After tooling across a university campus in a Toyota Highlander
propelled by a clean-burning hydrogen engine, Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger declared Tuesday that California will have
a network of stations offering the pollution-free fuel up
and down the state within six years.
The pledge, which has been made by the governor before, was
formalized in an executive order he signed at a morning press
conference at the University of California, Davis -- site
of one of the country's most advanced centers for the study
of alternative transportation systems.
Although many industry experts say the governor's plans are
ambitious -- estimated to cost $100 million -- Schwarzenegger
said he believes the technology is available but government
needs to play a catalyst role in making the new fuel system
"Your government will lead by example," he said.
"As I have said many times, the choice is not between
economic progress and environmental protection. Here in California,
growth and protecting our nature beauty go hand in hand."
Schwarzenegger's order calls on state agencies to work with
private companies and existing research coalitions to build
the hydrogen network. He has asked California Environmental
Protection Secretary Terry Tamminen to come up with a plan
by Jan. 1 2005, for how the system might be put together.
He said he will support legislation that would create tax
incentives or public financing proposals that might be needed.
Still, much work remains to be done.
"There are a lot of companies interested," said
Daniel Sperling, director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation
Studies. "The challenge here is how to coordinate a lot
of these investments."
Sperling said the governor's order calls together key players
in the industry along with state officials to put together
the plan for establishing the network.
Like the Toyota that Schwarzenegger tested on the Davis campus,
a number of auto manufacturers have built special fuel cell
vehicles for test purposes.
Instead of using gasoline for power, fuel cell cars are powered
by electric engines that rely on a chemical reaction caused
when hydrogen and oxygen are mixed. The chemical reaction
produces electricity which powers the vehicle.
The vehicle that Schwarzenegger drove has a driving radius
of about 120 miles before needing a fill up, according to
Ken Kurani, a UC Davis research engineer. Currently the cost
of both the vehicle and the fuel is far more that existing
gas models but as more and more hydrogen vehicles are built
and fueling stations are established, the price should come
down, Kurani said.
EPA's Tamminen has said the network proposed by the governor
would provide about 200 stations statewide -- a small fraction
of California's existing network of 10,000 retail gas outlets
California already has 10 stations -- including one at UC
Davis and one in West Sacramento, two in the Bay area and
five in Southern California. About 10 more could be up and
running in a relatively short time frame, according to Tamminen.
Schwarzenegger also noted he would work aggressively to get
some of the $1.7 billion that President Bush has promised
for hydrogen research.