U.S. Ends Car Plan on Gas Efficiency; Looks to Fuel Cells

Fuel cell maker stocks surge on news of Administration initiative.

Published: 09-Jan-2002

The Bush administration is walking away from a $1.5 billion eight- year government-subsidized project to develop high-mileage gasoline- fueled vehicles. Instead it is throwing its support behind a plan that the Energy Department and the auto industry have devised to develop hydrogen-based fuel cells to power the cars of the future, administration and industry officials said yesterday.

The new effort, to be announced in Detroit today by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, aims at the eventual replacement of the internal combustion engine. Fuel cells use stored hydrogen and oxygen from the air to create electricity, and the only emission from engines they power is water vapor.

Environmentalists and some energy experts favor the research. But critics said that the new program would let Washington and Detroit focus on vague, long-term aims while avoiding the more difficult task of improving the mileage of existing cars and sport utility vehicles in the short term. Experts say that commercial production of cars with fuel- cell engines is 10 to 20 years away.

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