There’s a lot of hype surrounding the upcoming November Los Angeles Auto Show, but Volkswagen is in the eye of the storm. It’s rumored that the company’s first hydrogen fuel cell car will make an appearance—making VW one of the final manufacturers to commit to the alternative new energy fuel. Common in California, Japan and Germany, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are an alternative to battery-fueled d-cars. This will secure VW’s spot as the greenest manufacturer in the world since it’s already the only carmaker with two popular e-cars (the eUp and eGolf).
However, the demand for e-cars is relatively small, which means production is small (around 100 cars each day). While Volkswagen has already promised by make a hybrid version of nearly every vehicle it manufacturers by 2018, that’s not enough. They want to do more. With the Passat GTE and Golf GTE kicking off production, California is already boasting hydrogen fuel stations mapped for an incredible buildout. In early 2014 there were only nine and by 2020 the state promises at least 100 stations.
Will Volkswagen be the manufacturer sending the majority of Californians to these new fuel stations?
How Hydrogen Fuel Cells Work
Compared to gasoline, this type of fuel cell is costlier—so why buy them ? Beyond being a greener source of energy (though not kinder to the pocketbook), there are upsides compared to electric cars. For example, batteries are expensive to make, take a long time to recharge and recharging stations are tough to come buy. Plus, with the government penalizing automakers for making diesel/gas cars, the incentives and subsidies for e-machines is alluring.
Until Now, Volkswagen and Nissan have voiced skepticism over hydrogen fuel cell cars. They just don’t think the market is ready and aren’t sure about the reality of creating hydrogel fuel stations in time. However, VW is clearly changing its tune—although there’s no word on when the latest alternative machine will be commercially available or where, although it’s assumed Germany and California will top the lists.
I’m a Model…
It’s also unclear which VW model will boast hydro fuel cell drivetrains. Known for modular platforms, the Gold (for example) is easy to offer with a variety of drivetrains. Since hydrogen fuel cell vehicles need a lot of room for those hydrogen tanks, an SUV or crossover might be a good bet. And given the estimation that VW is going to unveil a three-row SUV in 2016, that could be the perfect match.
Until Volkswagen makes an official statement, fans are left waiting to check out debuts at the upcoming California auto show. Is Volkswagen going to make a gamble that pays off? Maybe—here’s to hoping.