Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Hydrogen Highway for the East Coast

One of the big issues facing hydrogen is just where we’re supposed to fill the cars that might run on the stuff. A Connecticut company is answering that question on the East Coast with plans for a “hydrogen highway” that will extend from Portland, Maine, to southern Florida.
California historically has been a hotbed of hydrogen research and development, but SunHydro wants to put the East Coast on the H2 map with 11 solar refueling stations. The self-contained stations use electrolysis technology from Proton Energy that takes electricity generated from solar power and splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The process results in considerably fewer emissions than the traditional methods of shipping hydrogen to fueling stations by truck or reforming it from natural gas.
“Our goal is to make it possible for hydrogen car to drive from Maine to Miami strictly on sun and water,” company president Michael Grey said.
For all the attention on electric cars these days, several automakers continue developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Honda is especially enamored with the technology. General Motors put the Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicle in a few dozen driveways. Nissan is leasing a XTrail FCV truck to Coca-Cola. And Mercedes Benz will offer the F-Cell to “selected customers” in Europe and the United States this spring. Mazda and Volkswagen are among the technology’s proponents as well.
So, beyond giving the few hydrogen cars on the road a place to fuel up, the stations could help solve the the “chicken and egg” problem where the lack of fueling infrastructure begot a lack of cars and vice-versa.
“Having talked to several of the auto manufacturers, the indication that we’ve received is that there has to be a network of stations on the east coast for them to bring the cars here,” Grey said. “They want to bring the cars here, but there’s nowhere to fuel them.”
That quandary is familiar to Paul Williamson of the University of Montana College of Technology. “There’s no sense having hydrogen cars if there’s no place to refuel them,” Williamson said. “Most of the development is happening in California. Why? Because they have refueling stations.” Read more.

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