One of the biggest funding boosts in the fiscal year 2003 budget released by the Department of Energy earlier this week was in the line item for hydrogen research.Washington, D.C., 2002-02-12 [SolarAccess.com] Should Congress approve the proposed budget, the program would see funding increase by 37 percent to nearly US$40 million up from nearly US$30 million in FY2002. According to the budget, the program includes research and validation projects for “the development of safe, cost-effective hydrogen energy technologies that support and foster the transition to a hydrogen economy.” A portion of the program will support the FreedomCAR initiative and will be coordinated with the Department of Transportation and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy transportation programs to demonstrate safe and cost-effective fueling systems for hydrogen vehicles in urban areas and to provide on-board hydrogen storage systems. In a speech last month at the Detroit Auto Show, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham explained the FreedomCAR program to the auto industry. “Under this new program, the government and the private sector will fund research into advanced, efficient fuel cell technology which uses hydrogen to power automobiles without creating any pollution,” Abraham said. “For consumers it means more fuel-efficient cars and trucks that are cheaper to operate. For the environment it means less pollution from cars and trucks and it means cleaner air.” The budget sets a goal to develop a safe, low-cost hydrogen storage system for use on a vehicle with a range of 350 miles. Ambitious goals of producing hydrogen from water and biomass and directly from sunlight and water are set to be operational by 2020. In the mission statement of the budget highlighting the hydrogen research program, hydrogen is called “the most plentiful element in the universe” and “the ideal fuel.” “Many scientists see (hydrogen) as the basis for the total sustainable clean energy economy of the future,” the document reports. Hydrogen storage research funding increases more than US$5 million and sets goals to develop and demonstrate safe and cost-effective storage systems for use in stationary systems and in vehicle applications. Wind-to-hydrogen and biomass-to-hydrogen research funding see an increase of more then US$1million with one goal of this research to refuel bus fleets.