Hawaii, the destination location for millions of family vacation travelers for decades, is about to become a testbed for hydrogen-powered vehicles. General Motors just announced it is partnering with The Gas Company and 10 major stakeholders in an initiative to build a network for refueling hydrogen-powered cars in Hawaii.
The project is code-named Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative, or H2I. It includes government agencies, gas retailers, utility companies, universities and the military. The project’s goal is to install as many as 25 hydrogen fueling stations on Oahu by 2015 and to work with utility companies to pipe the fuel throughout the island.
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Why Hawaii? In essence, the island is the perfect test bed for the project. Motorists on the island can’t leave it. Hawaii has the unfortunate distinction of boasting the highest gasoline prices in the United States, due to the fact that it has to import 90 percent of its petroleum.
Utilities in the state make their own natural gas, and hydrogen is a byproduct. In fact, The Gas Company (TGC) today produces enough hydrogen to power up to 10,000 fuel cell vehicles and has the capacity to produce much more hydrogen.
Hydrogen is more efficient than gasoline and only emits water vapor. That makes it an attractive option for green-car solutions. The big hurdle is a distribution infrastructure for an entirely new type of fuel.
GM has so far spent $1.5 billion on hydrogen fuel research, and lauched a test fleet of about 100 Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles under its Project Driveway initiative. The big hurdle to overcome is getting enough road-side hydrogen fuel stations before introducing fuel cell vehicles.
GM won’t be selling fuel-cell vehicles any time soon, although it hopes to introduce them by 2015. In a statement released by GM, Charles Freese, GM’s executive director for fuel cell activities, said, “Once the key hydrogen infrastructure elements are proven in Hawaii, other states can adopt similar approaches.”
Freese added that Japan, Korea and Germany are all building hydrogen infrastructures within the same timeframe, and that the work done in Hawaii could serve as a template for other regions.