Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Defeating the Purpose

While most of America's political junkies were focused on the sagas of Roland Burris and Al Franken when the 111th Congress opened last week, an incoming congressman, Eric Massa, Democrat of the 29th District in New York, tried a little political stunt that fell a flat.

Massa arrived at the Capitol Washington for his swearing-in ceremony in a Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle, a crossover SUV that burns hydrogen and oxygen and emits water. The fuel cell stacks for the vehicles are built in his district, in Honeoye Falls, New York, and while touring the facility, the new congressman arranged with GM "to drive this vehicle to Washington to demonstrate that this technology is real, it’s here and we are going to work to make sure it’s ready for the American people within a decade." Sounds pretty good so far, right? And Massa got some good press in upstate New York for his efforts.

Just one teeny, tiny little problem. So teeny and tiny it's barely worth mentioning but...The distance between Massa's home in Corning to the steps of the Capitol is 280 miles. The fuel range of the Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle is 200 miles. And there are no hydrogen refilling stations between Corning and Washington.

The "solution" was two Equinoxes. Massa drove the first car to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the second Equinox was waiting for him. He drove that car up to the steps of the Capitol. Still, the story doesn't sound too bad, but two Chevy Tahoe Hybrid S.U.V.’s were used as tow vehicles. One Tahoe Hybrid was used to tow Equinox No. 2 from Washington to Harrisburg. The other was used to tow Equinox No. 1 back to Honeoye Falls from Harrisburg. I can't figure out why they just use one Tahoe Hybrid and to essentially make the trip in reverse from Washington to Honeoye Fall and just change Equinoxes in Harrisburg, but the logic of the logistics makes it sound like Massa's trip was basically twice as long with a Tahoe Hybrid that averages about 20 mpg highway, less when it is towing another SUV.

Massa and the representatives from GM brushed all that off by claiming after the fact that the trip was also intended to demonstrate the need for more hydrogen infrastructure.

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