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U.S. Funds Fuel Cell Research

April 07, 2006|From Reuters

The U.S. government plans to award $50 million in research grants over the next three years to advance hydrogen fuel cell technology, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Thursday.

Bodman said the department would begin soliciting proposals from companies, laboratories and universities this month on a variety of issues in fuel cell research, including materials that could be used to store hydrogen and enable hydrogen-powered vehicles to travel more than 300 miles before refueling.

The grants are meant to further the government's goal of putting hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road by 2020, Bodman said in a speech to the Society of Automotive Engineers in Detroit.

Most automakers are working to create vehicles that rely less on gasoline as energy prices rise and governments tighten limits on emissions.

Fuel cells rely on hydrogen, which reacts with oxygen to create electricity. The only emission is water vapor. But technological breakthroughs are necessary before odorless, colorless hydrogen is commercially viable for widespread use.

For now, Bodman said, E85, or 85% ethanol, is a proven alternative to gasoline.

Interest in E85 has grown in recent months. The fuel, made mostly from corn, produces fewer pollutants than gasoline, burns cleaner and is a renewable, U.S.-based resource.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler have said they would build E85-powered vehicles this year. GM plans to build 400,000 so-called flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on gas or E85. Ford said it would produce as many as 250,000 ethanol-capable vehicles.

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