SACRAMENTO, California, April 15, 2008 (ENS) – California is seeking experienced and qualified teams to compete for part of $7.7 million that will be spent to construct and improve hydrogen-fueling stations in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.

The Air Resources Board is dispensing the funds to advance Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Hydrogen Highway initiative that is promoting the creation of a hydrogen refueling network.

Currently, there are 24 hydrogen stations operating in California, with more planned, and there are at least 209 hydrogen powered vehicles operating throughout the state.

The state is pursuing a transition to clean energy and energy diversity by promoting automobile manufacturers’ and energy companies’ efforts to employ hydrogen as a power source for vehicles and electricity production.

“We are shifting California’s economy to clean energy and hydrogen plays an important role,” said Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols. “We have burgeoning technologies that use hydrogen to power vehicles and in the future could provide electricity for homes.

“The increased use of hydrogen in the transportation sector would diversify California’s energy sources and reduce harmful smog forming and climate changing emissions,” Nichols said.

The new funding follows Air Resources Board’s recent amendments to the Zero Emission Vehicle program, which forces auto manufacturers to place 7,500 zero emission vehicles on the road by 2014.

Some of these will be fuel cell vehicles dependent on readily available sources of hydrogen.

Hydrogen can provide energy with minimal-to-zero pollution. When produced from a clean renewable source – such as water, wind, sun, biomass or biogas – and used in fuel cells, hydrogen use has extremely small impacts on the environment.

Compared to today’s average gasoline-powered vehicle, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles produce 50 percent less greenhouse gases and 40-90 percent less smog-forming and toxic emissions, even when powered by hydrogen produced from natural gas, currently the most common method.

The application deadline for funds is June 13, 2008. For more information and guidelines for applying go here and in the agency option select Air Resources Board.