Electric power isn't the only possible future for the auto industry—there's also hydrogen. This past April, we spoke with a startup that had a grand plan for an East Coast hydrogen highway. That plan is now one step closer to reality with this week's news that SunHydro has built its first hydrogen fueling station.
The station, located in the parking lot of Proton Energy Systems (SunHydro's partner) in Wallingford, Connecticut, marks the first of nine planned stations that will allow drivers to go from Maine to Florida on hydrogen fuel. SunHydro's Wallingford station is powered by Proton Energy Systems' enhanced proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology, which generates hydrogen using just on-site solar panels and water. The only emission from the process is water vapor.
Initially, SunHydro expects most of its customers to come from Hartford, Connecticut's public transit system, which features four hydrogen-powered buses. The buses currently rely on trucked-in hydrogen.
SunHydro's fuel is comparable (or cheaper) than petroleum—fuel at the new station costs $10 per kilogram, and $50 fills up a hydrogen-powered Toyota Highlander that goes 350 miles on a tank. "Hydrogen gives you more performance, and you can pull up [to a hydrogen fueling station] and be gone in 3 minutes," Tom Sullivan, CEO of SunHydro, recently explained to Fast Company.
But reasonably priced fuel and powerful performance may not be enough to sway automakers and customers away from electric vehicles. There are, after all, many EVs and EV fueling stations coming down the pipeline. The same can't be said for hydrogen—yet.