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The station will likely look similar to this self unit. It will cost about $3M USD and fuel 10 to 15 vehicles daily with hydrogen produced by hydrolysis. The energy to split the hydrogen from the oxygen will come from attached solar panels.  (Source: The Center for Energy Research)

SunHydro plans to make I-95, one of the busiest East Coast highways a "hydrogen highway".  (Source: AARoads)
Just as the future looks increasingly dim for hydrogen, the industry gets a boost

Prospects of seeing hydrogen vehicles available commercially anytime soon have looked increasingly bleak.  U.S. President Barack Obama has refused to provide significant federal funding to hydrogen vehicle development, supporting battery electric vehicles instead.  In addition, recent research reports indicate that hydrogen would actually release more net greenhouse gas emissions than traditional gasoline, when analyzed over the entire life cycle.

However, there's a ray of light for the hydrogen industry amid the darkness.  Connecticut-based SunHydro has announced plans to transform Interstate 95 into a hydrogen highway.  Those who live in the U.S. East Coast know that I-95 stretches from Maine to Florida and is one of the nation's busiest interstate highways. 

SunHydro will construct 11 stations on the highway.  Each station will be a self-contained hydrolysis unit with solar power collectors attached.  The solar power will provide energy to create hydrogen from water via hydrolysis.  The hydrogen production system will come from an Proton Energy, an alternative energy start-up.  The net process is expected to be much more carbon friendly than transporting hydrogen by truck to fueling stations.

The plan is ambitious.  Explains company president Michael Grey, "Our goal is to make it possible for hydrogen car to drive from Maine to Miami strictly on sun and water.  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.  They want to bring the cars here, but there’s nowhere to fuel them."

Currently, the hydrogen industry is stuck in a chicken and egg dilemma of sorts.  Lack of vehicles makes stations a poor business investment, while lack of stations make developing hydrogen vehicles problematic.  Paul Williamson of the University of Montana College of Technology, notes,"There’s no sense having hydrogen cars if there’s no place to refuel them. Most of the development is happening in California. Why? Because they have refueling stations."

The initial SunHydro station aim for a gradual build up, initially producing enough fuel to fill up 10 to 15 vehicles a day.  The stations will be located in Portland, Maine; Braintree, Massachusetts; Wallingford, Connecticut; South Hackensack, New Jersey; Claymont, Delaware; Richmond, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; and Orlando and Miami, Florida.

The stations may cost up to $3M USD a piece in private investment.  Mr. Grey says his company is taking a bold risk shouldering these high costs in order to bolster the market.  He states, "We’ve just decided that somebody needed to start this process. You have a lot of the big companies talk about it, but nobody’s stepped up to the plate and made it happen. You’ve got to have some visionary risk taking if you want to be a company of the future. Otherwise, you’ll fall by the wayside."

Currently, several companies still have hydrogen plans despite the cold reception by the research community and government.  GM has worked for several years on fuel cell-powered Equinox SUVs.  Honda has its FCX fuel cell test vehicle that has seen limited U.S. deployment.  And Mercedes-Benz plans to release F-Cell, a limited edition fuel cell vehicle to “selected customers” in Europe and the United States this spring.  Mazda and Volkswagen are also eying hydrogen plans.

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RE: Still a fair way to go...
By Thats Mr Gopher to you on 1/28/2010 2:36:16 PM , Rating: 2
If you fill 15 vehicles a day at $40 pure profit, you get $600 a day, which is $219,000 a year. At this rate, the $3 million dollar station pays off in just over 13.5 years.

Stay in school kids.

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By mdogs444 on 1/28/2010 4:12:49 PM , Rating: 3
Not to mention the average car doesn't even cost $40 to fill up as it is. So why would anyone switch to hydrogen if it costs more to use?

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By cruisin3style on 1/28/2010 5:21:33 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know much about this technology but the obvious ways it would make sense to pay more for the fuel is if the car costs less than a gasoline-powered car (doubtful) or if hydrogen gives you better fuel economy (possible?)

Either way, I'm glad someone is at least putting a base of stations somewhere in the US. I think pretty much anything is worth giving a try to get us off of oil dependence, but then again i don't know anything about hydrogen. Maybe this will fuel more of this kind of investment, unfortunate pun not intended

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By sigmatau on 1/28/2010 6:28:37 PM , Rating: 1
Most cars don't have a gas tank of 14 gallons or more? News to me.

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By Keeir on 1/28/2010 6:48:52 PM , Rating: 2
Also note... they don't really tell you what a "fill-up" is.

A FCX Clarity from Honda for example has a total full range of 240 Miles.

Clearly, most Clarity Sized Cars would require ~10 gallons of gas to go the same distance. Meaning a comparable "fill-up" would be less than 30.

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By Penti on 1/28/2010 8:53:23 PM , Rating: 3
Look at it this way instead 10-15 cars is 40-60 kg Compressed H2. That's 1600 to 2400 kWh (hydrogen) a day. Something hardly the solar cells will give them. I don't think they got thousands of panels :) It's just a ploy. (I count 69 panels on the picture, it aren't off grid).

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By HEIJIHUHU on 1/29/10, Rating: -1
RE: Still a fair way to go...
By Captain Orgazmo on 1/28/2010 7:46:27 PM , Rating: 2
Basically these stations will never break even from a profitability sense. I can't imagine they would have a lifespan of more than 10 years before need for total replacement (either by incremental repair, or complete overhaul), and from a NPV point of view, they are totally worthless. However, profitability of these initial stations is clearly not the goal.

Hydrogen use is the only way forward in breaking the US's dependence on oil from antagonistic states, and any "environmental" concerns would become moot if the entire US economy were to collapse (as it will at current spending and trade deficit rates). Also, from a realistic (non-wealth-transfer-Al-Gore-world-government) point of view, use of hydrogen as an energy transfer medium is basically pollution free (or at least far more than the manufacture and disposal of batteries made from a limited resource sourced from a 3rd world country).

By Thats Mr Gopher to you on 1/29/2010 12:12:36 AM , Rating: 2
Using hydrogen isn't basically pollution free because of the inefficiencies in producing it, transferring it to the vehicle (even if produced on site) and the fuel cells themselves. You require several times over the amount of energy you end up using in the vehicle. Without overwhelming amounts of clean energy, hydrogen is far dirtier than battery electric vehicles.

And lithium ion batteries are recyclable with nothing really all that nasty in them unlike lead acid batteries, which are really the only batteries that present a major environmental concern. There is more than enough lithium available in a number of countries to carry electric vehicles through until hydrogen fuel cells are ready and as technology improves less and less lithium is required. We might as well be using them where appropriate, such as in cities which could benifit from EVs to cut down on smog and poor air quality.

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By Samus on 1/29/2010 10:19:15 AM , Rating: 2
The cost will go down. You guys don't honestly think a few solar panels and a hydrolysis generator cost $3 MILLION in bulk do you?

I'm glad hydrogen is getting a boost. It's clearly the future, but not near future unfortunately.

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By Penti on 1/29/2010 2:49:53 PM , Rating: 2
Actually a thousand+ solar panels costs a million dollars on it's own. But it's not off grid so the solar panels are unimportant. Electrolysis aren't cheap. Compression aren't either. Neither are storage and pumping. This isn't a boost either. 15 cars a day and 11 stations... That can't support many cars.

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By CommodoreVic20 on 2/1/2010 8:18:50 AM , Rating: 2
I Agree! Where the heck are they getting the 3M per site figure from? Something really stinks in this deal - grant/investor money being justified/stolen?

It would be difficult for the solar panel setup to cost more than $20K. Lets say the Generator and pump equipment are the most expensive hardware parts, $200k? Add another $200k for the site Construction, which is way over would it should cost for such a simple project ( GC fees for clearing, paving, slab, permits, electrician and special assembly fees ). We are up to $320k. Probably the most expensive piece is the land. Whether leased or purchased I can't imagine a piece of commercial land this size costing more than 1M. That is still a rough total of 1.3M, less than half of the 3M stated.

By CommodoreVic20 on 2/1/2010 8:23:22 AM , Rating: 2
Keep in mind that in my figures I included purchasing the land, which is a pretty good/safe investment and money that would be returned if when sold.

in any case at 15 cars per day at $40 each...

15x40 = 600
600x365 = 219000
1.3M / 219000 = 6 years

RE: Still a fair way to go...
By Penti on 2/2/2010 9:22:58 AM , Rating: 2
Lol, you won't get enough juice for 15 cars a day with 20k solar panels. That won't even do for one kg or gallon equivalent. What you describe is a home hydrogen station enough to power a couple of cars. (a few fillups per month).

There's no point with the solar panels at all as this type of station can't be off-grid without a thousand or more solar panels. Yes people get ripped of. But who cares they make money. They obviously have no problem with being disingenuous about hydrogen.

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