With the Big 3 auto bailout impending as early as sometime this week, one has to wonder if the individual GM, Ford and Chrysler hydrogen car programs will be affected? Of course, right now whatever moves the three automakers make in regard to restructuring, reorganizing and getting into the black is just speculation.
General Motors has its Project Driveway to consider, Ford has been developing both ICE and fuel cell vehicles and even after the split from Daimler, Chrysler earlier this past year unveiled its ecoVoyager concept fuel cell vehicle.
So, here are a couple of reasons that one or more of these automakers may just scale back their hydrogen vehicle programs. First, hybrid electric vehicles (HEV’s) electric vehicles (EV’s) and plug-in electric vehicles (PHEV’s) seem to be in favor now.
To make their pitch in Washington DC, the Big 3 CEO’s ditched their corporate jets this time around, in favor of a Detroit-based road trip in their companies’ respective hybrid vehicles. Ford CEO Alan Mulally drove an Escape Hybrid SUV, GM CEO Rick Wagoner drove a Chevy Malibu Hybrid to start then switched over to a Volt PHEV test car for the final leg and Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli pulled up in an Aspen Hybrid SUV that is being discontinued shortly.
A week ago, I talked about how President-Elect Barack Obama seems to favor EV’s and PHEV’s saying that he wants government vehicles to lead the way with this technology. A second reason that one or more of the Big 3 automakers may scale back in hydrogen vehicle development right now is to put more resources into the making of HEV’s, EV’s and PHEV’s as a short-term solution.
They won’t have to worry about the building of a hydrogen infrastructure as part of their plans to stay solvent. They will only have to worry about the things they can control, such as making the batteries work properly and designing cars that people want to buy.
Now, the one reason each automaker may not scale back its hydrogen program is because first the money allocated will not make or break the company at this point. Second, it makes good business sense to keep working on the projects that will help make the company solvent and competitive in the future.
But, because it’s hard to know what people will do in a crisis, we’ll have to wait and see just how the hydrogen R&D parts of the Big 3 automakers weathers this storm.