It can be fun and educational to revisit the past as we look into the future. While we do have cars that plug in today, the first big batch of hydrogen powered vehicles is not yet arrived (but the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell CUV is leading the way). The idea of hydrogen as a promising future technology was also true in 1960s, when General Motors made a promotional movie for the ElectroVan. Turns out, the future then shared more than a little with the future now.
"What we need is fuel cells that can run on a hydrocarbon fuel and air."
As you can see in the short promotional video below for the hydrogen-powered ElectroVan, a modified 1966 GMC HandiVan, a big hurdle in the mid 1960s was the difficulty of obtaining hydrogen fuel. GM offered a possible solution at the time: "Hydrogen and oxygen are expensive and impractical fuels for a car. What we need is fuel cells that can run on a hydrocarbon fuel and air." Unlike today's hydrogen fuel cell cars, the ElectroVan used liquid hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells to get a range of between 100 and 150 miles. Not bad for the first hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle in the world. GM tested the ElectroVan on the GM grounds before sending it into storage and then to the company's heritage center.
For another view to the past, this time with some focus on electric vehicles, take a look at a video from the 1994 Chicago Auto Show, also available below. Twenty years ago, the green vehicle hype was on the Toyota EV-50 electric car, the solar-powered Honda EVX (and a solar Honda racing car) and a hydrogen-powered Mazda Miata. The announcer's enthusiasm is contagious, but as we all know, none of these vehicles ever made it to dealerships.