The Obama administration has reportedly shifted gears on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Government funding for H2 vehicles was cut in 2009, but the US Department of Energy will soon be launching a project called H2USA in support of hydrogen-powered cars, Automotive News reports.
H2USA (a reference to the chemical symbol for hydrogen) won't be getting the same level of support from Obama hydrogen vehicles did from President Bush, but H2USA could send the right signals, said Britta Gross, director of global energy systems and infrastructure commercialization at General Motors. "Signals to infrastructure providers. Signals to states. This is true for any technology: Signals that show the direction and the strategy and the importance are very important. It's a confidence issue. It's a comfort issue," Gross told Automotive News.
Like Honda with the FCX Clarity (pictured), most automakers never stopped their hydrogen fuel cell vehicle programs, and there have been lots of recent announcements showing that 2015 will be an important year for the technology. Hyundai rolled out its first production fuel cell vehicle, the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell Vehicle. Daimler, Ford and Nissan are collaborating on a "common fuel cell system" that should "speed up availability" of H2 vehicles at lower costs.
The Bush administration invested $1.7 billion in fuel cell development from 2004 through 2008 through what it called the FreedomCar coalition that included GM, Ford, Chrysler and a several oil companies. In 2009, Energy Secretary Steven Chu proposed cutting $100 million in hydrogen funding. Congress restored some of that money after carmakers protested. Chu, who is leaving office, later recanted his criticisms and became more supportive of fuel cell vehicles. Fuel cell vehicle advocates will be interested in hearing what the newly appointed DOE and US Environmental Protection Agency secretaries have to say about fuel cell vehicles, if they gain senate approval and take office.
In 2012, through a leftover project from FreedomCar, a DOE lab in Colorado released the results of a seven-year, $350-million fuel cell vehicle development project. Researchers at the lab found fuel cells are now twice as durable as they were in 2004 and are capable of powering vehicles for 75,000 miles of driving before being replaced – a good sign for future adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.