Thursday, December 9, 2010

GM backs hydrogen fueling stations in Hawaii — setting the stage for Chevy sales?

GM announced it will join an initiative to build hydrogen car fueling infrastructure and increase hydrogen cars on the roads in Hawaii by 2015.

The initiative is called the Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative, and it aims to make hydrogen available for all one million residents on the island of Oahu by 2015 through a total of 20 to 25 hydrogen stations installed around the island. It mirrors some of the infrastructure being built nationwide, like the efforts in Norway previously reported on by VentureBeat. The initiative is led by Hawaiian utility The Gas Company and includes a total of ten companies collaborating on the project.
It looks like GM is banking on Hawaii being a good market for its Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell car, if and when the vehicle becomes commercially available. Hawaii has been the state of choice for many electric vehicle and clean energy projects. Hawaii is one of the more progressive clean energy states, banning coal plants and instituting a plan to reach 70 percent of energy use derived from renewables by 2030. That has made it an attractive market to clean energy companies like electric car startup Coda, solar financing company SunRun and electric vehicle infrastructure startup Better Place.
It’s also an interesting move for GM (albeit not a huge one) as it looks to go greener. It’s bringing out the range extender Chevrolet Volt (a partially electric car), has pledged to invest $40 million in green energy projects and, now, is investing in a small hydrogen infrastructure project. Lately, the major automakers making news for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are folks like Honda and Mercedes-Benz. Both of those companies will begin leasing hydrogen cars in California next year. Hawaii is also big on electric cars and infrastructure and will be among the first states to get the limited-release electric cars coming to market, like the Nissan Leaf and Coda sedan.
It’s also an example of how companies are building the infrastructure for a technology before it’s actually created or released — like the build-out of electric car chargers nationwide — in some cases by utilities themselves – or Google’s investment the Atlantic Wind Connection, an ambitious transmission backbone for offshore wind farms that have yet to be built (but would need transmission lines in order to become fully operational). Indeed, the supply of hydrogen outstrips the supply of cars in Hawaii at the moment. The Gas Company says it currently makes enough hydrogen to power 10,000 hydrogen cars. Read more here.

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