Road blocks on the hydrogen highway

master_map-N_05022007_02.jpgRemember the â''hydrogen highway?â'' This was California Governor Arnoldâ''s Schwarzeneggerâ''s vision back in 2004. He proclaimed that, by 2010, California highways would be lined with hydrogen fueling stations, some 20 miles apart throughout the state, enabling hydrogen-powered cars and buses to travel freely. He signed an executive order setting up a private and public partnership to implement that vision.

2010 is almost here, and it hasnâ''t exactly worked out. (We didnâ''t think it would; IEEE Spectrum called the effort a â''loserâ'' in its January 2004 issue.) At its peak in 2006, the state had 24 stations; now it has 23, next month that number is expected to drop to 22 when PG&E closes a San Francisco station. While a few new ones opened, a few also closed. And several planned were never built. The California Air Resources Board agreed to spend about $1 million each to fund stations built by the San Diego Unified School District and the California State University-Los Angeles; both projects fell through. And PG&E just turned down $1.5 million to build a hydrogen refueling station in San Carlos.

The Air Resources Board hasnâ''t given up; itâ''s putting out a call for proposals for a total of $7.7 million of funding already set aside for new hydrogen fuel stations or upgrades. And the new state budget asks for $6 million more for such projects. But will there be any takers?

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