State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Where is the Water-Powered Car?

This week, General Motors has been in the news as they scramble to plan for bankruptcy after the US government announced it would not grant their request for a larger financial lifeline. A year ago, however, GM was making headlines (albeit smaller ones) for their Equinox Fuel Cell— technology that promised to make the nearly century-old dream of a hydrogen powered car into reality. There were prototypes premiered and tested, and competitors responded with models of their own. Honda’s FCX Clarity, BMW’s Hydrogen 7 (the latter was announced in 2006!)… More than a year later, despite economic downturn, the question remains: where are these promised cars?

The now familiar rhetoric of reducing dependency on foreign oil starts to seem a bit hollow even to the most optimistic of us when even last summer’s record spike in gasoline prices failed to light a fire under car manufacturers to begin mass production of their hydrogen fuel cell and water electrolysis prototypes, which by all accounts have been fully functional and not overly cost prohibitive. To make matters worse, fuel prices are now relatively cheap and market projections have predicted consumers are unlikely to pay even a little more for a hydrogen or H2O powered car as the ubiquitous recession deepens. There is, however, hope for the future. The Honda FCX Clarity is at least theoretically available–200 lucky drivers will get the chance to lease one for $600/mo. in the next three years. More promising, it seems President Obama has dictated the financial fate of struggling US automakers with one eye on restructuring and the other on resource consumption.

In January, Obama granted a request from CA Gov. Schwarzenegger, asking the EPA to reconsider California’s request to set more stringent emissions standards (a previous request to do so had been denied during the Bush administration). His responses to struggling automakers have often included highlighting the need for more focus on renewable resources. Arguably, we are past the ‘tipping point’ when it comes to the green ‘trend.’ In my estimation, recession or no recession, the public will to fuel the process of sustainability is not going anywhere. With or without US automakers, it is now well-established that ‘green’ product development is almost invariably highly profitable. Generally speaking, the pace of technological change is gaining momentum. Someday soon, I’ll be driving a hydrogen car.

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Jennifer Vettel
Jennifer Vettel
15 years ago

I am excited to see the day when people realize that they have to be the change, and a little extra cost quickly adds up in fuel savings and pollution reduction. I would even be happy to see a resurgence of hybrid cars – my mother drove one for a while, and the gas mileage was incredible!
Will this idea become pressed more this summer if gas prices rise again? We know that when people want to travel, the gas companies spike prices, so it will be interesting to see if the prices spike this summer and if that will begin to speed up the process of developing more “green” cars, paticularly hydrogen or H2O cars

Dan Stellar
15 years ago

The problem of American automakers building cars that are highly inefficient is, unfortunately, not new. For decades, arguments have been made that we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, starting by improving our cars. Yet, American automakers have repeatedly refused to take head of these remarks, partially resulting in the current crisis they are facing. I fully support President Obama’s emphasis on improving the efficiency of American automobiles. Past history has shown that the automakers are either unwilling or unable to do it themselves. While tremendous strides have already been made, if a fraction of the budget which is currently devoted to marketing gas guzzlers was devoted to R & D of clean technology cars, there is no telling what could be accomplished.

Edward Mitchell
Edward Mitchell
14 years ago

The water powered car, the real one, has come and gone so many times it really isn’t funny. But the one thing that should catch everyones attention is the fact that the technology keeps making a comeback. Can just plan ordinary water be used as a fuel source? The asnwer is, yes it can, if you use todays science and not some science that was invented in the 1860’s. The main problem with cars powered on water is the current system of power genaration will just go up in smoke, and the power genarating companies will all go bye bye. For if water is use to power a car then it can also be used to power a genarator to power the worlds homes leaving “them” out in the cold.

That is the true reason we don’t have this technology for it would free us all from the energy sellers of the world owned by the World Banks and IMF. True freedom is not what they want for any of us, for there systems of control start to break down. But one day this technology will make it out for now I feel it is only a matter of time as the technology to do so has been figured out and the patents that they are under have expired.

Nathan Abeel
14 years ago

This is long over due. We have the technology to change the world yet the oil companies and the power companies wont allow the change to a better world for everyone. The revolution is coming and it is coming soon!

Here a link to free power!(

(advertising name removed by moderator)
(advertising name removed by moderator)
14 years ago

There is something drastically wrong with the equation used by US automakers and, hopefully, the recent shakeup will inject some prudence into their formulas.

We have been hearing for decades that the technology exists to produce alternatives to the combustion engine. And, yet, as Michelle points out, we’re still pushing along in gas guzzlers.

I, like Dan, support Mr Obama’s plan and hope it takes serious root.