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U.S. Car Makers Push for Hydrogen Infrastructure

Having helped kill the electric car last time around, promoters of fuel cell cars are having a tougher sell now

1 min read

Manufacturers of cars in the United States are leaning on the government to step up support for hydrogen infrastructure, reports the Bloomberg news service. Car makers including GM, Toyota, Honda, Daimler, Hyundai, Kia, Renault, and Nissan have made it known that they expect to be able to manufacture fuel cell cars running on hydrogen at competitive costs by 2015; the first four say their immediate goal is to shave the extra cost of a hydrogen car versus a regular car to $3,600.

Early in this decade, leading U.S. automakers ditched plans to deploy electric cars after the U.S. government threw its enthusiastic support behind the vision of a "hydrogen economy"--one in which motor vehicles would be powered by fuel cells--which turned out to be much too optimistic. This year Energy Secretary Chu slashed funding for development of fuel cel cars, to some dismay, which prompted Congress to restore funds. Germany's official goal is to have 1,000 hydrogen fueling stations in place by 2015, and in Japan 13 oil and gas companies have joined forces to develop a hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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