TechnologyStill in its infancy, the hydrogen market has a long way to go before it can become the industry standard. True, Honda has the FCX Clarity, but that car is of limited production and heavily funded by the Japanese automaker. Hydrogen fuel cells are fragile and expensive to produce, and not yet able to withstand cold temperatures.
CostThe cost to produce just one Honda hydrogen car is upwards of one million dollars as of 2009, a price well beyond the reach of nearly every consumer. Even if demand for hydrogen vehicles was strong, prices would still be well above the cost of a similar gas powered car, limiting its customer base tremendously.
FuelUnlike fossil fuels such as oil, hydrogen must be produced in order to be used. Certain fossil fuels such as clean burning natural gas can be used to produce hydrogen, effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
InfrastructureWidescale hydrogen use would mean the creation of a distribution network that does not currently exist. Though currently widely available for commercial use, hydrogen is virtually unavailable to the public. The Shell Corporation estimates that it could easily cost $20 billion to establish a hydrogen network across the United States.
StorageCurrently stored at the point of use, that is, in the tanks found in a car, hydrogen is difficult to store or transport with large tanks needed to hold the fuel. Developing tanks that are smaller and lighter is a goal not yet reached, a step which would make hydrogen usage sensible.
ConclusionsThough hydrogen cars are a concept that some people embrace, critics worry that other more technologically advanced and cost effective options could be tossed to the side in favor of pouring billions of dollars into an unproven fuel source. These critics contend that electric power is closer to being perfected, while hybrid and clean burning diesel engines are also worth exploring, thus their opposition to seeking hydrogen fuel solutions. The day that the world's dependence on oil is finally broken won't come about due to hybrid, diesel or even pure electric cars, rather that'll happen when hydrogen fuel cell technology becomes viable enough to bring to the market. Right now, the Honda FCX Clarity is the only production hydrogen-powered car available, offered primarily to residents of Southern California, and limited to 200 customers at that.
With absolutely no emissions and a home grown full source, hydrogen cars are a dream come true. Trouble is, there are some hurdles that must be overcome first before the technology becomes standard.