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Honda Zero-Emission Car Set to Hit Streets

While America’s car manufacturers are scrapping SUV production in the face of skyrocketing fuel prices, Honda on Monday rolled its first zero-emission, hydrogen-cell car off the assembly line and en route to California. From The Associated Press:

The fuel cell draws on energy synthesized through a chemical reaction between hydrogen gas and oxygen in the air, and a lithium-ion battery pack provides supplemental power. The FCX Clarity has a range of about 270-miles per tank with hydrogen consumption equivalent to 74 miles per gallon, according to the carmaker.

The 3,600-pound vehicle can reach speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

Last month, we wrote a piece about how Detroit might be faring better if only Congress had nudged it in the way of higher fuel efficiency standards sooner. (Until last year, the standard hadn’t changed since 1975.) The argument coming from the industry and its congressional defenders was best summarized by Dennis B. Fitzgibbons, a former lobbyist for DaimlerChrysler and now chief of staff to the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

You can’t make the public buy something they don’t want. Government is not in a position to dictate to consumers except under extraordinary circumstances.

And that may be true. But there’s another argument circulating out there as well — one claiming that true leadership would have anticipated that oil costs couldn’t stay low forever, and would have pushed the industry to adopt some better engines for the sake of its own sustainability.

After all, what consumer wouldn’t prefer an Escalade at 40 miles per gallon to an Escalade at 15?

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