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First mass U.S. crossing for hydrogen cars completed
By Bernie Woodall
Reuters / Washington Post
Sunday, August 24, 2008; 6:16 PM

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hydrogen fuel cell cars from nine automakers completed a 13-day cross-country trip this weekend, in the first such mass U.S. crossing for vehicles powered by a zero-emission technology still in its infancy.

As firsts go, the event, which ran from Portland, Maine, to the Los Angeles Coliseum, probably would not qualify for the record books. There were stretches without hydrogen fueling stations when the vehicles were carried on flatbed trucks, the longest from Rolla, Missouri, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But then one of the goals of the "Hydrogen Road Tour '08" was to demonstrate the need to build more fueling stations if the nascent technology is to develop, said Paul Brubaker, administrator for research and innovative technology for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

There are about 60 hydrogen stations in the United States, and only two are open to the public without prior arrangement.

The industry- and taxpayer-sponsored tour stopped in 31 cities in 18 states. Backers included two hydrogen producers, Air Products and Linde, which hope to become household names if hydrogen becomes a key to transportation.

Catherine Dunwoody, executive director of major tour supporter California Fuel Cell Partnership, said fueling stations will develop first in big cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C.

"There's a lot of curiosity about these vehicles," Dunwoody said near the finish line in Los Angeles on Saturday. "As we got to Allentown, Pennsylvania, people lined up and cheered."

The partnership she heads is based near California's capital, Sacramento, and funded by public and private funds.

"There's a hunger out there for clean, safe vehicles," Brubaker said. "The common refrain everywhere we went was 'Where do we get these cars."'

For most people, the answer is nowhere soon. Honda Motor Co. has begun leasing about 200 FXC Clarity fuel-cell autos in Southern California and General Motors Corp is testing about 100 fuel-cell Chevy Equinox SUVs on the road.

But those deployments, as well as the autos in the road tour, are experimental, since the technology is not ready for showrooms. Carmakers have spent billions on their development in hopes of capitalizing on a public desire to buy cleaner cars and a U.S. push to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

The United States consumes about a quarter of the world's oil, and imports 70 percent of its crude. Cars and trucks consume 44 percent of oil used in the country and contribute about a fifth of the carbon dioxide emissions. CO2 makes up nearly 90 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Even in a best-case scenario, automakers will only sell about 2 million electric vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells by 2020, a study by the National Research Council found.

FULL ARTICLE

 

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****, taxpayer supported....
That is because private enterprise needs to have a business plan that includes making a profit. The basic physics behind hydrogen fuel cells makes no sense when compared to plug-in electric vehicles such as the Volt (hydrogen production requires more energy than simply charging a battery). Oh and by the way - the needed infrastructure to refuel the Volt is 100% in place today - even along all of the major freeways.

Think about who benefits from a technology that is not viable until 2020 - 2025. Maybe the oil companies and the Middle East? Hydrogen may just be a diversion form the real solution....
 

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That is because private enterprise needs to have a business plan that includes making a profit. The basic physics behind hydrogen fuel cells makes no sense when compared to plug-in electric vehicles such as the Volt (hydrogen production requires more energy than simply charging a battery). Oh and by the way - the needed infrastructure to refuel the Volt is 100% in place today - even along all of the major freeways.

Think about who benefits from a technology that is not viable until 2020 - 2025. Maybe the oil companies and the Middle East? Hydrogen may just be a diversion form the real solution....

Hydrogen is no more of a diversion from the real solution as any other alternative energy. There will be no one size fits all solution to removing oil from our transportation fuel consumption. In order to reach 100% elimination of fossil fuel use, ALL alternatives will need to be developed to their fullest potential. It isn't going to happen overnight, either.
 

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Think about who benefits from a technology that is not viable until 2020 - 2025. Maybe the oil companies and the Middle East? Hydrogen may just be a diversion form the real solution....
So it shouldn't be researched and tried? The Li-ion/NiMH battery technology that goes into hybrids was first developed in the 1970's and is only becoming viable now. That was 30 years ago. 2025 is less than 20 years from now.

A lot of the early Li-ion battery research was done at Exxon, The University of Texas, and MIT. One can argue that with Exxon's massive federal subsidies and UT and MIT's federal research grants, that Li-ion research is government-subsidized, too.

The Volt's E-flex architecture is being designed with the ability to drop a hydrogen fuel cell stack in place of the ICE. GM may be the first on the road with both a a series-hybrid and a mass-produced fuel cell vehicles (if they can beat Honda). What's wrong with that?
 

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Hydrogen is no more of a diversion from the real solution as any other alternative energy. There will be no one size fits all solution to removing oil from our transportation fuel consumption. In order to reach 100% elimination of fossil fuel use, ALL alternatives will need to be developed to their fullest potential. It isn't going to happen overnight, either.
A solution that is ten to fifteen years away, (and always will be until we actually start building hydrogen refueling stations) - that will cost BILLIONS of dollars to implement, is a diversion when we have the technology to build and refuel plug-in electric vehicles today. I agree that no one solution will fit every need, but plug-in electric vehicles would allow 78% of us to STOP buying oil to commute to and from work.

The idea that EVERY alternative should be developed is not rational. Nuclear cars would not consume fossil fuels - should we be developing them? We could investigate cold fusion or zero point energy alternatives. Do you think that makes sense?

We have to start thinking about the problem in a rational way. We should eliminate our dependency on foreign oil first. At least the 22% that comes from countries like Iran, Iraq, Venezuela and the Middle East. Then we can continue to reduce our dependency on other oil and eventually replace fossil fuel (mostly coal and natural gas) for energy generation with solar (including wind), hydro and geothermal sources.

Let’s face it - solar is the end game for energy generation. 1366 W of solar energy, per sq. meter, hit the earth’s outer atmosphere. Enough solar energy falls on the planet each day to power it for a year. But until then - it is perfectly fine for the other 22% of us to use a little oil in the form of E85 or even plain old gasoline. We don’t have to wait to do something until it includes 100% of the cases. That is simply a diversion from the solution.

Eventually, battery technology will improve in energy density and recharge time will be reduced to meet more and more people’s needs. Keep in mind that hydrogen takes significantly more energy to manufacture, compress and store than simply charging a battery. Said another way – one could drive further if the energy to manufacture, compress and store hydrogen were simply used to charge a battery. Today's fuel cells are only about 50% efficient and typically rely on Li Ion batteries to provide the high current levels needed to accelerate a vehicle. Hydrogen does not make sense.

The DOT estimates that 85% of the passenger cars and light trucks could recharge during off-peak hours without the need to add a single wire or power plant to the existing grid. Spending Billions and Billions of dollars on a technology that does not make sense from a physics stand point - and that will not be ready for ten to fifteen years (DOT estimates 2025) only diverts the country from the available solution.
 

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... The basic physics behind hydrogen fuel cells makes no sense when compared to plug-in electric vehicles such as the Volt (hydrogen production requires more energy than simply charging a battery). ...
OK, we get it. You don't like hydrogen. However, nine (9) automobile manufacturers from Germany, Japan, Korea, and the USA participated in the cross-country drive. They included:

  1. BMW AG
  2. Daimler AG
  3. Ford Motor Company
  4. General Motors Corporation
  5. Honda Motor Company
  6. Hyundai Motor Company
  7. Nissan Motor Company
  8. Toyota Motor Corporation
  9. Volkswagen AG
I would bet dollars to donuts that there are a few physicists and engineers on the staffs of these manufacturers. I would also bet that they disagree with you about the "basic physics" of hydrogen.
 

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So it shouldn't be researched and tried? The Li-ion/NiMH battery technology that goes into hybrids was first developed in the 1970's and is only becoming viable now. That was 30 years ago. 2025 is less than 20 years from now.
Research is absolutely fine – but it should be based on sound physics. GM has 100 prototypes that have been built to the needed standards to allow the people to drive them on public streets. Other car companies have the same types of programs. Most of this is funded with billions of tax dollars under the pretext that it is being done to get us off fossil fuels. Meanwhile – we will continue to use oil for the next 10 to 20 years unless we focus on a real solution.

The most often claimed benefits of hydrogen are that it is the “most prevalent substance” in the universe and that it does not involve fossil fuels. First of all – hydrogen atoms do not exist on earth in nature. They are strongly bound in molecules such as water and a variety of fossil fuels (the later of which is the most common source of hydrogen for automobiles although everyone thinks of water as the primary source). It simply takes more energy to strip the hydrogen atoms from various molecules, compress, cool and store them than it would to simply charge a battery. Said another way – the same amount of energy used to make hydrogen would result in more mileage if you simply put it into a battery.

A lot of the early Li-ion battery research was done at Exxon, The University of Texas, and MIT. One can argue that with Exxon's massive federal subsidies and UT and MIT's federal research grants, that Li-ion research is government-subsidized, too.
Governments have not spent a significant fraction of the investment in hydrogen on battery development. You should take notice that most of that research is being done by private – for profit companies. Why – because they have done the math and hired the physicists and understand that hydrogen does not make sense. Remember –governments are political by nature. They are pressured by lobbies to do what is in the best interest of the lobbyists’ clients – not necessarily what is best for the country. Without critical thinking – we follow them like sheep.

The Volt's E-flex architecture is being designed with the ability to drop a hydrogen fuel cell stack in place of the ICE. GM may be the first on the road with both a a series-hybrid and a mass-produced fuel cell vehicles (if they can beat Honda). What's wrong with that?
What is wrong with that is that it would take BILLIONS of dollars of tax payer money to build the needed infrastructure to make hydrogen viable. ZERO investment is needed to recharge and refuel (for long trips) plug-in electric vehicles such as the Volt.

Do you understand that one is available virtually NOW, with no changes to the infrastructure, and that the other (hydrogen) makes no sense from an energy stand point, will not be viable until BILLIONS of dollars are spent on infrastructure and will require 10 – 20 years. Research is fine – but this level of investment, this early in the game, on something that does not seem to make sense when you consider the basic physics and throw in that it will not be viable for 10 – 20 years is simply a diversion from what we need to do now.
 

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The problem with an all electric car is that at some point you're going to want to drive it beyond it's range and when you do it's not just a simple "fill up" you'll have to plug it in and wait for a few hours. Battery technology will take an extremely long time (if ever) to evolve to the point that it will only take as long to charge a car as it does to fill it up with fuel (hydrogen, gasoline, or otherwise).

A couple times a year I drive from LA to either San Francisco, Las Vegas, or Salt Lake City all of which would be out of range for an electric car and once I get there I don't want to have to park my car overnight to charge, I want to be able to use a car whenever I want not just when it's had time to charge.

There will always be some people for whom an electric vehicle just won't work and there will also be some for whom an electric car will work. You just can't have only one solution for everyone on the planet and expect all their needs to be met. For some people hydrogen will be their preferred choice, that's why they are trying to research it, test it, and make happen. And with Nuclear hydrogen generation hydrogen can be make more efficiently the only hurdle is the current lack of an efficient method of transportation and distribution which I'm sure given enough time can be accomplished.
 

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OK, we get it. You don't like hydrogen. However, nine (9) automobile manufacturers from Germany, Japan, Korea, and the USA participated in the cross-country drive. They included:

  1. BMW AG
  2. Daimler AG
  3. Ford Motor Company
  4. General Motors Corporation
  5. Honda Motor Company
  6. Hyundai Motor Company
  7. Nissan Motor Company
  8. Toyota Motor Corporation
  9. Volkswagen AG
I would bet dollars to donuts that there are a few physicists and engineers on the staffs of these manufacturers. I would also bet that they disagree with you about the "basic physics" of hydrogen.
My friend - the basic physics is just that - rather basic. I highly doubt that any knowledgeable engineer or physicist would argue that the total amount of energy needed to manufacture, compress and store hydrogen to be burned in today's 50% efficient fuel cells would not result in more mileage if that same energy was simply put into a battery.

I have nothing against "hydrogen" - I do however have a big problem with our continued dependency on the Middle East for oil. I would simply like to solve the problem as quickly as possible. As an engineer - I understand how other engineers can get excited about solving problems. As a manager of engineers - responsible for return on investment - one needs to make sure the problem is defined as accurately as possible. If you ask engineers to develop a solution that immediately requires no fossil fuel and is "theoretically" inexhaustible - and do NOT factor in the amount of energy needed to make this fuel or the fact that the infrastructure to make it viable does not exist - then hydrogen looks interesting. No one is saying that it can not be done - I am simply asking why you would want to do it in the first place?

We need to eliminate our dependency on foreign oil first - then continue to work to reduce our dependency of fossil fuel. There is more than enough domestic oil (including the oil sands of Canada) to make E85 or simply use gasoline for many many decades if 78% of us stopped using it as our primary fuel. Plug-in electric vehicles will continue to improve and more and more of the remaining 22% of Americans will be able to uses less and less fossil fuel.

Just because governments are providing billions of dollars of tax payer money to do something (think war in Iraq) and car companies are willing to take their money - does not make it the right solution. It only makes it profitable. Especially for large energy companies and the Middle Eastern oil cartels who will continue to sell us oil until we do the right thing. Remember - hydrogen infrastructure is 15 years away from the date we actually start wide spread deployment - and even then it still does not make sense.

Tell me why hydrogen makes sense? By the way - how many donuts do I need to cover a $1000 bet?
 

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The problem with an all electric car is that at some point you're going to want to drive it beyond it's range and when you do it's not just a simple "fill up" you'll have to plug it in and wait for a few hours. Battery technology will take an extremely long time (if ever) to evolve to the point that it will only take as long to charge a car as it does to fill it up with fuel (hydrogen, gasoline, or otherwise).

A couple times a year I drive from LA to either San Francisco, Las Vegas, or Salt Lake City all of which would be out of range for an electric car and once I get there I don't want to have to park my car overnight to charge, I want to be able to use a car whenever I want not just when it's had time to charge.

There will always be some people for whom an electric vehicle just won't work and there will also be some for whom an electric car will work. You just can't have only one solution for everyone on the planet and expect all their needs to be met. For some people hydrogen will be their preferred choice, that's why they are trying to research it, test it, and make happen. And with Nuclear hydrogen generation hydrogen can be make more efficiently the only hurdle is the current lack of an efficient method of transportation and distribution which I'm sure given enough time can be accomplished.
I agree that no one solution is viable for everyone or every situation. However, in your example - using a Chevy Volt - you would simply drive the first 40 miles of your trip on battery and then the range extending internal combustion engine (ICE) would come on (without you even knowing it happened) and you would burn some type of flex fuel (E85, bio-fuel, or just plain old gasoline) for the next 300 - 400 miles. You could then simply pull into a gas station and refill your fuel tank and continue driving across the country if you wanted to. The point is that 78 % of us (maybe including you) would need ZERO gasoline to commute to and from work (up to 40 miles each day - 14,560 miles per year). On the rare occasion that we wanted to travel more than 40 miles (as in your example) we would simply use an alternate fuel. With 78% of us using zero oil to commute to and from work – the remaining domestic oil would last centuries. Of course, improvements in subsequent generation PHEV’s would continue reduce the remaining 22%’s need for oil as well.

Why would hydrogen be a better solution in the next century? And why should we wait 15 years to stop buying oil from the Middle East?
 

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It simply takes more energy to strip the hydrogen atoms from various molecules, compress, cool and store them than it would to simply charge a battery. Said another way – the same amount of energy used to make hydrogen would result in more mileage if you simply put it into a battery.
Cool! So where is this battery of yours that can store the equivalent amount of energy as a tankfull of Hydrogen in the same space with the same mass?
 

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I agree that no one solution is viable for everyone or every situation. However, in your example - using a Chevy Volt - you would simply drive the first 40 miles of your trip on battery and then the range extending internal combustion engine (ICE) would come on (without you even knowing it happened) and you would burn some type of flex fuel (E85, bio-fuel, or just plain old gasoline) for the next 300 - 400 miles. You could then simply pull into a gas station and refill your fuel tank and continue driving across the country if you wanted to. The point is that 78 % of us (maybe including you) would need ZERO gasoline to commute to and from work (up to 40 miles each day - 14,560 miles per year). On the rare occasion that we wanted to travel more than 40 miles (as in your example) we would simply use an alternate fuel. With 78% of us using zero oil to commute to and from work – the remaining domestic oil would last centuries. Of course, improvements in subsequent generation PHEV’s would continue reduce the remaining 22%’s need for oil as well.

Why would hydrogen be a better solution in the next century? And why should we wait 15 years to stop buying oil from the Middle East?
But that's just it. Yes, currently hydrogen isn't a viable choice. But it certainly could be. Why should we wait ten, fifteen years to even START looking at it, when we can start the process now? It may end up an expensive dead end, or battery power could end up as an expensive dead end.

Just charging a battery certainly sounds more efficient than the equivalent hydrogen fuel, but that ignores the battery itself. A battery weighs a lot more, and takes up a lot more space than the equivalent hydrogen tank/fuel cell setup. That makes any such battery vehicle less efficient than these fuel cell vehicles.

Right now hydrogen is a better solution (from a basic physics point of view) than battery cars, except for a lack of availability of that fuel. THAT'S why demonstrations like this are put on. To show that it would work. It just needs the infrastructure to be built (and some of it is already in place). Just as the ethanol, electric, and gasoline infrastructures had to be built. They didn't just show up by themselves, overnight, but it was worth it to spend that money to develop them.

Depending on future development, tomorrow, or next year, or in ten years, a hydrogen fuel cell could be the answer - but that will take infrastructure improvements. Or batteries could improve to make them the best choice - but that would take battery technology improvements (and we can't guarantee that will EVER be possible). Maybe the "Mr. Fusion" research will finally pay off, and be the answer. That's why we are involving ourselves in "diversions", looking at other alternatives - NOW, not in fifteen years.
 

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Cool! So where is this battery of yours that can store the equivalent amount of energy as a tankfull of Hydrogen in the same space with the same mass?
Agreed. You forgot for the same cost.
Li-Ion batteries are very expensive.

A lot of people criticize the Volt for having less range than the EV-1 but that is done because the battery is just too expensive. Don't get me wrong I'm a huge proponet of the Volt and electric cars but the realist in me sees the cost of producing an electirc car with a 300mile range as currently unfeasable.

Hydrogen though currently not feasable has the great potential to become feasable. Of coarse billions will have to be spent on building hydrogen stations. But those billions will be recouped. Do people honestly think that these places will be giving hydrogen away for free? It's called a buisness investment. People will be selling hydrogen for a profit. The problem is the chicken and the egg issue. Automakers don't make hydrogen cars because people won't buy them do to lack of filling stations. Buisnesses won't build hydrogen stations because there is no hydrogen cars and therfore no demand.
 

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[
As firsts go, the event, which ran from Portland, Maine, to the Los Angeles Coliseum, probably would not qualify for the record books. There were stretches without hydrogen fueling stations when the vehicles were carried on flatbed trucks, the longest from Rolla, Missouri, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Why didn't make a portable hydrogen fuel station instead of trucking the vehicles?

I believe that Hydrogen is the the wave of the future. Batteries may be used for commuter cars, but I feel the hydrogen will power 80% of the cars.

The nice thing is older cars could be converted to hydrogen. The motor will be ICE still, but running hydrogen. They do this with propane now.

If there is a market for hydrogen there will be stations that sell it. Take for instance, internet access, cell phone coverage, and to a smaller extent E85. If there is money in it somebody will do it.
 

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Why didn't make a portable hydrogen fuel station instead of trucking the vehicles?.......
I'd thought that too. Instead of trucking the cars, why not truck the hydrogen to them? Then they actually COULD say that they drove cross country.
 

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I believe that Hydrogen is the the wave of the future. Batteries may be used for commuter cars, but I feel the hydrogen will power 80% of the cars.
I think EVs are the wave of the future. Whether they be full EV or serial hybrid EV. Now saying that the "range extender" for the EV may be dominated by hydrogen fuel cells at some point may be right, but until that happens I'd take a Volt that would run on E85 or bio diesel to get us out of the imported oil market until the hydrogen day comes.
 

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Cool! So where is this battery of yours that can store the equivalent amount of energy as a tankfull of Hydrogen in the same space with the same mass?
For 78% of America - there will be no need for more energy (better batteries) to accomplish the daily commute. That is the point. For those occasions that we need to go further than the battery will take us - we can simply use E85 or even just plain old gasoline (infrastructure done). Again - PHEV's are not for everyone or every application - but if 78% of us can use zero gasoline - why would we wait 10 - 15 years and invest BILLIONS of dollars in an infrastructure to support hydrogen. As battery technology improves (this is really only the first or second generation PEHV technology) fewer and fewer people will need to use fossil fuel.

As for your "energy" question – a single grain of sand contains way more energy than the a hydrogen fuel cell can get from a tank of hydrogen (E=MC^2). Does it make sense to try and develop that capability? Should we continue to buy oil from the Middle East until we do?

I’m not trying to be argumentative. I would just like someone to help me understand why we should wait and invest Billions in a hydrogen infrastructure? Why Hydrogen?
 

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But that's just it. Yes, currently hydrogen isn't a viable choice. But it certainly could be. Why should we wait ten, fifteen years to even START looking at it, when we can start the process now? It may end up an expensive dead end, or battery power could end up as an expensive dead end.
My point is that it looks like an expensive dead end now. That fact that it would take 10 – 15 years - cost Billions of dollars and is less energy efficient than simple batteries - should explain why we might not want to do it. Again – research is fine and should be done to improve the efficiencies of the fuel cell (only 50% right now) – but we should invest in the technology that will get us off foreign oil fastest – not wait 10 – 15 years. Let’s consider putting much more money into PHEV’s and keep working on other solutions in the lab.

Just charging a battery certainly sounds more efficient than the equivalent hydrogen fuel, but that ignores the battery itself. A battery weighs a lot more, and takes up a lot more space than the equivalent hydrogen tank/fuel cell setup. That makes any such battery vehicle less efficient than these fuel cell vehicles.
First of all you have to include the hydrogen fuel cell. It is simply a battery that has to have it’s electrolyte replaced each time it is charged. How much will it cost? How much space will it take up? How much will it weigh?

Second, most hydrogen fuel cell designs rely on batteries to provide the needed high currents to accelerate a vehicle. The GM designs that I have seen use roughly have the battery of the Volt – so 200 lbs worth of batteries for the fuel cell vs. 400 for the volt. Some designs may use more or less.

Lastly, including the weight differences – putting the same amount of energy directly into the battery will result in significantly more range in a PHEV than in a fuel cell car (apples to apples).


Right now hydrogen is a better solution (from a basic physics point of view) than battery cars, except for a lack of availability of that fuel. THAT'S why demonstrations like this are put on. To show that it would work. It just needs the infrastructure to be built (and some of it is already in place). Just as the ethanol, electric, and gasoline infrastructures had to be built. They didn't just show up by themselves, overnight, but it was worth it to spend that money to develop them.
Again – hydrogen is not a more energy efficient solution now nor is it likely to be in the near future (given what we know today). You are right that a lot was invested in infrastructure to build out the existing stations – let’s continue to use it with new and existing liquid fuels such as E85 etc. Do you think that gas stations were built using tax payer dollars or private investment? Do you see anyone building hydrogen re-fueling stations with out government subsidies? Could that be because it does not make business sense?

Depending on future development, tomorrow, or next year, or in ten years, a hydrogen fuel cell could be the answer - but that will take infrastructure improvements. Or batteries could improve to make them the best choice - but that would take battery technology improvements (and we can't guarantee that will EVER be possible). Maybe the "Mr. Fusion" research will finally pay off, and be the answer. That's why we are involving ourselves in "diversions", looking at other alternatives - NOW, not in fifteen years.
As you point out – no one can accurately predict the future. What we do know today is that 78% of us could stop using oil to commute to and from work with PHEV’s. With no further investment in infrastructure – Now. I am only suggesting that waiting for “hydrogen” or “Mr. Fusion” only prolongs our dependency on foreign oil. We should be investing most of the money we are thinking about investing in a hydrogen infrastructure in PHEV’s. They are the quickest path to energy independence.
 
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