DEARBORN, Mich., April 18 (UPI) -- With every major automaker working on alternative fueled vehicles, Michigan Gov. John Engler Thursday unveiled plans for a $30 million state center for fuel cell research and manufacturing.
Construction of the NextEnergy Center could begin on 700 acres of York Township south of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor by this fall. The incubator will serve as a research laboratory and clearinghouse for information and education on fuel cells, which use stored hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity with only water vapor and heat as byproducts.
Hydrogen fuel cells are regarded as the "holy grail" of alternative energy devices because, unlike the gasoline-burning internal combustion engine, they are virtually pollution free. General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler have all announced plans to produce fuel cell-powered vehicles with in the next five years.
The center also will host research on 21st Century electric battery, wind and solar power technologies. Officials hope the creation of a tax-free Renaissance Zone in York Township will attract energy research companies around the world
"It's imperative now for Michigan to really get on the wave," David Cole, president of the Center for Automotive Research told the Detroit News.
Engler agreed it was vital for Michigan to keep pace with technological advances and predicted fuel cells will be a $95 billion market by 2010.
"We don't want to be making buggy whips when everyone else is making the horseless carriage," he said before his announcement at the Henry Ford Museum. "The heart of NextEnergy is transforming our cluster of auto innovation into a cluster of energy innovation. NextEnergy will power Michigan's future."
Corporations participating in the project will receive property tax breaks based on job creation goals and state residents who buy vehicles or power generators that use alternative energy will be eligible for tax breaks.