Honda debuts mass produced hydrogen car. So what?

In comments to the post on the Chevy Volt, someone talked up the Honda Clarity, the world’s first mass-produced hydrogren fuel cell car (or maybe just mass-produceable — they’re only making a few hundred of them). Other commenters correctly pointed out that mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell cars still appear to be no closer to reality than jetpacks or time travel.

For the full case against the Clarity, check out Joe Romm’s lengthy take-down. Short version: the car costs over $100,000 and is projected to remain ludicrously expensive for the foreseeable future; electric cars are likely to be more energy-efficient in the long run for fundamental reasons; and good luck finding a hydrogen fueling station within 700 miles of your house.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t really matter what Joe Romm or I or anyone else thinks about any of these technologies. Private companies are pouring a lot of money into these research areas in the hopes of finding a pot of gold, and I wish them all the best of luck. It can be kinda fun to peek over their shoulders and root for one or the other for sentimental reasons. But investing too much personal energy in the matter is probably not a great use of a precious resource. (And rooting against certain companies for their real or perceived sins is doubly senseless.)

As long as the playing field is relatively level and the rules understood, you can be certain that someone is going to take the clean energy prize. Of course, the playing field isn’t really completely level, and the rules could use some tweaking. That’s why we tend to focus on the policy stuff on this blog.

The Chevy Volt story contains some good human and technological drama, and it takes place on a large enough scale that it could actually make a meaningful dent in the climate change problem. Go read it and get excited about what the future holds. Of course, maybe GM will flop. And maybe the Clarity will be a runaway success, and we’ll all be getting around with mass-produced hydrogen-powered Honda jetpacks in a few year. That’d be awesome, and I’ll be happy to have been proven dismally wrong.

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