Department of Energy's FreedomCAR

Curious as to what the Department of Energy is doing to improve car efficiency and emissions?

S. Daniel Ackerman, our Guest Blogger, is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. You can contact him with love or hate mail (or car or bicycle chat) at sdaniel_ackerman [at ] He has interesting news in the world of motors to share with the readers of Here's his article:

* * * * *

A project that everyone should know about is the Department of Energy's FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) and Vehicles Technology Program. This program's goal is to eliminate emissions in vehicles and improve their efficiency. The ultimate goal of this program is the elimination of fossil fuels as a source of transportation energy.

The DOE is spending upwards of $300 million a year to help automakers determine if hydrogen-powered vehicles are commercially viable, with a tentative end date of 2015. The program also helps develop other, "intermediate," technologies that may prove viable as alternatives to the as yet unproven concepts of hydrogen as vehicle power.

There are a number of automakers on board with this program, but BMW is out to an early lead with its hydrogen-fueled 7 series. This intermediate hydrogen-powered vehicle uses a hybrid gasoline/ hydrogen powered internal combustion engine. BMW began leasing the Hydrogen 7 in March of this year.

DaimlerChrysler is working directly with the FreedomCAR program in the development of the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The hydrogen fuel cell, which is still green in multiple senses of the word, is really the holy grail of zero-emissions vehicles. Developments are continuous, but there really are some tremendous hurdles, not the least of which is the question of the hydrogen fuel cell's viability.

One of the largest limiting factors in the development of hydrogen as a viable fuel source for automobiles is the lack of a distribution network. Companies such as Allentown's Air Products and Chemicals, currently the world's hydrogen production leader, are spending millions ramping up hydrogen production. If you live in a large city, there may even be a hydrogen fill-up point in the works for your area.

The future of alternative fuels is very much an open question, but it looks as if hydrogen is the direction everyone is looking. Whether or not hydrogen fuel is the best option remains to be seen. We can only hope that the synergy of science, government, and business can help bring about the greener, hydrogen future.

Check out the latest developments at the DOE's FreedomCAR page here .

S. Daniel Ackerman
Guest Blogger

April 2007 Automotive Engineering International magazine, pages 126-129

Hammacher Schlemmer James Bond Digital Camera at ThinkGeek Bass Pro Shops