Fuel Cell -note

JOEFREEMEN at aol.com JOEFREEMEN at aol.com
Sat Feb 23 18:56:38 MST 2002


President George W. Bush's new plan to boost the use of hydrogen fuel
cell cars is a small step toward investing billions and making the
huge societal change from gasoline stations to hydrogen stations, a
leading fuel cell developer said on Thursday.

The Bush plan announced last month, the Freedom CAR (Cooperative
Automotive Research) program, has been criticized for not yet creating
solid spending or performance goals, but proponents say it does
include plans to start building an infrastructure of hydrogen filling
stations, which many see as a big hurdle.  "Most importantly Freedom
CAR includes the infrastructure system," said Robert Stempel, formerly
the chief executive at General Motors <GM.N> and now Chairman and
Executive Director of Energy Conversion Devices <ENER.O>, a fuel cell
developer.

Freedom CAR, a joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy
(DOE) and Detroit's Big Three automakers, aims to bring hydrogen fuel
cell cars into the mainstream by the end of the decade.

It replaces the Bill Clinton-era multibillion-dollar Partnership for a
New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), which aimed to put 80
mile-per-gallon (mpg) cars on the road by the end of the decade.

While government and business have yet to hash out how much money will
be devoted to Freedom CAR, the DOE announced earlier this month it has
set aside $150 million for Freedom CAR in the 2003 budget.

But the changeover to so called hydrogen age will be a bit more
costly. In fact, Argonne Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy
research lab operated by the University of Chicago, recently estimated
that a network of national hydrogen filling stations allowing fuel
cell cars drivers convenient fuel access will cost between $100
billion to $600 billion, depending on hydrogen demand.

"If we're going to have hydrogen powered fuel cells, we need to buy
hydrogen at convenient places," said Stempel, whose company is 20
percent owned by the oil company Chevron Texaco Corp<CVX.N>. "One of
the reasons the automobile works today is because we can get fuel for
it at literally every corner," he said.  But not everyone think the
plan goes far enough.

"There's something in our industry called the chicken and egg dilemma,
and that is, you can't get the vehicles on the road without the
infrastructure, but no one's going to build the infrastructure without
the vehicles," said James Winebrake, Science and Technology professor
at James Madison University in Virginia.

"The government hopes that Freedom Car will get the vehicles to the
point that people will buy them and from there infrastructure will
develop," said Winebrake.

"I saw the same logic fall apart with natural gas vehicles, and other
alternative fuel vehicles. Without large government incentives for
infrastructure development, hydrogen will not get off the ground," he
added.



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