Jonathan Rauch makes it brilliantly clear why hydrogen fuel cells may be the next big leap in automotive—and hence, human—technology. Cleaner than clean with none of that messy Middle East business.

However, a certain percentage of car lovers—your mouth-breathing, mullet-wearing cohort—will not be moved. They wanna know are fuel cell cars cool? Or the latest in a long-line of dorkmobiles?

Oh, no. Cool. Frickin' cool even.

NEXT: Haitians In the Klink

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  1. I was surprised that Rauche didn’t mention these folks: http://www.millenniumcell.com. They seem to have solved the whole hydrogen, er, instability problem.

  2. It’s not an all or nothing situation. Just because you have hydrogen cell cars doesn’t mean you still can’t have gas powered cars.

    Which is a good thing – besides the middle east, many other countries depend on oil revenue. Granted, airliner fuel uses lots and lots of the oil, and plastics, but still…

  3. Hello? Fuel cell vehicles don’t solve the oil problem! Where do you suppose the hydrogen comes from? either oil based feedstocks or electrolytic conversion of water. Both require energy input. where do you suppose that comes from? right! fossil fuel based power plants.

    so now, we’ve cleaned up the cars at a net energy loss and a pollution increase.

    Go Nuclear!

  4. While I understand our political desires to get rid of the middle east, the oil thing isn’t really that critical an issue. After all, there’s not a whole lot else going for those people over there in terms of industry, agriculture or natural resources. They need us to buy their damn oil more than we need it, because we can a) get it elswhere, or b) use less if need be (if gas prices go up enough, people will start buying small cars or diesels or hybrids. Everyone in Europe drives a tiny diesel econobox because the (artificial tax-created) market conditions make it sensible to do so and they do use less oil there than here).

    Part of the reason the terrorists have a gripe against us is the humanitarian crisis in Iraq as a result of the trade sanctions against Saddam from the last gulf war. Trade is the long term key to peace and political freedom because it reinforces interdependence on foreign goods, not independence from them.

  5. So just when are we going to start drilling those hydrogen wells?

    Thats right, there is no such thing as a free lunch and the energy to produce the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. At best, the pollution is being moved to a remote site, not eliminated.

  6. Respective dudes,

    Regarding the wooing of that segment of the driving population that goes for straight pipes on their Harley’s, I’m sure some resourceful inventor will create a noise amplifying device to hook up to those electrically driven wheel motors.

    Imagine a deafening magnetic hum rolling from under the car when you hit the juice. Thuuuuhmmmmmmmmm. Or how about a hearty Doooooommmmmm? Yeah.

    And don’t forget, electric motors develop like tons of torque at super low rpms. Fer sure.


  7. And don’t forget, electric motors develop like tons of torque at super low rpms. Fer sure.

    Unlike internal combustion engines, electric motors develop maximum torque at stall. This means that if they can get the weight down an electric car will accelerate like a bat out of hell off the line.

    I don’t care if a car has a cart axle in back or a multilink independent suspension, just so long as the engineers did a good job and the car handles properly. Same goes for the powerplant.

  8. I posted an entry linking to this article when it first appeared on Reason’s web site.

    As I state in my post, the only economically viable source of hydrogen for the forseeable future is natural gas.

    Some reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is possible, but fuel cells aren’t a panacea for global warming.

  9. Electric cars have tremendous acceleration now. I saw a video of a drag race between a Dodge Viper and an electric and the electric blew him out of the water.

  10. Find out how many people were killed last year in natural gas explosions, then multiply that figure by, say, a thousand for the annual death rate from hydrogen explosions. Hydrogen will leak merrily from valves and fittings that keep natural gas in.

  11. As an automotive engineer, I find the fascination with older cars to be a curious social phenomenon. I appreciate them in a ‘yeah, that’s interesting how they did that back then’ kind of way, but in reality the cars they are making today are just way more technologically sophisticated and better engineered than the fin-sporting boats of the 1950’s and the 1960’s muscle cars that everyone seems to drool over at old car shows.

    I think the interest comes from the fact that many of these classic car owners are emotionally attached to the cars they remember from their youth. Not that there’s anything wrong with nostalgia for its own sake, but after this generation passes, how many people will care? You don’t see many folks tooling around in horse-drawn carriages outside of the Amish and a few history buffs. The same will probably be true someday for the internal combustion engine.

  12. “Cool”, bah. They may be “cool” now, but that’s only because they’re the new thing. They’re cool in that iPod way, that look-at-me-everybody-I-have-an-iPod(-not-that-I’m-trying-to-show-it-off-or-like-it-makes-me-superior-or-anything) way. They’re cool because they’re what you talk about if you want to look modern and enlightened, as opposed to necessarily being modern and enlightened. When everyone has one, they will cease to be “cool”. (Do you think internal combustion cars are “cool” now, just because of how they’re powered?) What WILL be cool will be to have a dead-dinosaur-burning car when everyone, even the homeboys in the riced-out imports, is driving an electric car! I fully intend to be the last person in America driving a steel-bodied V8! I don’t care if I have to cross three states to get gasoline! I want to be driving it so long that the DMV no longer has a procedure for handling gas-burning cars, and when mechanics see it they’ll scratch their heads and have to call over the oldest guy in the place! My neighborhood association will file complaints against me and my car for noise and exhaust fumes! SOCCER MOMS WILL WRINKLE THEIR NOSES AT ME, SUBURBAN DADS WILL RAISE THEIR EYEBROWS, RICER BOYS WILL SMIRK, AND COPS WILL LOOK AT ME LIKE I’M CRAZY! GAS WILL BE $18 A GALLON AND I’LL BE DRIVING A SUPERCHARGED TWO-TON V8 FROM 1971 WITH A BUMPER STICKER THAT SAYS “I AM NOT GOOD FOR CHILDREN AND OTHER LIVING THINGS”, SPORTS CARS WILL BEAT ME OFF THE LIGHTS AND I WON’T CARE!!! Because then…then I will know that I am the cool one. No, check that. I’ll be beyond cool. Put that in your hydrogen cell and smoke it.

  13. Point of the post aside, I am vaguely troubled by the fact that I got to “Hondacars” by way of a “Hit & Run.”

  14. JD,

    Come down off that drug-induced high and take a breather, man.

  15. Not to worry. At the current state of fuel cell development there is not enough platinum in the metals inventory to support an automotive fuel cell technology on a wide scale. Not to mention liquid fuel to hydrogen reformers.

    You will be seeing plenty of demos and hype. A production vehicle is still seven to fifteen years away.

    What is needed is a transitional form to help develop automotive power electronics and other high power components. The hybrid. Which will be available from “American” manufacturers in the 2004 model year – about 8 months from now.

    My fave is the Ram truck with it’s 20KW built in AC generation equipment. Enough power to run your home in an emergency. From the truck parked in the driveway.

  16. EMAIL: draime2000@yahoo.com
    URL: http://www.enlargement-for-penis.com
    DATE: 01/25/2004 08:22:46
    I am a hobo in the house of the lord.

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