The Bush administration hopes to see widespread sales of fuel cell powered vehicles by 2020, Transportation Undersecretary Jeffrey Shane said Thursday.
"It is our hope that by working closely with our industry partners we can develop a marketable technology by about 2015 and achieve widespread commercial availability by the year 2020," Shane said.
He spoke at the J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtable meeting here.
That timetable is behind industry projections. General Motors, for instance, has said it aims to develop a marketable technology by 2010.
Part of the challenge, Shane said, is in developing global standards for hydrogen-powered vehicles.
The administration is pursuing that, as well as aiding domestic research through a $1.2 billion initiative launched last year.
But Shane credited automakers with leading the effort.
"The basis for our work, of course, will be the groundbreaking advances auto manufacturers are already making in developing hydrogen fuel cells to power the vehicles of the future," he said.
Shane also asked for industry support for the proposed Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act, or SAFETEA.
The act would spend $247 billion on highway, traffic safety and transit programs over the next six years.
Past highway legislation expired Sept. 30 but was extended by Congress until Feb. 29.
The SAFETEA bill would replace it.
Shane said the bill is needed to expand and improve highways. Congestion is becoming a serious problem and could dampen the growth of auto sales.
"We're hitting a wall, and that's not something that's widely understood," he said.
"What I can't figure out is why it isn't more of a national priority."