The auto industry is running full throttle to get fuel cell vehicles on the road in three years, but consumers probably won't be able to
buy them until at least 2008, and it may be years later before they sell in significant numbers, according to a Chicago Tribune
story by Rick Popely.
Fuel cells are more efficient and cleaner than
internal combustion engines, but the auto industry has major hurdles to clear before they are ready for mass production.
First, they have to fit them into automobiles, and at two to three times the size of a conventional engine, including ancillary hardware, that won't be easy.
Second, fuel cells run best on hydrogen, which won't be widely available for years and requires more careful handling than gasoline. Currently, there are fewer than 10 hydrogen refueling stations worldwide, according to a research paper by the Worldwatch Institute.
Then there's the cost. General Motors estimates that producing a fuel cell powerful enough to run a car or light truck today would be two to three times as expensive as a gasoline engine and transmission, which runs roughly $5,000.
Despite the formidable obstacles to making
them affordable and consumer friendly, the auto industry sees fuel cells as the long-range alternative to internal combustion engines that burn fossil fuels and produce the greenhouse gases which scientists say are a major factor in global warming.