Most of us have heard of the promised hydrogen economy. What hydrogen proponents aren’t telling us is that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are impractical. The reasons are numerous and include cost, infrastructure, reliability, safety …
In all likelihood there will never be a hydrogen-based economy, at least not for the automobile industry and not in our lifetime. Most likely, there will be a variety of different technologies, led by plug-in electric vehicles and gas/electric hybrids.
One of the major drawbacks of fuel cell technology is that hydrogen is not used as fuel but instead is an energy storage medium. As a storage medium, hydrogen is very inefficient compared to other alternatives. For example, lithium-ion batteries provide better energy density, efficiency and the infrastructure is not a significant issue as compared to the distribution of hydrogen.
Besides than lithium-ion batteries, there are other energy storage options that are more practical and closer to realization than hydrogen fuel cells. One such option is compressed air . Compressed air vehicles have zero emissions, are inexpensive to produce and don’t suffer the same magnitude of infrastructure development problems.
Competitively priced compressed air cars will be commercially available in the near future. In fact, Moteur Development International (MDI), the French manufacturer of compressed air vehicles, and Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) are targeting a larger vehicle for the U.S. market in 2010. If rumors are true the car may have a range of 1000 miles utilizing a dual energy source.
The air car has some environmental advantages over other vehicle types. There are no battery disposal issues that an electric vehicle would have. Maintenance and part replacement will be required less often than for internal combustion engines simply due to the simplicity of the engine design. On the down side, the air technology does not function at lower temperatures.