In a move which has rocked the automobile industry to it's foundations, Volkswagen has announced that it is launching a line of hydrogen powered cars years before this technology was expected to reach production. Volkswagen chief executive officer, Bernd Pischetsrieder, made the announcement at a press conference in Munich.
"On behalf of all of us here at Volkswagen, I want to announce the first in what I hope will be a whole new generation of clean, reliable automobiles. Volkswagen can truly take pride in this great step forward for our industry and our environment, and so can anyone who steps up to embrace this new technology.
According to Pischetrieder, the car takes its name from the great German methematician, Carl Friedrich Hindenburg, who is legendary in Germany for his work in probability and combinatory mathematics. Some have criticized the choice, but Pischetsrieder explained.
"Volkswagen is a German company, and Carl Hindenburg was a great German - a blazing intellect. We stand by our decision to honor him."
Volkswagen is reluctant to discuss the details of its new technology, citing trade secret concerns, but it is clear that, though much of the recent research into hydrogen fuel has centered on liquid or solid hydrogen, Volkswagen taken this 180 degrees, creating a system which uses hydrogen in a gaseous state.
"It turns out that hydrogen is actually a gas at normal temperatures," said Gunter Wundtschaft, Volkswagen's chief engineer on the project, "Once we discovered this, our research changed directions completely. If it had not been for this discovery, it's likely I wouldn't be standing here, talking to you next to this amazing machine."
"But we could talk just as easily over here." he added, backing several steps away from the vehicle.
Consumers who buy a VW Hindenburg will, of course, be driving free of any dependence on oil, but another purported advantage is that the technology is almost completely clean, producing only water as a byproduct. Because of this, and other fundamental differences from traditional vehicles, many wonder if consumers should expect any problems with the driving conveniences they are used to.
Volkswagen maintains that the difference in technology should be completely transparent to the driver and passenger. When asked specifically by a member of the AP if drivers should expect any problems with cabin heating systems, Pischetsrieder only winked. "Don't you worry about that." he said.
Since the technology is new, Volkswagen acknowledges that it may be priced out of the range of many consumers, at least initially, but say that prices should begin to drop in the coming months as the technology gains acceptance. Top executives at Volkswagen have also confirmed that more hydrogen vehicles are on the way. Look for the world's first hydrogen powered SUV, the VW Humanity, to be released late next year.