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In 2003 President Bush announced a $1.2 billion initiative to make fuel cells commercially viable over a 16-year period. Five years later, a new report issued by the National Research Council says that fuel cells are still at least 15 years away from being commercially feasible. The release says that despite “impressive progress toward commercialization,” some $200 billion is needed over the next decade and half — $55 billion from the government and $145 billion from the private sector. The report says that in the short term, fuel efficiency and biofuel research would be a more cost-effective way to reduce transportation emissions.
The biggest obstacles for fuel cells, the report says, are high vehicle costs and a lack of fueling infrastructure. At most, there will be only 2 million fuel cell-powered cars on American roads by 2020, representing less than 1 percent of the fleet, the NRC estimates.