In the aftermath of the CARB (California Air Resources Board) cutbacks on the number of required hydrogen vehicles, GM is saying it wants to accelerate its fuel cell program but is frustrated by the lack of infrastructure support. At the National Hydrogen Association’s keynote address in Sacramento, California, GM’s Larry Burns, Vice President of Research & Development and Strategic Planning said that government and the energy companies need to step up to the plate and build more hydrogen fueling stations.
The quotes Burns as saying, “The automobile industry has reached a critical juncture in our journey to realize the full potential of hydrogen fuel cell-electric vehicles. We have now reached a point where the energy industry and governments must pick up their pace so we can continue to advance in a timely manner.”
The General Motors Project Driveway program is currently rolling out 100 Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles to consumers in the Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC areas, which do currently have hydrogen fueling stations open to consumers. But, Burns has gone onto say that he was surprised at how difficult it has been to open hydrogen fueling stations because of restrictions regulators put on the budding technology, such as a high percentage of the hydrogen has to be produced from renewable resources right from the get-go.
This “perfect is the enemy of the good” mentality may be getting in the way of government and energy company support for investments in new fueling stations. This also comes on the heels of a report by GM and Shell Hydrogen stating that building a hydrogen infrastructure is indeed economically viable.
Burns is saying that the hydrogen auto industry has reached a critical juncture where fuel cell vehicle development is outpacing the building of supporting infrastructure and those who build this infrastructure must be working in parallel with the automakers in order for the hydrogen highway system to go forward. Over-regulating hydrogen infrastructure developers from the start is not the answer as this is a sure way to kill off the market.
Government regulators took a “wait and see” approach when it came to cell phones and the Internet knowing that over-regulating these markets in the very beginning would be a sure way to smother enthusiasm and retard the development of these two important markets. This same wait and see approach needs to be taken in regard to hydrogen fueling stations (at the very beginning at least) until the infrastructure gets a toe hold and becomes grounded and gains momentum in enthusiasm.
As momentum gains, then it would be appropriate and necessary to increase requirements for hydrogen to be produced with increasing percentages of renewable energy resources. But, setting the bar to high from the beginning is a prescription for failure And, this is too important of an endeavor in which to fail.