Is it just us, or has interest in hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles intensified lately? We've seen SunHydro's infrastructure plan, Toyota's $50,000 hydrogen sedan, and now GM's plan to bring a hydrogen infrastructure pilot to Oahu, Hawaii in 2015. GM is working with gas energy provider The Gas Company to make hydrogen available to local fueling stations—possibly for less than the cost of gasoline.
TGC already generates hydrogen along with synthetic natural gas and delivers it in a utility gas stream. As part of its partnership with GM, TGC will separate out hydrogen from key locations throughout its 1,000-mile utility pipeline system and send it to fueling stations for fuel cell use.
So why Hawaii and not, say, California? Hawaii depends on imported petroleum for 90% of its energy, TGC and GM have a convenient partnership, and gasoline is more expensive on the islands than on the mainland U.S.—all of these things combine to make an atmosphere ripe for hydrogen fuel. It doesn't hurt that Oahu is an island, either. That means fuel cell vehicle drivers can't accidentally drive off into areas that don't have hydrogen infrastructures.
So far, GM only has one fuel cell vehicle in Hawaii, but the automaker plans to send over nearly 50 more as part of the pilot. GM expects to have a fuel cell system ready for market by 2015—just in time for the Oahu hydrogen system. And eventually, GM hopes that its Hawaii infrastructure will be able to support tens of thousands of fuel cell powered vehicles. Whether that success can possibly carry over to the infrastructure-less mainland remains to be seen.