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Schwarzenegger Seeks to Boost Hydrogen-Fueled Cars

Date: 21-Apr-04
Country: USA
Author: Adam Tanner

Well known for his gas-guzzling Hummers, the former action film star drove a Toyota hydrogen SUV to refuel at a special station at the University of California Davis. He then signed an order about the fuel cells that produce power through a chemical reaction with only water vapor as a byproduct.

"I will sign an executive order creating a public-private partnership creating hydrogen highways all over the state of California by the year 2010," he said.

"Hundreds of hydrogen fueling stations will be built. And these stations will be used by thousands of hydrogen-powered cars and trucks and buses. This starts a new era for clean California transportation."

Although industry experts say it will be at least a decade or longer before hydrogen cars could become common, backers said Schwarzenegger was helping to prod their gradual introduction.

"This is very important; we need signals from government," said Daniel Sperling, director of the university's Institute of Transportation Studies. "This is a transition process and it will be a slow transition process."

California already has 22 hydrogen refueling stations; Schwarzenegger hopes there will soon be enough such stations across the state to encourage motorists to drive fuel cell cars.

"If you space them roughly every 20 miles, just to make sure a consumer can find the fuel easily, that pencils out to roughly 200 stations," California Environmental Protection Agency secretary Terry Tamminen told Reuters.

The stations "will send the signal to carmakers that there is going to be a fueling infrastructure ... that they can begin to send vehicles to the showrooms with confidence to break that chicken-and-the-egg situation."

Hydrogen stations cost about $500,000 and would be funded by private and federal funds, not state money, he said.

President Bush has sought a 43 percent increase in federal spending to develop fuel cell cars and related service stations. Last year, he launched a five-year, $1.2 billion research initiative with the aim of reducing dependence on foreign oil and putting fuel cell cars on the road by 2020.

Automobile and energy companies have already invested billions of dollars in hydrogen powered cars. Yesterday, officials showed off about a dozen such vehicles, which looked like regular cars except for their internal machinery.

One Sacramento firm, Anuvu, is already selling fuel cell cars for about $100,000 each and expects about a dozen orders this year, said company president Rex Hodge.

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Reuters
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