According to an Environmental Protection Agency report, the average fuel economy of all vehicles sold in the United States has fallen to 20.4 miles per gallon, the lowest level in twenty-one years. That’s the bad news.
The good news is progress is being made in the race to manufacture fuel cell vehicles, which create electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Ford Motor Company and fuel cell producer Ballard Power Systems have announced a $22 million deal that could enable Ford to launch the first commercial fuel cell vehicle in 2004.
And General Motors unveiled the Gen III processor, the world’s first gasoline fuel processor for fuel cell propulsion. The Gen III could act as an interim strategy until the hydrogen infrastructure necessary for cars to run on fuel cells—which require pure hydrogen or hydrogen extracted from methanol—is in place. Larry Burns, GM’s vice president of research and development, says the company is “very encouraged by our rapid rate of progress and the exciting benefits of fuel cell vehicles.”