Hydrogen Cars: The Fight Over the Price Tag of Development

Recently, The Washington Post published an online article about the future of the hydrogen car and the effect that the current budget fight will have on this technology. According to the article, President Obama’s administration has continued to cut funding for research and development of cars powered by hydrogen, putting its weight behind electric cars instead. Former President George W. Bush was apparently much more hopeful about the future of hydrogen power and provided more funding to the research. In a related article, the South African weekly newspaper Mail & Guardian discussed the challenges of re-fueling hydrogen powered cars, and how private sector scientists and engineers are working on that problem, too.
The relationship between private and public funding and development of particular technologies is one to watch; it’s interesting to see how one affects the other. For instance, is it an accident that NASA started to think about getting out of the space business, just on the heels of Virgin Galactic’s appearance on the scene? If there is money to be made in the marketplace on hydrogen cars, venture capital and similar sources of private funding will make sure that the federal government’s belt-tightening won’t completely stall development. I, for one, can’t wait for the first Ford Hindenburg to roll off the assembly line.
What does all of this have to do with products liability? Nothing yet, because there isn’t yet a hydrogen car on the market. But my reference to the Hindenburg may not be far off – part of the problem with hydrogen as a fuel source is a perception problem. When the first hydrogen car malfunctions – and as a brand new product, rest assured that there will be bugs to work out – the media and the plaintiffs’ attorneys will use that perception to stir up fear about the technology.
In fact, fear plays a huge role in trying products cases in general – stirring up thoughts of all of those latent defects in our food, cars, and nearly everything else we run across in our lives for the jury to sweat about and decide where best to assign blame for the consequences. So many, in fact, that we here at Abnormal Use can find something in the world of products liability to write about every business day. Thankfully, products liability law has developed in a way that (mostly) takes this fear mongering out of the equation. Well, at least in theory. We’ll see how it all plays out once hydrogen cars hit the roads.