We spend a lot of time talking about the possibilities for a large scale battery electric vehicle charging infrastructure, but what about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles? They’re a little further out from commercialization–the first vehicles will hit the market in approximately 2014–but they offer plenty of advantages: quick filling time (it takes three minutes to fill up a car), a range of over 300 miles, and fuel prices that are comparable to gasoline (the equivalent of $2.50 per gallon). Solar-powered hydrogen fueling startup SunHydro has a simple plan to build out a hydrogen infrastructure before these cars become commercialized: stick fueling stations in ubiquitous oil change and quick lube stations across the U.S.
SunHydro and sister company Proton OnSite (the company that makes the hydrogen fueling equipment) have been in preliminary talks with the Automotive Oil Change Association about the potential to install fueling stations in some of the AOCA’s 15,000 oil change and quick lube centers across the country.
The conversation began after the AOCA saw coverage of Proton’s grand opening for its hydrogen fueling station in October of last year (Proton has been involved in 16 fueling stations, while SunHydro has one). The organization had been looking at alternative revenue streams, explains R. Scotti Lee, an AOCA board member. “Right now, it’s just grassroots. We’re starting to shake the trees, telling [AOCA members] that you don’t
have to get this set up for tomorrow, but start setting aside money and areas
you can use for fueling.”
Ultimately, the decision to install a hydrogen fueling station will be up to individual AOCA members. And while SunHydro and Proton would like to get started as soon as possible, there are no concrete business or branding plans yet. “[The stations] could be branded SunHydro, we could do co-branding with a particular fast lube owner, or we could put down Proton Hardware,” says Mark Schiller, Proton’s VP of business development.
Make no mistake: SunHydro and Proton don’t have grand dreams of crushing the battery electric car revolution. “We think there is definitely a market opportunity for a mix of both [hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and EVs]. At the end of the day, they’re both electric cars–one is a battery, one is hydrogen.”