General Motors announcement Jan. 4 that it plans to produce a production-ready electric car powered by fuel cells by 2004 has met with cautious optimism from Fuel Cells 2000, an activity of the Breakthrough Technologies Institute, a Washington-based group pushing alternative energy research. Says Fuel Cells 2000 Executive Director Robert Rose. GM was one of the first U.S. companies to launch a fuel-cell program, but the last of the Big Three to commit publicly to near-term development. If GM backs up its pledge with a comparable commitment to market fuel-cell vehicles, it will be a genuine breakthrough for clean vehicles, clean air, and energy efficiency.
All the Big Three companies now say they are committed to fuel-cell vehicles. This is a dramatic change. Just a few years, all three were publicly skeptical about the potential of fuel cells in our lifetime. Still unknown, unfortunately, is whether their words will be matched by the investment of money and talent sufficient to meet the competition technically and in the marketplace.