Is Detroit scorning the car of the future, or at least the car of the immediate future? Scott Kirsner thinks so: in a new Salon piece Missing the hybrid moment (subscribe or watch an ad), he argues that "fixated on an elusive hydrogen future, Detroit carmakers are letting Japan waltz in and grab a market that could explode."
"Back in the 1970s, the Big 3 carmakers watched in dismay as Japanese imports carved a huge swathe through their traditional markets. Is history about to repeat itself? Is Detroit missing out on a major shift in technology -- and car-buyer psychology -- by committing only grudgingly to hybrid vehicles? By betting big on the ever-elusive technologies of tomorrow, like hydrogen, carmakers such as GM may be letting the present slip away."
Hybrids seem to me to be the next necessary step in the evolution away from fossil fuel powered, internal combustion vehicles to hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles. This is a process that will require modifying an automaker's manufacturing supply change, manufacturing processes, and distribution and dealer networks. Training and modification of maintenance and repair delivery to the end user is very critical. The companies that are leading in implementing hybrid technologies are well on their way in this. Consider what Honda has done to become an industry leader. Honda went from manufacturing and selling motor-cycles only (in my and their youth) to small automobiles to where they are now. This process will be repeated in transitioning to hydrogen power. The next step should be to blend current hybrid technologies with the prototype generator powered military Hummer that uses 4 electric motors to replace the drive-train. The next evolutionary step would be to replace the generator with a gasoline or natural gas fuel cell. From there it remains to solve the onboard H2 storage problem and develop and build the H2 generation and delivery infrastructure. Voila! We will then have an H2 powered transportation system. The devil is in the details though!