The Bush administration
has abandoned a $1.5 billion government-subsidized project with
domestic automakers to produce highly fuel efficient vehicles
in favor of developing vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The new effort aims at the eventual replacement of the internal
Hoping to reduce the country's
dependence on foreign oil while reducing tailpipe pollution, the
new program is designed to spur the growth of hydrogen fuel cells
for the next generation of vehicles. Fuel cells produce electricity
from a chemical reaction in which hydrogen and oxygen are combined
without a flame. The only byproduct is water.
The latest effort replaces
the Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle that was started
by the Clinton administration in 1993 with the Big Three domestic
automakers to develop a vehicle that could get 80 miles per gallon
fuel efficiency into showrooms by 2004. The carmakers developed
prototype vehicles getting 70 mpg, but none came close to developing
a fleet of 80-mpg vehicles. The average fuel economy of cars and
trucks for sale in the United States has, meanwhile, steadily
dropped to the worst fuel mileage in 21 years, according to the
The new government-industry
partnership "will further the president's national energy
policy, which calls for increased research in hydrogen technology
to diversify and enhance America's energy security," says
the Energy Department. Although several automakers have said they
expect to have fuel-cell vehicles in showrooms within the next
four to five years, experts say wide availability of such cars
is probably 10 to 20 years away.
Watch for an article of
fuel cells and what it means to truckers in the February issue
of Land Line.