Although there likely will be few public places to buy hydrogen seven years from now, General Motors is sticking to its plan to start mass-producing fuel cell cars by 2010.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, in a recent speech to the Detroit Economic Club, said the government thinks fuel cell vehicles and a hydrogen-refueling infrastructure would be ready no sooner than 2015 to 2020. But Larry Burns, GM vice president for r&d and planning, says infrastructure will not delay its goal for 2010.
"My view on the infrastructure is pretty simplistic," Burns says. "It's an appliance. You can create the hydrogen today in your garage if you want, with electrolyzers and natural gas reformers. If infrastructure means how do you create hydrogen and put it in a car, I don't think that will be a showstopper."
GM is spending more than $100 million a year to develop a production version of its Hy-Wire fuel cell vehicle. Its goal is to be the first automaker to produce 1 million fuel cell vehicles and sell them profitably.
The automaker also has developed a prototype hydrogen refueling system that could fit in a garage. The system uses natural gas, for which a home supply infrastructure exists, as the feed stock to be converted to hydrogen. That hydrogen could refuel a vehicle, as well as power a stationary fuel cell to provide electricity for the home.