Federal Involvement in Fuel Cell Research and Development for Vehicular Applications 2002-01-1269
In the early 1900's the automobile was a mere novelty. However, the curiosity of a motorized buggy captured the minds and imaginations of Americans, and throughout the 20th century we have seen tremendous advances in automobile technology. Today the automobile dominates the transportation world. The internal combustion engine has given families the freedom to travel across the country, farmers and businessmen the ability to transport products to new markets, and teenagers the sense of independence that can only come from obtaining a driver's license. Unfortunately, the negative effects of the internal combustion engine on our environment are beginning to be realized. Global climate change, noxious pollutants, and dependence on imported oil are all problems associated with the modern day automobile. With the number of automobiles on the road increasing every year, it is apparent that something must be done to address the need to reduce harmful emissions from automobiles.
Among the new technologies developed to address these pressing environmental needs are fuel cells. Fuel cells exist as an exciting new technology with the potential to revolutionize the automobile industry. The idea of a low, or even zero, emissions vehicle with a range of several hundred miles, performance comparable to a modern vehicle, and the ability to derive fuel from renewable sources has captured people's attention. Both industry and government are currently working to advance fuel cell technology to create an environmentally friendly automobile that is comparable in cost, performance, and safety to the modern family sedan. The government has been criticized for its role in the process. Charges of “corporate welfare” and inefficient research and funding practices have been leveled by outside sources. The government's role in technology development has become a hot topic over the last decade, not just in fuel cell technology, but in other areas as well. This paper will explore government involvement in research and development as it relates to fuel cell technology for vehicular applications.