CommCore Blog and News

Driving the Future

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I spent Thanksgiving weekend driving around Washington, DC in a Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle – no gas, no emissions. It drove like any other car but under the hood was this cool motor, no spark plugs and a tail diffuser (no tail pipe) that just gave off water vapor as the exhaust. I did not have the “Prius look” as I tooled around, but it did feel cool to drive it and show it off.

I am well aware of GM’s and the U.S. auto industry’s issues, but if there was a way to fast forward this vehicle, we would have a lot of answers and some good news for Detroit.

The vehicle is in what GM calls a market test. There are tests in Washington, NY and in the Los Angeles area. Mercedes Benz and Honda are also conducting tests in the U.S. (Honda is actually leasing cars in CA). And of course, the big issue is the lack of infrastructure to refuel these vehicles. There is only one filling station in the DC area, two in Westchester and three in the LA region.

We have also been working on these energy issues at CommCore. One message we have had to address is the lack of range on these vehicles. At the moment, the GM Chevy only gets 160 miles for each “tank” of hydrogen. That does not seem like a lot, particularly since you have to return to the one or two filling stations in the area. The analogy that works: 160 miles is the equivalent of what a New York taxi cab driver puts on a car in a typical work day. That is the total from leaving the garage to returning 10 hours later. When put in that perspective, 160 miles seems like a fair amount of driving.

Gas is under $2 a gallon, politicians are worry about short-term cost reduction and saving jobs, and the liquidity crisis is causing even a magnate like T. Boone Pickens to have trouble funding his wind ventures. What is your take on the renewable energy sector’s communications challenges in 2009?

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3 Comments

Bob Frump

Hydrogen is interesting, but I think natural gas powered cars are more practical in the short-run. It would be fairly easy for GM to retool a good number of its vehicles for natural gas. Profitability? Another thing. But with a fleet of natural gas propelled cars one could at least argue national defense points for government funding.
That said, I have to admit hydrogen powered cars have an allure. What was the experience-performance like?

Andy Gilman

The performance was quite excellent. The car (SUV so we should say vehicle) makes a whooshing noise when you start. It’s quiet. It accelerates very smoothly and appears powerful. There is no perceptible gear shifting since there are no gears. The brakes are strong and it handles well. And it’s cool to see the water vapor coming out of the back end.

Matt

I’ve had the opportunity to drive the Equinox FCV as well. You can read/listen to my blog about it here: http://nextgeargreen.com/?p=181

The issue of hydrogen as a fuel source is a complicated one. Dan Nocera, the Henry Dreyfuss professor of energy at MIT notes that within 30 years, with the most ardent of conservation, our global energy needs are going to go from 15 terrawatts (or trillion) to 30 terrawatts. Where are we going to get this energy from? He has a simple idea: sunlight + water = energy. Or basically, hydrogen.

The problem with it as a fuel is infrastructure. GM estimates that strategically placing 1200 stations will serve 70% of the US population at a cost of about $2M each, so $24 Billion dollars. The question is–should the US Gov’t help defray this cost someway by investing in this infrastructure?

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