Posted by Tom Lombardo on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 @ 10:00 AM
Car enthusiasts have been anticipating a hydrogen-powered car for a decade, and environmentalists have been hoping for an entirely hydrogen-powered energy infrastructure for twice as long. Why? Because hydrogen is incredibly abundant and using it produces only one byproduct: water.
An abundant fuel with a limited environmental downside? It sounds too good to be true, so let’s investigate. Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Ford and General Motors are all on the verge of releasing production vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel-cells. Toyota expects to be first, in 2015, but General Motors’ experimental fleet has over three million miles of real-world testing – far more than any other automaker – so they probably won’t be far behind.
President Bush committed the country to a hydrogen-powered future in 2003 and Congress and the Department of Energy have provided vast R&D support to the industry. That helped but, as is so often the case with new technologies, the most difficult challenges were unexpected technical glitches. For example, Toyota endured years of frustrating failures before they could get their car to start in freezing weather.
But now the bugs have been worked out. Fuel-cells have become safe and cheap enough for Main Street. As for the fuel itself, costs have dropped to the point it is nearly competitive with gasoline. Today nearly all hydrogen is produced from natural gas using a catalytic process that extracts 50% more usable energy from the gas than does burning it directly. Ironically, the “fracking” boom that has exasperated environmentalists – and made the U.S. a net energy exporter – might actually facilitate our transition to hydrogen. Other methods to produce hydrogen abound; one wastewater plant in California produces it biometrically with a nearly 80% recovery rate. But the ultimate green infrastructure would get hydrogen from water, a simple process you probably experimented with in high school and one that can be accomplished by sunlight falling on artificial leaves.
Significantly, federal and state governments are committed to building the re-fueling infrastructure fuel-cell cars will need. In fact, California will have 68 strategically located hydrogen refueling stations by 2016. You can refuel in a few minutes and the introductory models will have driving ranges in excess of three hundred miles, significantly reducing early adopters’ “range anxiety.”
As climate change resulting from burning hydrocarbons becomes a widely recognized threat, it’s reasonable to expect that demand for environmentally healthy technologies like these will expand. Automakers are rushing to create and then meet this demand. Toyota sold the Prius at a loss in order to establish the hybrid market, which now accounts for 14% of its revenue. Toyota plans to do the same thing with hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles by entering the market in the competitive price range of $30,000 - $40,000 per vehicle.
Now is the time. “Fuel-cell electric vehicles will be in our future sooner than many people believe,” Bob Carter, Toyota’s U.S. group vice president, said., “and in much greater numbers than anyone expected.”
As more consumers “go green” in the auto market, it makes sense for auto dealers to position themselves as green entrepreneurs. Sometimes the simplest change can have the biggest impact – not only on the environment, but on your customer’s impression of your business.
Driving to the bank to deposit checks, for example, not only takes time (during business hours) but also wastes gasoline and produces pollution. Instead, consider using a Remote Deposit Capture service to deposit checks right from your point of sale – and tell your customer why you’re using it. Learn more now on how remote deposit capture saves time and money, all while helping the environment, by clicking below: