ITD News
Associated Press
News Link

Schwarzenegger promises 'Hydrogen Highway' by 2010

Sacramento Bee

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 a reality.

"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 today.

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.

Return to Transporter Main Page
The Transporter is updated on Fridays