Do we want a future that actually works? New roads and bridges, trains that run properly, clean electricity to slash CO2, a hydrogen infrastructure for the imminent fuel-cell cars? No, we’re told these investments are too expensive. Cobblers I say. They’re cheap compared with a bank bail-out.
Mercedes is planning a fuel-cell car. It won’t just be an adapted A-class. It’ll have its own body. That way early-adopters will clearly have something to show for it. Like the Honda FCX – or like the Prius has done for hybrid buyers come to that.
Last week Mercedes chief Dieter Zetsche told me he now thinks it’s realistic to make 100,000 copies a year of that car, five years from now. If he does that, the fuel cell and motor and tank won’t cost significantly more than a conventional powertrain. It’ll go 250+ miles on a tank and have perfectly decent performance. Zetsche says he knows, because he’s driving prototypes now.
About 1000 filling stations in Germany would be enough that a fuel-cell driver would never run out of hydrogen wherever he went in the country. Mercedes knows how to distribute the hydrogen to the stations, and where it’ll come from. Zetsche says the total bill to install that infrastructure in Germany would be €1.7 billion.
Right then, let’s think big. Imagine a similar plan for Western Europe, so I’ll multiply that up and call it €20 billion-odd, or £15 billion give-or-take in our currency. A helluva lot.
But how much has this banking crisis cost us? Well the UK bailout package is £500 billion. There have been similar national packages all across Europe.
By comparison, other projects that we’re told are wildly expensive – like hydrogen, or clean electricity generation by wave and tidal power – suddenly look like very good value. A pimple of a price for an investment in all our futures.