Automakers Helping Make Schwarzenegger’s Hydrogen Highway Dreams Come True

Apparently, some of the world’s largest automakers were listening when California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he had a dream of a “hydrogen highway” running through his state and beyond. Last week, General Motors, Honda and BMW acknowledged that they would each be producing small runs of hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars for California’s roads within five years. Analysts expect most of the initial production models, probably numbering in the hundreds of vehicles statewide, to be used as part of public and municipal fleets.

BMW may have a leg up on the competition, as it is readying a version of its luxurious 7 series as a gasoline-hydrogen hybrid that makes use of fuel cells as well as a traditional internal combustion system to offer drivers the most flexibility. A company spokesperson says BMW will launch the new variation in California and Europe as part of its 2010 product line.

For his part, Schwarzenegger, who has been on a campaign to pressure automakers to manufacture more environmentally friendly cars and who himself drives a customized fuel cell Hummer, couldn’t be happier about the news. Last April, he called for the establishment of a statewide hydrogen refueling network consisting of about 200 stations. He believes that government must play a catalyzing role in making the switch to a hydrogen-powered transportation system. California already has 10 hydrogen refueling stations up and running, with another 10 expected to go online soon.