Missing from the Obama administration’s budget request for the Department of Energy was funding for research on hydrogen fuel-cell cars. Touted by the Bush administration in 2003 as our “Get Out of an Energy Crisis Free” card, fuel-cell cars have had a quick, hard fall from grace.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu outlined some of the reasons why the administration will drop hydrogen in favor of other alternative fuels that it says will prove more practical in the next 10-20 years.
“We’re very devoted to delivering solutions — not just science papers, but solutions,” Chu said at a news conference.
The cost of hydrogen fuel-cell cars and the logistics of developing an infrastructure that could support those vehicles have both proved daunting technical challenges. In fact, developing a fuel-cell infrastructure is more or less economically impossible right now, unless you want to pay $100,000 for your car, fund the refueling station build-up with your taxes, and watch on the nightly news every time a hydrogen tanker truck has an accident that causes a devastating explosion. This blog has pointed out many times just how far away we are from living in a world of hydrogen cars.
The DOE will maintain funding for stationary fuel cells, which could act as batteries for an improved power grid (which will — knock on wood — power the plug-in electric vehicles that most scientists are betting on now). They also chose to restore funding to FutureGen, a power plant prototype that will turn coal into gas while sequestering the carbon dioxide underground.
U.S. Drops Research Into Fuel Cells for Cars (New York Times)