August 02, 2007

Hydrogen Cars Take Off In Albany

By: by Sumangali Somaskanda, Capital News 9


Say hello to BMW's newest luxury car--it's big, it's fast and it runs on water.

"It was a wonderful ride. Of course it's always a wonderful ride in a BMW!" said test driver Margo Janack.

All of the symposium cars--from Toyota and GM among others--are hydrogen-fueled vehicles. The way they work--hydrogen reacts with air in a fuel cell. That electrochemical reaction gives the car energy.

"It's a completely sustainable way of getting fuel for our transportation vehicles," said Pradeep Haldar, the Director of Energy at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, or CNSE.

Sustainable, said Haldar, and eco-friendly.

"There's zero emissions, there's no co2 that comes out of the tailpipes, the only thing that comes out of the tailpipes is water," he said.

I got behind the wheel of a hydrogen-fueled Hyundai myself, and, like other test-drivers, I was pretty impressed with the ride.

"It was very smooth, very easy to drive, very similar to a regular car," said Annette Stewart, who traveled to the symposium from Rochester.

Instead of pumping your car full of gasoline you'd pump it full of hydrogen at a fueling station, something people say they're willing to do.

"I fuel up my car with petrol now so it wouldn't be any different to fuel up with hydrogen," said Claud Stewart, who rode along in a hydrogen-fueled Toyota.

But hydrogen stations are few and far between, so the cars are also hard to find.

"It's a chicken and egg thing. The car companies require the infrastructure, the fueling infrastructure to be in place before they can mass produce the cars, and vice versa," said Haldar.

The other small problem is the big pricetag. The prototypes cost around half a million dollars. But producers say demand should drive that price down in the next five to ten years--news that sits well with drivers who want to go green.

A future that could be driving into your garage before long.