Hope for the Future

Posted on Tuesday 23rd December 2008 at 00:00
Some time ago I wrote a post detailing what I thought might be the future of energy consumption in this ever more environmentally aware world that we seem to be occupying, and if your browser handles the transition from my old blog platform to WordPress a little better than mine does, you might still be able to read it. For those who can't, or would rather not trawl through the archive for October 2007, I stated that thanks to massive advances in technology, electric cars might soon replace petrol and diesel ones.

I went on to list the example of the Tesla, a battery powered, electric motor propelled roadster, which had been featured on the BBC's technology show, Click. Well, it seems that a year and 2 months on, Top Gear have finally caught up, as last week they conducted a review and test drive of the Tesla, and were reasonably impressed.

However, they then went on to show a video of James May reviewing the new Honda FCX Clarity, which he thinks is the most important development in the history of cars in over 100 years, and you know what? I'm inclined to agree with him. In fact, I feel so strongly about this, that I've spent all of 10 seconds on YouTube, and have found a clip of his report for you to watch. I appreciate that it is 8 and a half minutes long, which in internet terms is nearly a year, but if you have even the slightest interest in cars, the environment, climate change or the future, I really think you need to watch it:

Now, is it just me, or is this the key to solving that cornerstone of the global warming problem, car emissions? The technology in this car could, as I understand it, be rolled out to every single vehicle type on the road, just as soon as the fuel is available to supply it. It could, I think be rolled out to ships as well. Many new submarines are already using hydrogen fuel cells as their main source of propulsion. Trains already use electric motors to turn their wheels, so why not replace the overhead power lines and diesel generators with fuel cells instead?

Planes, I admit, may be a different matter. The dangers involved in carrying compressed hydrogen would have to be overcome, as would the extreme power needs required by modern jet engines, which perhaps electric motors simply cannot deliver yet. But this technology isn't finished. It can still be adapted and improved for different purposes, with the result that one day we could see all our energy needs met in this way.

There is still a long way to go before hydrogen filling stations are as abundant as petrol stations, but it is happening slowly. Even if governments continue to reject the option of forcing car manufacturers to adopt this technology by law, the market itself will create the demand for these cars, and soon too.

I can't say when the hydrogen pumps will get fitted at your local Tesco Petrol station, nor exactly how much it'll cost, but I sincerely hope that by the time my trusty Ford Fiesta is due for retirement, I'll have the option of switching to hydrogen. And if that option is there, and it's affordable, I hope I won't be the only one asking to whom I make the cheque payable!

(Have you seen any petrol stations offering hydrogen yet? Would you consider buying a hydrogen fuel cell car next time you visit the forecourt? Do you see this as the future, or am I getting all excited about nothing? Comments below please)

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