Hydrogen Highway by 2010, Says California Official

May 01, 2004

Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger's top environmental aide told state lawmakers the governor's vision of a "hydrogen highway" that would usher in an age of cleaner cars is realistic by 2010, and won't cost the state much money. Schwartzenegger pledged to build hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles along major highways. The stations will allow motorists to buy clean-burning hydrogen-fueled vehicles without fear they will run out of fuel. He chose 2010 because that's when automakers have said such vehicles will be affordable and readily available, said Environmental Protection Secretary Terry Tamminen.

"California does invent the future," Tamminen said. Though there are plenty of unknowns, "there are no show-stoppers. The only area where some of us disagree is on timing." California Energy Commission member Jim Boyd warned that the cost is too high. And Toyota Motor Company's Bill Reinert said that despite a decade of research and development, any promises are premature. The automotive industry is still years away from developing the smaller, cheaper, more efficient, and longer lasting fuel cells that are needed before many consumers will buy hydrogen-fueled vehicles, Reinert said. "We're not even close to solving storage technology issues yet," Reinert said.

Though he expects technology will develop dramatically over the next few years, "we still have significant challenges along the way." Other witnesses before the Assembly Select Committee on Air and Water Quality said a strong push by the state and federal governments is needed. S. David Freeman, a top energy aide to former Governor Gray Davis (who now heads a company involved in hydrogen-powered vehicles), said the state should consider floating more long-term debt to pay for the project. But Tamminen said the cost to the state could be minimal. Schwartzenegger's proposed network amounts to about 200 fueling stations, a fraction of California's 10,000 retail gasoline stations, Tamminen said. Twenty-five of those stations will soon be available, and Tamminen projected more can be built by universities, waste conversion stations, and automakers at little cost to the state.

Source: Don Thompson, Associated Press story published in the February 27 edition of Environmental News Network.