With the summer rush over and everyone settling into the fall/winter routine, the oil prices have started to drop. The record gas prices set in the summer have started to fall but the consumer has been driven to seek better fuel efficient vehicles to break the dependency of continual refueling and of course to save money. The disposable income that one once had is being eaten by the gas companies as they gloat over their record breaking profits. During the peak of the price increase large SUVs such as the Ford Expedition and the Chevy Suburban were eating gas at a rate of 25 cents a mile, assuming you were getting 12 miles to the gallon, causing a major backlog of SUVs on dealers lots, prompting a reduction in manufacturing output. All of the three domestic manufacturers have lost ground to their Asian counterparts with Toyota being the better equipped to deal with the oil crisis selling record numbers of their Toyota Prius.
The rush is on, every vehicle now being developed by major automotive manufacturers are striving for increased gas milage and the government backed initiative for the hydrogen fuel cell has been touted as the savior for mass transportation.
What does this all mean you may ask?
The beauty of the hydrogen fuel cell is that it resolves a lot of issues that are tied to the petroluem industry such as dependency on petroleum imports, poor air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions. The one hang up is the method in which to safely store and pump the hydrogen to the vehicle on a large scale, together with the infrastructure needed to make this an acceptable alternative.
There are several issues that have to be overcome before the acceptance of the fuel cell as a mainstream alternative. The cost of the system has to be reduced to make it comparable to existing technologies and reliability has to be the same as a conventional vehicle, lasting at least to 150000 miles. The size of the cell needs to be such that the distance per fill equates to 400 miles without compromising space. That being said, I think we are a long way off before hydrogen becomes accepted as a mainstream alternative, unless there is a revelation overnight.
While companies such as GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler research this technology neither one of the domestic motor manufacturers is standing still. Each one is advancing their gasoline engines to push their milage into new territory. Take the new selection of General Motors SUVs, even though the recent trend is to shy away from this type of vehicle, the new Tahoe and Surburban both gain several miles per gallon over the previous 2006 model, quite impressive for a vehicle weighing over 5000lbs.
Needless to say, as the research continues to perfect the hydrogen cell we can expect better milage from future gasoline engines until the break through has been made for a competitive alternative. The dollar sign rules and to create an infrastructure to rival the petroluem monopoly will take considerable doing, leaving the majority of drivers at the mercy of the ever fluctuating gas price.