FIGURE 2-8 Possible combinations of on-board fuels and conversion technologies for personal transportation. NOTE: ICE = internal combustion engine.

currently. There is much uncertainty about whether such technologies would ultimately lead to vehicles that are less costly and more convenient than fuel cell vehicles.

For this study, the committee was not able to examine all of the options that may shape the future competition. Figure 2-9 illustrates the comparisons that were developed within this study. In particular, the committee focused on the competition between vehicles with on-board storage: fuel cell vehicles supplied by molecular hydrogen in competition with internal combustion, gasoline-fueled vehicles, either as conventional vehicles or as gasoline hybrid electric vehicles.


From the foregoing analysis, the following four pivotal questions emerge as decisive:

  • When will vehicular fuel cells achieve the durability, efficiency, cost, and performance needed to gain a meaningful share of the automotive market? The future demand for hydrogen depends on the answer.

  • Can carbon be captured and sequestered in a manner that provides adequate environmental protection but allows hydrogen to remain cost-competitive? The entire future of carbonaceous fuels in a hydrogen economy may depend on the answer.

  • Can vehicular hydrogen storage systems be developed that offer cost and safety equivalent to that of fuels in use today? The future of transportation uses depends on the answer.

  • Can an economic transition to an entirely new energy infrastructure, both the supply and the demand side, be achieved in the face of competition from the accustomed benefits of the current infrastructure? The future of the hydrogen economy depends on the answer.

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