Yesterday, President Bush held a press conference to throw out some ideas on how we can solve this nation’s short-term and long-term issues with high gasoline prices.
This has gotten me to thinking (uh oh, there I go again) about the beginnings of the hydrogen revolution and how supply and demand of hydrogen will most likely be a big issue for hydrogen cars and vehicles. Since hydrogen is a commodity like gasoline, will consumers, especially at the beginnings of the hydrogen car and H2 supply rollout, feel the pinch at the pumps? If so, what can be done to ease this pain?
I started thinking that perhaps one of the best solutions for hydrogen cars is hybrid car technology, especially plug-in hybrids. While automakers have been reluctant to develop plug-in technology (their marketing departments have pummeled consumers with the message that you don’t have to plug-in hybrids), a few rogue engineers in Northern California have done just that.
Engineers from the California Cars Initiative in Corte Madera, California have fitted a Toyota Prius with a series of batteries and squeezed 80 mpg out of the vehicle just by plugging it in overnight. Others have estimated that with future battery technology this could be extended to ranges of up to 250 mpg.
What does this mean for hydrogen cars? Since hydrogen cars will face the same supply and demand pressures as any vehicle based upon a commodity does, it would make good sense to extend the driving range as much as possible and require the least amount of fuel possible.
With hydrogen cars, one of the biggest issues is storage. How do you keep the size and weight of the hydrogen tanks at reasonable measurements and squeeze as much hydrogen as possible into them? One solution is to squeeze less hydrogen. By developing plug-in hydrogen vehicles with high-tech, high range battery packs that are recharged with regenerative braking and plug-in technology, it would require much less hydrogen to be compressed into the vehicle’s tanks.
This would solve an engineering issue and a supply and demand issue. The key question is, will there be some meaningful technological breakthroughs in battery technology in the coming years so that plug-in hydrogen car technology will become a reality. We’ll just have to keep our eyes and ears open on this one.