Germany Pumps $600 Million Into Hydrogen-Powered Vehicles

Germany said March 14 it would invest 500 million euros (US$600 million) over the next decade in developing vehicles powered by hydrogen, considered one of the energy hopes of the future.

The German capital's transport authorities have promised to introduce a fleet of 14 hydrogen-powered buses by 2007 in a bid to become the European "capital" for the low-pollution technology. However there are several hindrances to the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles, principally the cost of building refueling stations. Another hurdle is reducing the cost of obtaining hydrogen itself, which has to be extracted from fossil fuels, such as carbon, or from water.

"As a fuel for cars hydrogen technology has a long way to go," Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee Tiefensee admitted.

Experts from German automaker BMW predict that the cost of hydrogen technology could be reduced to levels affordable for individual consumers by 2015. Even then, basic hydrogen-powered cars would cost up to 3,000 euros ($3,600) more then petrol models at today's prices.

BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and GM/Opel are the four auto manufacturers involved in the Clean Energy Partnership, an international group set up to develop hydrogen power which receives support from the German government.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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