Aloha Hydrogen: GM Joins a Fueling Station Project in Hawaii


Lost among all the hullabaloo of General Motor's recent bankruptcy woes and the long-anticipated introduction of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid has been GM's desire to make hydrogen-powered vehicles a reality -- and soon.

With the Volt now in production, GM (GM) is taking a big step toward making hydrogen-fueled cars and trucks a reality for consumers by partnering with a dozen companies to build more than two dozen fueling stations in Hawaii, according to news reports. GM is to unveil the proposal Wednesday.

The project is important because having sufficient numbers of refueling stations is key to ensuring the viability of hydrogen-power technology. Known as the Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative, or H2I, the project includes government agencies, utility companies, gas retailers and the military, TheDetroit News reported.

Hawaii: The Ideal Test Market

The program seeks to build as many as 25 hydrogen fueling stations by 2015 on Oahu, Hawaii's most-populated island, and it will work with utility companies to find ways of piping the fuel throughout the island.

Though GM has a test fleet of some 100 hydrogen-powered vehicles based on the Chevrolet Equinox compact SUV (pictured), the Detroit-based automaker won't supply fuel-cell cars for the project because the technology is still in development. But GM is trying to ready the market for the vehicles' introduction, possibly as soon as 2015.

Hawaii is viewed as an ideal test market because the state relies on imported oil to power about 90% of its energy needs. Not only is imported oil expensive, it also leaves the Hawaii economy vulnerable should supplies be disrupted. The state is looking to reduce its dependence on oil to about 70% of its needs.

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GM has spent some $2 billion so far developing fuel-cell technology, said Charlie Freese, the automaker's executive director of its fuel-cell initiative. That substantial investment is incentive enough for GM to move forward with ways to make hydrogen-powered vehicles a reality for consumers, he told the Detroit Free Press.

GM isn't the only auto manufacturer developing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Among automakers, Honda Motor (HMC) was the first to build a production hydrogen vehicle -- the HCX Clarity, which is available for lease to drivers in Southern California.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Hyundai Motor is planning to introduce a fuel-cell model to the U.S. market in 2012, and Toyota Motor (TM) has one in the works for debut in 2015. Also, Mercedes-Benz plans to have about 70 hydrogen-powered cars on the streets of Southern California by 2012.