TMLutas writes about ending the oil age and retail hydrogen, but my understanding of the "hydrogen economy" is that the range provided by a reasonably sized and priced hydrogen combustion engine is absolutely pathetic.
The hydrogen Cobra specs include a top speed of 140 mph and 0-60 mph in four seconds. The downside: the hydrogen tank's range is around 80 miles.No one is going to buy a $150,000 car that needs to be refueled every 80 miles, even if anyone ever gets around to building hydrogen fueling stations. What about fuel cell cars?
Anuvu, a fuel cell developer in Sacramento, Calif., says it's almost ready to sell Nissan Frontier pickups and large cargo vans that run on fuel cells and hydrogen.Hm, cargo vans that can't transport cargo on freeways... I think I'll pass. Oh, and they're $150,000 also.
The Frontier's specs include 0-60 mph in 10 seconds and a top speed of 80 mph. At speeds above 45 mph, the battery drains faster than the fuel cell can recharge it, which reduces its 250-mile city range to just 60 miles on the highway.
Anyway, the technology may improve (although there are physical limits to how much hydrogen can be safely compressed and to how much energy can be extracted) but is there a point? After all, hydrogen can't be pumped out of the ground; unlike fossil fuels, it takes more energy to refine and package a kilo of hydrogen gas than the gas itself contains. Where does that energy come from? Mostly coal, oil, and gas. So all we're really talking about is converting one energy form to another, and losing some in the process due to inefficiencies.
The only good thing about hydrogen cars is that they cause less pollution where they're used than do gasoline cars. Of course, since it takes fossil fuel energy to create the hydrogen, the pollution still exists, just somewhere else (wherever the power plant is).
This is all based on my current understanding of the technology, and I'd be happy to be instructed differently if I'm mistaken. Here's info on the President's Hydrogen Initiative. Here's more on The Hydrogen Economy.