Blog: Simon WarburtonChemical reaction

Simon Warburton | 8 December 2010

It's a long time since I did any chemistry - in fact it ranks alongside maths as something from which I normally run to the hills - but this week's hydrogen/fuel-cell presentation by General Motors at its Mainz-Kastel Development Centre near Frankfurt brought a lot of memories flooding back.

Fair play to GM though - they probably took one look at me and realised someone who never understood why you had to balance an equation in the first place let alone actually do one - would struggle with higher Chemistry so they went easy on the hydrogen science.

But that science is really quite something and it's a bit of a mystery why hydrogen doesn't get more press. Should governments really get behind it, should the public embrace it (a big 'should') and should the infrastructure support it, why wouldn't hydrogen-fuel be the greatest success ever?

There are significant hurdles to overcome, not least of which is the availability of hydrogen at the pumps. GM has a global fleet of 100 vehicles operating in real environments but it will need mass installation - and what will that cost? - around the world to convince a public still trying to understand how EV recharging will work.

There may be a need for the service station of the future to offer all three energy sources - gasoline, electric and hydrogen - but what else lies in the pipeline as it were?

GM likens the supply of oil to a 'candle in the wind - one that is gradually but inexorably winding down. Now is perhaps not the time to ask governments for yet more huge resources devoted to alternative energy, but at some point they will surely have to put their hands in their pockets.

Addendum. On exiting Frankfurt Airport this week - after only just managing to take-off in a real London pea-souper of a fog - there was an enormous, perhaps 60ft high construction of all things, a Euro.

The giant currency symbol was surrounded by what looked like several stars of the European Union flag.

Given that Germany seems to be writing open cheques to all and sundry in the fraught Eurozone at the moment, there was a certain irony to eulogising its symbol in such an extraordinary fashion.



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