Hydrogen Cars Remain Decades in the Future Under New Budget

Fuel cell vehicles won't be proven viable commercially until 2025.

Published: 05-Feb-2003

OIT, Feb. 4 — The Bush administration plan to spur development of hydrogen cars does not envision mass production until 2020. The plan also says there will not be enough research and installations like fueling stations to decide whether the technology is commercially viable until 2015.
Details of the initiatives were laid out in the 2004 budget, which was released yesterday and included $273 million for research into hydrogen fuel cells, as well as in material from the Energy Department.

The proposals include research on whether nuclear and coal power could be used to create hydrogen, a strategy that environmental groups say would undermine the benefits of hydrogen cars. But more money would go to renewable energy.
Fuel cells generate electricity through a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, and many automakers see the technology as an eventual replacement for the internal combustion engine. Cars that run on fuel cells would have water vapor as the sole tailpipe emission. The overall emissions would be dictated by how the hydrogen was produced.
President Bush will offer further details of the plan on Thursday in a speech at the National Building Museum in Washington. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham will give a speech here on Friday on the policy.
The administration plans to spend $1.7 billion over five years on two projects, the FreedomCar, to explore making the technology work in cars, and FreedomFuel, which will study how to produce, store and deliver hydrogen. The military is also researching fuel cells.
Among the goals would be a demonstration fleet of fuel cell vehicles. Last year, Toyota and Honda set up such fleets in California. Next year, $19.6 million would be spent on possibly using onboard re-formers to strip hydrogen from gasoline and $28 million would go to research cheaper and more efficient fuel cells.
Money would be earmarked to research internal combustion engines fueled by hydrogen instead of gasoline, a technology that BMW and Ford have explored.
The administration has tried to court environmental groups by briefing them about its initiatives, but the groups are increasingly skeptical.
"They need another zero on the end of their figures if they are serious about realizing the promise of fuel cell vehicles," said David Friedman, a senior expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The 2020 production target would send effects of the program far into the future, Mr. Friedman said.
"The average lifetime for a car is 15 years," he added. "So that's 30 years before this program will significantly effect our oil dependence."



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