Although Thor Industries Inc. is involved in a joint venture to develop fuel cells to power city buses, the company believes fuel cell-powered motorhomes are a long way off.
Thor and ISE Research Corp. of San Diego are involved in a joint venture called ThunderPower that is developing a hybrid fuel cell and battery-powered drive train for 30-foot transit buses. The companies hope to put the first ThunderPower bus into regular service in Thousand Palms, Calif., next year.
Fuel cells produce electricity from the interaction of hydrogen and oxygen and the technology is attractive because it is non-polluting. Its byproduct is water.
However, a fuel cell-powered motorhome is a long way off because “there is no hydrogen fueling infrastructure to service the needs of the vehicle,” said Richard Riegel, Thor’s vice president of corporate development. “It would be no fun at all to head out on your vacation in your motorhome and not be able to fill-er-up at a gas station.”
The technology is applicable to buses because “buses return every day to a central fueling station depot where the hydrogen can be efficiently and safely stored and dispensed.
“Fuel cells will make their introduction in motorhomes in the form of on-board auxiliary power systems, perhaps replacing today’s generators,” Riegel added. “Benefits to the customer are no-noise, no fumes and theoretically, no maintenance.”
However, developing the hydrogen-fueling infrastructure for the RV industry will be expensive. Because many bus systems are government subsidized, the cost of building the fueling infrastructure is less of an issue in the bus business, but it could be a big issue for RV enthusiasts, he continued.
Delivery trucks and airport vehicles are the next two sectors where fuel cell technology will, most likely, be applied, Riegel added.