California’s widely heralded plans a few years back to create a “Hydrogen Highway” by developing 100 fueling stations along the 400-mile stretch between Los Angeles and San Francisco by 2010 has hit some roadblocks as two stations have closed and planned facilities are being canceled. The latest was dropped by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E).

With a third station closure targeted for February, the number of hydrogen refueling stations will have dropped to 22, according to a report in Friday’s Los Angeles Times. Four years ago Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who converted one of his personal vehicles to run on hydrogen, set the state’s goal at 100 hydrogen stations, but the always tough chicken-egg proposition continues to plague the alternative fuels industry. (What comes first — the vehicles or the stations?)

With a dearth of hydrogen vehicles in the consumer market, maintaining existing fueling stations and building new ones becomes problematic. After a station in the state capital in Sacramento shut down Dec. 31, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) stepped in earlier this week and told the LA Times it expects the station to reopen in the near future, but CARB is also lowering its vision for 2010 from the 100 station goal to having stations wherever there are vehicles that need them.

Separately late last year, PG&E’s contract with CARB collapsed over a disagreement regarding where the hydrogen in its proposed station in the Bay Area suburb of San Carlos, CA, should come from. PG&E wanted to buy it from third-party sources; CARB wanted the utility to produce it at the fueling site.

In the meantime, PG&E has gotten off the hydrogen bandwagon relative to other alternative fuels for transportation, choosing to emphasize the development of plug-in hybrid vehicles and natural gas-powered fleet vehicles as other major utilities in California are doing.

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