Moderated by Leslie Goodbody from the California Air Resources Board, the Hydrogen/Fuel Cell Technology Panel at the Santa Monica Alt Car Expo featured three speakers (plus one). Each of them gave an upbeat view of hydrogen cars. Big surprise.

Steve Ellis, American Honda Motor Company manager of Honda's fuel cell program. teased (once again, for those of us who are paying attention) the story that Honda will be offering a fuel cell car to consumers in 2008. This means that people who aren't Q'orianka Kilcher, the young movie star who also spoke at the panel, will be able to drive a hydrogen fuel cell, if they're keen on the idea. Details, unsurprisingly, are still under wraps.

Vasilios Manousiouthakis, from UCLA's Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department and the Hydrogen Engineering Research Consortium, also participated. You may notice that that last group acronyms down to HERC, and Manousiouthakis compared the task in front of HERC and, by extension, to other groups and companies working on hydrogen fuel cell cars, to Hercules cleaning the Augean stables (i.e., Hercules' fifth labor, AKA a real pain in the butt). But in an upbeat way.

Chris White, from the California Fuel Cell Partnership, explained that when the California Fuel Cell Partnership began a few years ago, hydrogen wasn't the only fuel they looked at. But, after looking at the alternatives, decided that hydrogen was the most efficient way to use a fuel cell. And the future is looking positive.

As always, the most interesting part of the panel came in the Q&A. Attendees wanted to know: What to do with excess carbon in the hydrogen production process? What problems remain to be solved in bringing fuel cell cars to market? Does electrolysis require freshwater or can saltwater be used? And so on.

Listen here.

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