Hydrogen Future: Going Nowhere Fast

The jarring flaw is that no one even begins to agree on how to reach the Hydrogen Future.

Published: 04-Jun-2007

It's not often ethical living journalists find themselves in the BMW hospitality pavilion at Wentworth golf club, sipping champagne and watching Veejay Singh tee off just a few metres away.

But readers! There was a reason for all this bacchanalian living, honestly: BMW is introducing the public to its hydrogen-powered 7-Series car, and had offered me a chance to drive it. I'm sure you understand that it was irresistible, as, indeed, is the whole idea of hydrogen power, the near alchemical dream of getting cars to run on a fuel that can be made out of water.

In the hydrogen dream, we could create our own power and fuel our cars, with zero carbon emissions and complete fuel security. The homepage for a website called Hydrogen Highway asks you, in that American way, to "imagine ... a world where the only thing coming out of your car's exhaust pipe is water vapour", and it's exactly the sort of world I like to imagine. But is the dream too good to be true? Hydrogen cars appear to be having a bit of a Moment. Next week, a bunch of green petrolheads (yes, there really is such a thing: Dale Vince of Ecotricity and Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs both own up to loving cars, just hating the emissions) will be taking part in the Revolve eco-car rally between Brighton and London. This summer Honda will be allowing journalists to drive its FCX concept car, and General Motors, Ford, Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan and DaimlerChrysler are hard at work on their own versions - all to be unveiled, no doubt, with similar fanfare.

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