Hydrogen car timelines have always amused me to some degree. It seems like everybody and their mother wants to weigh in and predict a date that hydrogen cars will roll off the assembly lines en masse.
Advocates such as myself, predict a short timeline and timeframe (such as 5 years) with the caveat that there must be enough public outcry and political will to make this happen. Critics of hydrogen cars will generally pick a long timeline such as the year 2050 because they don’t see the political will or see too many antagonistic forces at work for a shorter timeframe.
A few years ago, companies like GM and Honda said they would be ready to roll cars out in mass production by 2010. This timeframe has slipped a bit to 2012 – 2015 simply because there will be no significant fueling station infrastructure in place by 2010.
By 2015, Mercedes-Benz has stated that it plans to get rid of their gasoline powered vehicles in favor of alternative fuel vehicles including those powered by hydrogen. According to Science Daily there could be 2 million hydrogen cars on the road by the year 2020.
This is good news since according to General Motors, once 1 million hydrogen cars are on the road, they will be cost competitive with standard gasoline-powered vehicles because of economies of scale. To give some perspective, the Toyota Prius just crossed the 1 million sales mark this year.
News agency Reuters quotes the National Research Council as saying that hydrogen fuel cell cars are still 15 years away (the year 2023) from being viable technology. This is due to the infrastructure that needs to be built or the high cost of platinum that I had talked about yesterday.
The Green Fuels Forecast looked at the same National Research Council study and came up with the date of 2030 for hydrogen cars to be viable. Their thinking was that 25 million fuel cell vehicles would be on the road by this date.
An article in Lubbock Online looked at the exact same study and put the date out to 2050 as when hydrogen cars would be competitive with gasoline-powered vehicles. Each of these last three resources picked out a part of the study’s timeline that suited their needs and viewpoint.
But, the aspect about predicting the future is that one is often wrong in making such predictions. New technological breakthroughs, new social, economic and political developments and new ways of thinking often change the foretold pathways. As Yogi Berra once said, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” For hydrogen, there will be many forks ahead that will change the future transportation landscape and these will be the kinds of forks no one will be able to predict ahead of time.