One of the leading factors contributing to climate change is the modes of transportation we all use. Specifically, cars are to blame. So many of us drive to work, back home, and so on each day. All those carbon emissions add up quickly. Interestingly, though, one organization is exploring a creative way to upend that paradigm. According to The New York Times, an energy company in Germany called Vattenfall is working to produce hydrogen-powered cars that can get people from point A to point B with far lower emissions rates.
There’s just one problem: the company is struggling to find customers. When a Times reporter went to visit the place, the only people using Vattenfall’s hydrogen fueling stations were its own employees, who were learning to fill up the company car. The difficulty is that hydrogen-fueled vehicles are still in the prototyping stage, and there are a number of kinks still to work out. Consumers are concerned about safety risks, high costs, and the possibility that electric vehicles might be the better option. For all of these reasons, hydrogen cars still face an uncertain future.
“We do see some expectations that were not met,” said Klaus Bonhoff, Germany’s head of hydrogen and fuel cell technology.
While it’s been slow to catch on, hydrogen vehicle technology certainly has its advantages to consumers. Hydrogen-powered cars have a longer range than gasoline- or diesel-fueled vehicles, meaning they don’t have to be refueled as often, and when they do need to be refueled, the process is easier and faster. In addition, the actual propulsion of the car is simple, as it merely consists of hydrogen fusing with oxygen. The only waste emitted is clean water vapor.
It remains to be seen, though, whether the public is truly ready for hydrogen-powered vehicles. Part of the problem here is a perception issue; people have been afraid of hydrogen-powered automobiles ever since 1937, when the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg airship exploded in New Jersey. It may take a long time before people are willing to take a leap of faith. Industry insiders, though, maintain that the public will eventually come around.
“If you look back 100 years, we had horse carriages and steam engines,” said Barnaby Law, director of hydrogen and fuel cells at Airbus. “There is no future fuel without pain.”