Hydrogen Honda?

Hydrogen is a gas that is combustible (see Hindenburg) and can be used to power cars. An article on MSN today (seen here) talks as if Honda is the first company ever to harness the power of Hydrogen. Ford did this back in 1993 with an Escort. Why is it that the Japanese companies are always credited with automotive ingenuity?

And a better question, why didn’t the article even talk about Hydrogen and its real-world ramifications? So what if two of these little cars are driving in SoCal?

Hydrogen (H2) is a plentiful element. It is found in so many substances, including the air we breathe and the water we drink. One thing that Honda doesn’t tell you is that Hydrogen is very difficult and expensive to break down into its basic form. There are many ways to do it, all expensive.

One way is via electrolysis. This means that an electric current is sent through water and the Hydrogen gas gets separated from the water (H2O -> H2). This method actually uses more energy and resources than the end result H2 can produce. So that method is out.

Another method is to steam reform natural gas. So to get a gas that is environment friendly, we have to use another gas that is not. The steaming process requires a lot of water. Not any old water, it has to be pure distilled water. We would have to use up our natural resource of water to create Hydrogen. We could also burn coal. One of the end results of coal burning is Hydrogen, but burning coal is counter-productive and releases toxic gasses and soot into the air. So there isn’t really a good way to get Hydrogen.

A major barrier between us and hydrogen powered cars is the major infrastructure that is in place. We have many industries that thrive on oil production. We have gas stations in every town in North America. We all own cars that suck down gas daily.

The final obstacle to overcome, besides actually getting H2, is overcoming the current administration’s choke-hold of America via oil dependency. We have gone to war several times to protect our oil interests, our nation’s leaders own stock in oil companies, and our vice president used to work for Haliburton. Where does this leave us? We’re going to use gasoline until there is none left to have.

But back to Honda and Japanese automobiles. They are seen as the pioneers of the automotive world, but all the major developments have taken place in the West. Sweden put the first three-point seatbelts in their Saabs, Ford created the first vehicle that anyone could afford. But I guess the automotive world has always been about implementation rather than invention. Look at my previous example of Henry Ford. He got the Model A and Model T out in America in the early 1900s, yet he didn’t invent the “horseless carriage.” A German did. And did Saab invent the seatbelt? They just put it in their car first. So here is our generation of implementation. Ford had an Escort with Hydrogen Cells in 1993, yet Honda is actually giving them to people in 2007. I still say Ford is better.

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