Fuel cells cars might be Obama’s solution for improving automobile efficiency

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 22, 2012

Supporters of hydrogen fuel cells would be pleased by comments made by two of President Barack Obama’s aides who said that fuel cells are included in the solution for improving the efficiency of automobiles. It also raises optimism that the U.S. government will provide aid in making a market for this technology.

Former President George W. Bush had pushed hydrogen fuel cells but when Obama became the president in 2008, the plug-in electric vehicles became favored. Obama has set a target to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Energy Secretary Steven Chu posed doubts about the value of hydrogen-powered cars and had reduced the funding for fuel-cell research. Scott Samuelsen, the National Fuel Cell Research Center director, was interviewed at a conference in Washington that the Hydrogen Education Foundation sponsors.

He said that in the last 6-9 months, there was a significant turnaround of how needed it is in the future, according to BusinessWeek. He added that there has to be some moves that have to happen first for the needs to be met by 2015. This is the year wherein automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. are working to present their first fuel-cell vehicles in the U.S.

In certain parts in California where environmental rules encourage zero-emission vehicles, the FCX Clarity of Honda Motor Co. and the Mercedes Benz B-Class of Daimler AG are already available. Amid the returning interest in fuel cells, the Congress is also looking more closely into the financial assistance given to plug-in vehicle and battery makers including A123 Systems Inc. and Fisker Automotive Inc.

In 2011, the Congress held hearings over an incident where a Chevrolet Volt caught fire after crash testing. Electricity is created from the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, generated from the automotive fuel cells composed of layers of platinum-coated plastic film positioned between metal plates. Vehicles make use of the same type of electric motors and controls as battery-only models. None of them have tailpipe pollutant emissions. Hydrogen, which is the most abundant element in the universe, has plenty of industrial uses. It can be acquired in high volume by reforming natural gas or splitting water with the use of electricity.

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