A new hydrogen fueling station now open in Surrey is powering up hopes the alternative fuel may run everything from cars to trains down the road.
The city aims to add 21 alternative fuel vehicles to its municipal fleet over the next year.
The station is the first in Canada to be run by a municipality, although there is one other hydrogen fuel station already in Surrey at Powertech (88th Avenue and 123 Street) and five others in Burnaby (Ballard Fuel), North Vancouver, UBC, Whistler and Vancouver Airport.
The two Surrey stations reinforce the city's position as a leader in the technology, Watts said.
Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association consultant Ron Harmer said significant numbers of hydrogen-powered cars will start to hit the consumer market by 2015.
Adding another fueling station is important, he said, because car companies like Nissan, Daimler and Toyota that will roll out more hydrogen vehicles will look first to cities and regions with adequate infrastructure.
The hydrogen for the new Surrey station comes from Powertech's existing Surrey plant, where the B.C. Hydro subsidiary electrolyzes water into hydrogen.
Because the hydrogen is made in Surrey, it's counted as cleaner than the hydrogen powering Whistler's fleet of hydrogen buses, which has to be trucked in from Quebec because of the larger volumes required.
A much bigger and greener local source of the fuel could come on stream.
Large amounts of hydrogen created as an industrial byproduct at a chemical plant in North Vancouver and now vented into the air may be trapped and collected in the future.
"There's enough hydrogen there to fuel something like 20,000 vehicles per year," Harmer said.
"If we're actually producing it ourselves locally from a waste stream, this is a very cost-effective and clean energy source," added Surrey transportation advocate Peter Holt. "It's not pie in the sky any more."
Holt, a director of the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society, thinks hydrogen pumped from the Surrey stations could even fuel the heritage train the society plans to launch on the former Interurban rail route next year.
The demonstration project will test a route from Cloverdale to Sullivan (152 Street and 64 Avenue) but Holt said the restored Interurban rail car to be used can run beyond Surrey, on any rail track in the region.