The Top Ten Technologies: #6 Fuel Cell Vehicles

Wednesday, July 14, 2004
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
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The personal automobile is the source of both fantastic benefits to modern life and terrible consequences. Those consequences range from devastating public health effects due to automobile emissions (asthma, lung cancer, throat infections, etc.) to the rapid alteration of our planet's own atmosphere (global warming). But what if a new technology could bring us all the benefits of personal transportation without these drawbacks?

Fuel cell vehicles may deliver on precisely that promise. Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) don't burn fossil fuels and emit toxic fumes, they take a hydrogen fuel source such as methanol, propane gas or hydrogen gas and convert it directly to electricity to power the vehicle. Like fuel cell battery technology, it's clean for humans, clean for the environment, and safer than carrying around highly explosive liquids like gasoline.

Perhaps even more importantly, it would spearhead the shift away from the global oil economy and free the United States and other nations from their heavy dependence on oil -- the source of tremendous global strife.

There are considerable obstacles to fuel cell vehicles, however: infrastructure obstacles, primarily. Whatever fuel is ultimately chosen for FCVs, we will need an infrastructure of refueling stations ("gas stations"), fuel distribution systems (tanker trucks), fuel refineries, mechanics who can work on such systems, and so on. It's akin to reinventing the entire automobile infrastructure from the ground up. These enormous startup costs remain the primary obstacle to the widespread adoption of fuel cell vehicles, and it's a catch-22 situation: people won't buy the vehicles if there are no refueling stations, and no company will build refueling stations if there are no vehicles waiting to use them.

Hybrid vehicles offer a smart interim solution to this dilemma. While today's hybrid vehicles derive all their power from a gasoline engine, tomorrow's hybrids could be made to run on either fuel cells or gasoline, depending on what's available. Both the gasoline engine and fuel cell would be used to recharge the primary vehicle batteries that provide the operating power. Or the battery could be scrapped and replaced with a zinc fuel cell system where the gasoline engine could kick in when the zinc needs to be recharged. This configuration would eliminate the battery altogether and could still take advantage of the regenerative recharging ability during vehicle braking.

Today's hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius have made great strides in the technology needed to mass produce such vehicles. In fact, the Prius is a shining achievement in the marriage of combustion engines and battery technology. Without question, Toyota has the technical mastery and foresight needed to build a fuel cell hybrid vehicle if the public infrastructure will support its use.

We can expect Japanese automobile manufacturers to stay in the lead on fuel cell vehicles, by the way. American car companies are years behind and have resorted to licensing Japanese fuel cell technology rather than creating their own. There are many potential explanations for this lack of vision on the part of American car companies, but there's no denying the fact that the Japanese are leading the field and seem well positioned to continue doing so.

Next: Part 7 - Genetic engineering of humans

This article has been adapted from, The Ten Most Important Emerging Technologies For Humanity, an ebook by futurist Mike Adams.

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About the author: Mike Adams is a consumer health advocate and award-winning journalist with a mission to teach personal and planetary health to the public He has authored and published thousands of articles, interviews, consumers guides, and books on topics like health and the environment, and he is well known as the creator of popular downloadable preparedness programs on financial collapse, emergency food storage, wilderness survival and home defense skills. Adams is an honest, independent journalist and accepts no money or commissions on the third-party products he writes about or the companies he promotes. In 2010, Adams created TV.NaturalNews.com, a natural living video sharing site featuring thousands of user videos on foods, fitness, green living and more. He also founded an environmentally-friendly online retailer called BetterLifeGoods.com that uses retail profits to help support consumer advocacy programs. He's also the CEO of a highly successful email newsletter software company that develops software used to send permission email campaigns to subscribers. Adams volunteers his time to serve as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and pursues hobbies such as martial arts, Capoeira, nature macrophotography and organic gardening. Known as the 'Health Ranger,' Adams' personal health statistics and mission statements are located at www.HealthRanger.org

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