Electric cars running on hydrogen, creating their own electricity as they drive, are officially no longer the cars of the distant future. As Hyundai Motor America president and CEO John Frafcik said last week: “The future is much closer than you think.” Come spring, you can go to a select Southern California Hyundai dealer (one near the growing hydrogen station infrastructure), put down $2999 and drive away in a Tucson fuel cell car, a compact SUV with water as its only tailpipe emission, a 300-mile range on a tank of free (for the life of the $499/month loan) fuel, and free Concierge Service (like that offered with the Equus model). Honda and Toyota will soon follow with their own fuel cell models.
To sum up the day-long program and paraphrase the philosopher Heraclitus, the only thing constant about the future will be change. The 100-plus year-old auto industry is heading into uncharted territory as it grapples with change inside and out of the vehicle. Electronic technology promises to radically alter the interaction of the driver and vehicle, even as the propulsion technology and fuel shifts to new ground and, in some cases, necessitating new lifestyles. One thing is clear, “Future Cars, Future Technology” will be an ever-changing topic for years to come.
Many automakers consider fuel cell vehicles the most “elegant” solution to the challenge of replacing the internal combustion engine, which is why they’re banding together to make sure they come to market.
California currently has 2,500 daily riders on hydrogen vehicles including cars, light trucks, delivery vans and buses. New California regulation will require major public transit operators to have over 1,000 hydrogen fuel cell buses in service before 2022. Early fleet adopters of hydrogen are often major users of solar power.
UPS delivers 15 million packages per day in over 200 countries. UPS has over 100,000 vehicles and 600 airplanes. UPS employs over 400,000 people. UPS is the ninth largest airline on the planet. They are experts at reducing the cost and fuel usage of moving millions of packages. 1,500 of those vehicles use alternative fuel, savings millions of gallons of oil and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2000, UPS alternative-fuel vehicles have logged 108 million route miles — enough to circle the Earth more than 4,300 times.
Natural gas is likely to become the number one source of energy globally, surpassing current number one – oil. Natural gas is the fuel of choice for modern electric power plants, being cleaner than coal.
When Coke and Pepsi were in the middle of their diet wars, California was an early battle ground. Now millions of Californians are being targeted as early adopters for a low carbon fuel diet. More miles, less carbon emission. It is the law. Executive Order S-1-07, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), calls for a reduction of at least 10 percent in the carbon intensity of California’s transportation fuels by 2020.
Each day, over one thousand people ride on three hydrogen fuel cell buses in Oakland and in environmentally conscious Berkeley. By 2012, five thousand people daily will be riding on twelve such buses. The only emission is water vapor. The electricity to power the reformation and the compression of the hydrogen gas is from solar power.
Several hundred engineers, researchers, and managers shared fuel cell technology, trends, and market success at the Fuel Cell 2007 Conference. In some areas, fuel cells generate millions in revenues from commercial deployment; in other areas, fuel cells are early in research and development. A number of commercial products involve hydrogen PEM fuel cells. Business is steady for molten carbonate and phosphoric acid fuel cells. There was optimism about solid oxide fuel cells using a variety of fuels including landfill methane, natural gas, diesel, JP-8, and biomass.
Q’orianka Kilcher is now turning heads as she silently drives by in her new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the Honda FCX. “I feel it is important to take initiative toward seeking positive solutions and stepping up the quest toward clean energy and environmental preservation,” said Q’orianka Kilcher.
The United States Marine Corp (USMC), like all branches of the Department of Defense (DoD), is exploring the use of hydrogen and other forms of clean transportation. One major motivation is that the fuel which runs U.S. Defense operations comes from oil. That oil is increasingly controlled by countries that have declared their animosity to the United States. If military fuel is controlled by the enemy, then our ability to defend this country is crippled
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $49 million in new funding for hydrogen fuel cell buses. The FTA goal is to have hydrogen fuel cell buses represent 10 percent of new U.S. transit bus purchases in the year 2015. These exciting awards include a new generation of fuel cells, hybrid electric propulsion, auxiliary power, and lighter aerodynamic bus designs.
Everyone can make a difference in achieving energy independence and a more healthy future. Consider these ten technologies the next time you select a vehicle for your fleet or personal use.