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US govt hydrogen highway runs out of road

Obama administration to yank funding

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Leccy Tech The Hydrogen Highway has just become a B road. The Obama administration has announced that the Federal government's $1.2bn (£788m/€880m) plan to develop hydrogen fuel-cell powered cars and infrastructure is to end.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the government preferred to target more immediate energy-saving solutions and so funding was “moving away from vehicular hydrogen fuel-cells to technologies with more immediate promise” – read plug-in electric vehicles of one form or another.

Next year's budget will see $68.2m (£44.8m/€50m) spent on fuel-cell technologies, down from $169m (£111m/€124m) last year. The savings come from the cancellation of funds for vehicles development, though the Department of Energy will continue to pay for research into stationary fuel-cells that could be used for non-automotive purposes.

To put the money spent on hydrogen fuel-cell research into some sort of context, the 2010 Federal budget includes spending of $2bn (£1.3bn/€1.47bn) on advanced battery manufacturing, $400m (£263m/€293m) on transport electrification, and $786.5m (£517m/€577m) on biomass and biorefinery system R&D.

The original hydrogen plan was announced by then President Bush in 2003 and, to date, the US government has spent around $500m (£328m/€367m) on the project. There's not much to show for it other than some Honda FCX Claritys and Chevrolet Equinoxes running around California, and 70-odd hydrogen filling stations nationwide.

Not so much a case of hydrogen tech being put on the back burner but rather being wrapped in cling film and shoved to the rear of the freezer. ®

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