Government Gives Up on Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars

GM-fuel-cell-car Missing from the Obama administration’s budget request for the Department of Energy was funding for research on hydrogen fuel-cell cars. Touted by the Bush administration in 2003 as our “Get Out of an Energy Crisis Free” card, fuel-cell cars have had a quick, hard fall from grace.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu outlined some of the reasons why the administration will drop hydrogen in favor of other alternative fuels that it says will prove more practical in the next 10-20 years.

“We’re very devoted to delivering solutions — not just science papers, but solutions,” Chu said at a news conference.

The cost of hydrogen fuel-cell cars and the logistics of developing an infrastructure that could support those vehicles have both proved daunting technical challenges. In fact, developing a fuel-cell infrastructure is more or less economically impossible right now, unless you want to pay $100,000 for your car, fund the refueling station build-up with your taxes, and watch on the nightly news every time a hydrogen tanker truck has an accident that causes a devastating explosion. This blog has pointed out many times just how far away we are from living in a world of hydrogen cars.

The DOE will maintain funding for stationary fuel cells, which could act as batteries for an improved power grid (which will — knock on wood — power the plug-in electric vehicles that most scientists are betting on now). They also chose to restore funding to FutureGen, a power plant prototype that will turn coal into gas while sequestering the carbon dioxide underground.

U.S. Drops Research Into Fuel Cells for Cars (New York Times)


Paul Wampum

Well, duh! This is the first and only thing
Obama has done right, if only to accomdate the
economic crisis. Electric cars aren't the
way to go either. Go with higher efficiency
gas powered models that are available today.
Delay your purchase if you possibly can, as
there are gobs of efficiencies the manufacturers
can and will make when pressed to it.

Always kinda knew that hydrogen vehicles were a bit off.

Saw one of those fuel cell Equinoxes a few months back though, being towed by a Tahoe Hybrid.


That one you saw on the trailer was probably one of the ones sent to Washington so that GM could plead it's case for viability.

Max Reid

30 years of research in Fuel Cells has created hardly 1,000 vehicles worldwidw.

Plugin-hybrid has already been launched in China while EV's are coming closer to reality.

Meanwhile there are nearly 2 million Hybrid vehicles on the worlds roads today.

Electrics are the way to go.

UK Diesel Driver

I love clean fuels...

Problem is that hydrogen might burn cleanly but needs masses of energy to seperate H2O into H and O.

And with regards to electricity? Over here just over half the electricity is lost in transit (resistance from wires creates heat, ie energy loss). If you add to that the losses from the engine and the power plant you will find that a tesla powered by a coal plant is not as clean as a petrol vehicle.


Don't they get the hydrogen right at the stations with water?

YOING, I wouldn't be surprised lol, they were just leaving an Exxon near I-95, and headed towards Route 29, which goes straight to the Capitol.


Uk Diesel driver is full of crap.


Of course hydrogen fuel-cell cars are years off. But cutting funding simply insures that this will continue to be the case.

Meanwhile, BMW is leasing its lithium battery powered Mini Cooper for $850/month, about what you'd pay to lease an $80,000 car. This for a two seater (the battery takes up the back seat) with a range of 100 miles. And we're supposed to believe that this represents a practical approach.

I'm disappointed in Dr. Chu. He should know better. We'll never get the future we want if we don't start investing in it now.

Bob Wilson

When laptop computers are driven by affordable, safe, fuel-cell batteries, a fuel-cell car can follow easily. There will have to be an "eureka" event and though money helps, it can't force it to happen.

The sad thing is the hydrogen fraud was used to kill the designs that could have saved GM and Chrysler. Only Ford stayed the course and they seem to be doing OK.

Bob Wilson


All of the vehicles have issues: creating the hydrogen is costly and a source of pollution, the creation and disposal of batteries is an environmental concern, gasoline pollutes from start to finish. I am personally interested in the compressed air vehicles, but there are many obstacles to creating a functioning one as well.
What I WANT is a vehicle that uses clean technology as decoupled as possible from the stranglehold of energy producers. Some day. Maybe.

Dan Neal

OK I don't understand ANY of the relevance of the articles scare tactic, when it stated...

"In fact, developing a fuel-cell infrastructure is more or less economically impossible right now, unless you want to pay $100,000 for your car, fund the refueling station build-up with your taxes, and watch on the nightly news every time a hydrogen tanker truck has an accident that causes a devastating explosion."

These statements show how little the writer understands about how Fuel cells work and How the fuel can be obtained.

#1 The Cost of a fuel cell vehicle will not be even CLOSE to $100,000 , it would if they were still using Platinum as a catalyst for the Fuel Cell Endothermic reaction. However much Cheaper and more easily obtainable catalysts have been discovered making a $12k-$14,000 Fuel Cell Vehicle not only a possibility but a reality.

#2 We do NOT need to build an infrastructure BEFORE the vehicles are introduced. The reason for this will make the last scare statement much more amusing. We can LEASE with the vehicle a Solar Refueling Station. That can create the fuel for the vehicle from the power of the sun. By Solar Powered Electrolysis of Water using a Rubippy catalyst and using a Nanosolar Solar Cell Solution the efficiency of the Conversion of the FREE Solar power can be done at around 80% Efficiency. So we can use common Water and the power of the sun to Fuel our vehicles with Hydrogen.

#3 Tankers would NOT explode we dont need them.
The fuel Storage has gotten far more advanced than just having gas sloshing around in a tanker. And for those concerned about the storage of the portable refueling stations. They are highly pressurized and are vacuum sealed off if punctured you see Hydrogen does not Burn if Oxygen is not present.

So keep driving your Gas guzzlers and relying on coal for electricity the science minded individuals will be cruising around in clean burning cars and paying nothing for their energy. In fact the Electric company will buy our excess energy and sell it to you, who are afraid of exploding Tankers indeed...

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