US funds hydrogen highway

Posted: 11 May 2004

The hydrogen cars of the future received a $575 million jumpstart in April when the US Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham, announced federal funding and private matching funds for dozens of science and research projects to establish a hydrogen economy, reports the Environment News Service.

The federal government will spend $350 million on projects involving 30 lead organizations and including more than 100 partners, Abraham said. Recipients include industry, universities, and Energy Department national laboratories.

The fuel cell car engine creates electricity from hydrogen, and oxygen in the air, through an electrochemical process that forms only water and heat as by-products. The hydrogen an be stored on the vehicle or extracted through thermochemical processes from natural gas methanol, gasoline or ethanol or other hydrogen carriers.


Private matching funds of $225 million were also announced. "The financial commitment of the private sector dramatically increases the probability of success that we will overcome the technology challenges in this important endeavor," Abraham said.

Most of the funds will go to American organizations, but two foreign entities will be funded - hydrogen industry leader Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver, Canada; and the Russian State Scientific Research Institute of Moscow for a chemical hydrides project.

Honda FLX fuel cell vehicle goes for a test drive at the 2003 Clean Cities Conference in Palm Springs, California.© Tom Brewster/NREL
The secretary made his announcement in Detroit where the auto industry has already spent billions to get hydrogen powered cars rolling.

Ford and DaimlerChrysler AG used the opportunity to publicise new initiatives to put fuel cell cars on American roads this year. DaimlerChrysler intends to add 37 fuel cell cars to US fleets by summer.

Ford and BP announced the roll out of 30 Ford Focus fuel cell cars later this year and BP's plans to build fueling stations to support them in Detroit, Sacremento and Orlando.

At the opening session of the National Hydrogen Association's annual conference in Los Angeles last month, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District and ChevronTexaco announced a co-operative agreement to build a state-of-the-art hydrogen energy station in Oakland, California, that will produce hydrogen fuel for fuel cell fleets.

A hydrogen economy has "the long-term potential to deliver greater energy independence by reducing America's dependence on foreign sources of energy," said Abraham in Detroit. "It offers immense environmental benefits that current energy technologies cannot meet. This multi-million dollar commitment to research is a down payment on a more energy and environmentally secure future."

This is a shortened version of a report which first appeared on the website of the Environment News Service.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights Reserved.

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