- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG reports that the biggest challenge to commercial production of hydrogen-powered cars is creating an infrastructure to make affordable hydrogen widely available.

BMW hopes to sell its hydrogen vehicle, the 750hL, in eight to nine years, Burkhard Goeschel, BMW's development and purchasing director, said in Los Angeles while promoting the model. How many hydrogen-powered cars the German carmaker will produce by then, however, is contingent on the availability of hydrogen.

"We need a hydrogen-refueling infrastructure within the next five years," Mr. Goeschel said. "We will need partnerships with energy providers, cities and state agencies to make our hydrogen products available to customers."

BMW and other carmakers are developing alternative-fuel vehicles amid growing pressure by governments concerned about air pollution and global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions. The California Air Resources Board requires that automakers sell thousands of so-called "zero-emission" vehicles that produce no tailpipe pollution, starting in 2003.

Because of the state's stringent standards, BMW said it will keep two of the 750hL cars at its new emissions-control testing center in Oxnard, Calif.

Creating a new infrastructure to make hydrogen-based fuel widely available alongside gasoline may cost billions of dollars just in California, said Bob Malone, regional president for the western United States with BP.

"We need to achieve the necessary economies of scale to ensure that early investment is worthwhile, and that the resulting hydrogen prices are attractive to consumers," he said.

So far, there are hardly any hydrogen refueling stations in California. The California Fuel Cell Partnership, a public-private research consortium, opened one in Sacramento last year, and American Honda Motor Corp. says that it has opened the first hydrogen production and fueling station in the Los Angeles area.

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