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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 3:53:22 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure but I don't think this particular project is receiving taxpayers money. It appears to be backed by private funding.

These stations certainly aren't going to be making anyone any money though, that is for certain.

Both hydrogen fuel cells and photovoltaic solar panels are technologies that have yet to reach their prime. Relatively small scale projects like this will help to grow the technology and eventually lead to better systems that can become economically viable.

Remember that when the automobile first came about it certainly wasn't something everyone could afford nor were there fuel stations across the country. Don't expect the first few generations of electric vehicles or fuel cell vehicles to be the "every man's car" nor universal access to fast charging or hydrogen fuelling.


RE: Still a fair way to go...
By mindless1 on 1/28/2010 10:59:45 PM , Rating: 2
Yes private funding. You don't suppose those doing that funding are getting money back?

I do support the idea of continuing to develop more efficient solar panels, placing them on land that isn't deemed more useful for something else, and putting that power into the grid.

THEN, those being paid for their energy production can do whatever they want with the money, like installing a hydrolysis hydrogen generator fueling station at existing gas stations if they so choose. In other words I'm saying the oil companies are the wise ones to get into this market since their profits will drop anyway as more people move away from gasoline and diesel, and because regardless of whether a car uses hydrogen or not the occupants and vehicle still has benefit from the traditional *gas* station where they might refuel with hydrogen.


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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