NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 19, 2004

The U.S. Department of Energy has set a target year of 2024 for the widespread use of hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars. The federal government has granted $350 million over the past and a half to hydrogen fuel cell research, but analysts say that consumers will not be able to afford hydrogen fuel cells any time soon.

According to energy experts:

  • The United States has a strong supply of hydrogen, currently producing 9 million metric tons per year; however, hydrogen still originates from fossil fuels, and it would be unaffordable for the average consumer if it was produced cleanly by separating it from water.
  • A kilogram of hydrogen costs about $3.00 to $4.00 today and the Department of Energy would like to see the price drop to $1.50 per kilogram by 2010; however, analysts say production will not be cheap enough by then if transportation costs are considered as well.
  • The price of fuel cells will have to drop by a factor of 50 for them to be an affordable alternative, according to Joseph Romm, former DOE official.

However, smaller fleets of government and commercial vehicles have begun switching to fuel cell-powered vehicles:

  • The U.S. Postal Service began using fuel cell vehicles for mail delivery in the Washington, D.C. area.
  • Shell oil has opened a hydrogen pump fuel station in Washington, D.C., to service a fleet of General Motors' fuel-cell vehicles.
  • Maryland leased its first fuel cell-powered minivan as part of a planned rollout of a fleet of fuel cell vehicles.

Source: James Detar, "Fuel Cell Technology: Still Pricey Experiment Despite Government Support," Investor's Business Daily, October 12, 2004.


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