promised, beginning in January General Motors will be providing 100 people with the Equinox Fuel Cell crossover, their answer to Honda's FCX Clarity, for free, three-month tests (No, they won't get to keep the cars). While Honda will soon be leasing the Clarity to select customers in Southern California, G.M. will be giving the Equinox to people that have been "active in its online forums for fuel-cell vehicles." (They must also live near a hydrogen filling station.) It may seem that Honda is farther along with fuel cell technology because they are actually leasing the Clarity, but the fact is that both companies are still looking to "pile up real-world miles, data and owner feedback." In fact, G.M. requires the testers to provide feedback, the Clarity must be returned when the lease is up, and neither vehicle can be purchased at a dealership (that isn't expected to happen until at least 2011). And even if it were available at your local G.M. dealer, the Equinox is currently valued at a cool $1 million each, putting it just out of the average person's price range!
So why should we care that major automakers are testing hydrogen vehicles in very limited numbers?Well, we should care for several reasons:
1) Nothing does a better job of dispelling the fear that hydrogen is dangerous than having hydrogen vehicles safely driving down the road.
2) We've been hearing for a while now that the hydrogen economy is a dead-end. Aside from the notion that hydrogen is a dangerous and impractical energy carrier, the hydrogen economy has suffered from a catch-22: no one wants to build the infrastructure to carry hydrogen unless there are cars that can use hydrogen, and no one wants to build the cars without the infrastructure. By putting vehicles on the road, G.M. and Honda are creating competition, improving the technology, and creating demand for more hydrogen infrastructure. Already, the Clarity gets 68 miles per gallon equivalent, compared to 43 MPG for the Equinox. With a range of around 200 miles per tank for both vehicles, we can expect increasing competition to go farther on a kilogram of pressurized hydrogen.
3) The more alternatives we have to fossil fuels, the better. We all know that there are still problems with how we produce hydrogen, but in the short-term hydrogen vehicles can lower emissions, and the potential is there in the long-term to create an energy economy based on renewables, with hydrogen as the storage medium.
4) The technological innovation required to produce fuel cell vehicles will create green jobs and ensure that the Big Three remain competitive.
5) Economies of scale: more hydrogen vehicles mean a lower cost-per-unit.
Via: ::NY Times