Jack Cusick
September 16, 2009
Q: What are the benefits and features of an electric fuel cell vehicle that made you want to become a driver?
A: I always wanted a cleaner car. I was on the lookout for a natural gas/electric hybrid—a fossil fuel-free vehicle—but no one made those (yet). When the opportunity to drive a Honda FCX Clarity FCEV presented itself, I jumped at the chance. The main benefit, obviously, is a smaller carbon footprint. More than that, though, is the opportunity to show the world that fuel-cell vehicles can work. I'm driving, parking, fueling and traveling right alongside everyone else. I wanted to be a part of the future; I discovered that I'm actually a part of the present.

Q: Describe a "day in your life" with your fuel cell electric vehicle. (How many miles do you drive, how much time spent in the car, where you go, etc.)
A: I more or less drive it like any other car. I drive to work, I run errands. (about 200 miles a week.) I sometimes drive 30 or so miles to visit family, but I can't take it too far—the scarcity of hydrogen stations keeps me more or less tethered to Irvine. I feel better now about using the car for short little errands—since I'm not using expensive gasoline or polluting the environment by doing it—but I still walk or ride my bike for certain things. I think driving a cleaner car has made me more environmentally conscious overall. At the end of each week, my recycling bin is fuller than my trash can. I've started recycling at my job, and working more with electronic documents than hard copies. Being environmentally conscious shouldn't be "special," it should be the norm. My Honda FCX Clarity Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle is a very special automobile, but I think the point is to use it like any other car. Hopefully, we'll eventually live in a society where fuel cell technology is the mainstream, not the "nifty experiment."

Q: How do people react to your fuel cell electric vehicle?
A: Since my car doesn't have "Fuel Cell" written all over it, people ask what it is. We turn a lot of heads on the road and freeway. I get thumbs-ups from people, and occasionally I'll see someone bust out a camera phone and point it at me. (My wife saw a whole carload of people turn to look at us and said, "This must be what it's like to be a celebrity.") Some people tell me they've seen it at a car show, but didn't know it was available. They ask how it works. They ask what it costs. Teachers in my school district ask me to show it off to their Environmental Science students. I gotta be honest: for all the chatter I see on the Internet from people who don't think hydrogen-powered fuel cells can last, I encounter people day after day who would love to drive one. The interest is out there; we need to build the stations and the cars and make it happen.

Q: What was your favorite encounter with someone while driving your fuel cell electric vehicle?
A: A carload of 20-year-olds oohed and aahed over my car at a red light, and one of them told me my car was "pimp." Being a 40-year-old nerd, that felt pretty good.

Q: What's your response to people who say that fuel cell electric vehicles are impractical and won't reach the commercial marketplace?
A: People said the same thing about television; look at us now. I think every innovation had its detractors and its startup problems. When the telephone was invented, the country wasn't instantly wired for long-distance calls.

When the first automobiles rolled off the assembly line, there wasn't a gas station on every corner. The cost of making the car is one thing, but the automakers are dealing with that pretty well; the primary issue at this point is infrastructure. People won't jump onto the fuel cell bandwagon until it's a little easier to do. Fueling my FCX Clarity FCEV is easy—easier than fueling a regular car, and certainly easier than recharging a battery vehicle--but the lack of stations is the bigger hurdle now. Once we have the stations and the cars, once we have all the pieces in place, people will join us.

Q: What advice do you have for future fuel cell electric vehicle customers?
A: These cars change the way you affect the environment WITHOUT changing the way you drive, but you will look at things like pollution, consumption, and waste differently. Let me put it this way: a fuel cell electric vehicle won't change the way you drive, but it may change the way you live—for the better. (And try to score a Honda FCX Clarity FCEV, if you can... it's a sweet ride.)

Jack Cusick