Look Behind the Fuel Cell Smokescreen

OpEd by Ali Emadi, director of the Grainger Power Electronics and Motor Drives Laboratory at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Published: 02-Feb-2002

> Look carefully at the claims by the auto industry and the Bush administration about the fuel-economy potential of automobiles powered by fuel cells and you will find no credible evidence to support such a technology. If we truly want cars to go farther on a gallon of gasoline, we should require the industry to meet higher fuel-economy standards and focus public and private research and development funds on speeding up the delivery of "hybrid" electric and gasoline passenger cars and sport-utility vehicles.

In administering the publicity for their latest bid to develop an emissions-free passenger car, neither Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham nor the development chiefs at Ford, General Motors or Daimler Chrysler addressed the practicality of fuel cells for automobiles. Nor could they conjure up any scenario under which a significant number of people would ever buy a car powered by fuel cells. They also did not say when such a vehicle would be ready for the mass market. And if, by chance, a case for mass-market potential can ever be taken seriously, there was no discussion of where the needed infrastructure would come from. Intriguingly, what a General Motors executive did say was he hoped this latest program would eliminate the need to meet any fuel-economy standard.

With military troops once again defending our access to oil from the Middle East and Central Asia; with our dependence on foreign oil growing every year; and with more cities slipping out of compliance with clean-air standards, the stakes are growing bigger every year.

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