It’s no secret that the White House and Department of Energy (DOE) consider hydrogen cars to be the ugly stepchild of alternative fuel vehicles. The DOE keeps trying to defund hydrogen R&D despite what the car companies think and despite what the bi-partisan U. S. Senators think.
A couple of weeks ago I had talked about how a group of U. S. Senators was revolting against the prospect of the DOE slashing the hydrogen budget by 40-percent. But, one has to wonder, that even if the DOE does have the funds for hydrogen research and development will they make a true effort to put these funds to good use?
The DOE has just implemented a new program called the U.S. DRIVE – Driving Research and Innovation for Vehicle efficiency and Energy sustainability. This program replaces the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership program developed under the previous administration.
One of the missions of the old FreedomCAR initiative was to “enable transition to a hydrogen transportation economy.” According to the DOE the new mission is a bit different, “U.S. DRIVE partners work together on an extensive portfolio of advanced automotive and energy infrastructure technologies, including batteries and electric-drive components, advanced combustion engines, lightweight materials, and fuel cells and hydrogen technologies. “
This sounds all well and good. It sounds like hydrogen cars still have a place at the table. But let’s take a closer look at just who is at the table for a second:
The full list of U.S. DRIVE partners includes:
• Auto industry – United States Council for Automotive Research LLC (the collaborative research company for Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors) and Tesla Motors
• Energy industry – BP America, Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Corporation, and Shell Oil Products US
• Electric utility industry – DTE Energy, Southern California Edison, and the Electric Power Research Institute
One of the conspicuous additions to the Auto industry group is Tesla Motors which only produces electric cars. The Energy industry partners were dubious under FreedomCAR and are just as dubious under U. S. Drive in that Big Oil is represented (why?) and hydrogen fuel companies like Air Products and Praxair have at best a place at the children’s table, (downstairs and out of site) or in fact, no place at all.
Also notice all of the companies from the Electric utility industry that are listed. These companies have nothing to do with hydrogen and fuel cells but everything to do with the competition, which are battery electric vehicles.
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have all stated that hydrogen cars are viable and these three companies have put millions of research dollars behind developing prototype H2 cars. But, where are the supporting companies – the one’s building the hydrogen infrastructure? Why is there no place at the table for them?
Trying to appear to have an interest in hydrogen cars is not the same as actually having an interest. It looks to me like the DOE is once again going through the motions, dragging their feet with our tax money rather than going full-steam ahead and making a real effort to turn emerging H2 technology into commercial viability. A dog without teeth is just a sad little lapdog and that’s what the DOE is for the White House in regard to hydrogen cars.