Alongside normal gas pumps at White Plains, part of the greater New York City region, a strange beast rears its head. The hydrogen pump is a foreign sight in a land of vanilla gas pumps, but it soon will become a bit more familiar to New Yorkers.
Despite lack of support from the federal government, Shell and General Motors are forging ahead with their trial deployment of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and fuel stations in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Dubbed "Project Driveaway", the project will loan fuel cell Chevy Equinoxes (like the ones DailyTech test drove in Las Vegas at CES in 2009) to volunteers from the cities who sign up on the internet. The volunteers will receive the vehicles and be able to drive them for two months.
In order to make fuelling a painless experience for the drivers, Shell opened a station with a hydrogen pump in White Plains in April 2008. This week it opened a new station, this time about 30 miles away, near NYC's busy JFK Airport. A third station will open later this summer in the Bronx, sponsored by the New York City Department of Sanitation. The three stations will be clustered for convenience and should provide intriguing insight into what a hydrogen-driven auto industry might look like.
Duncan Macleod, Shell vice president of Hydrogen states, "The prospects for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are strong in the longer-term. This first cluster is an important step as we continue to build capability in retailing hydrogen fuel, in line with the auto makers' plans to develop hydrogen vehicles."
An LA station opened last year, and Shell also has hydrogen stations in Tokyo, Reykjavik, Shanghai, and Washington, D.C. Most of the stations produce hydrogen on-site via electrolysis, making enough hydrogen for seven cars. Many of the stations use electricity from alternative sources to drive this process. Hydrogen is dispensed at either 5,000 or 10,000 psi and retails at $4-$6 per kg, which provides approximately the energy of one gallon of gas.
Currently there are about 100 hydrogen vehicles deployed in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C. Honda is also using the hydrogen stations to fuel its FCX Clarity prototypes.