GM and local partners push for hydrogen production, distribution

Charlie Freese
Charlie Freese
Jeff Kissel
Jeff Kissel
Barney Robinson
Barney Robinson

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - They are cool to look at and a dream to drive. General Motors unveiled the GM Equinox - the latest version of its venture into hydrogen-powered vehicles.

"These cars are deployed in six different countries around the world. And we're watching how different users in different places use the cars. Fleet users use the cars differently than you and me," said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Activities.

A symbolic signing on a fuel cell Wednesday inked an agreement to advance Hawaii's Hydrogen Initiative.

GM and The Gas Company now have businesses, military agencies, and the University of Hawaii on board. They want to install hydrogen pumps in up to 25 service stations on Oahu and have enough hydro-powered cars on the road to support it by 2015.

"So anywhere there's a gas line in metropolitan Honolulu from Campbell Industrial Park to Hawaii Kai, a pump can be installed to fuel the vehicle," The Gas Company president and CEO Jeff Kissel said.

The first pumps would be in gas stations near military bases where heavy use of hydrogen vehicles is expected.

But Waialae Chevron owner Barney Robinson thinks it'll be at least a decade until demand for hydrogen will be high.

"For hydrogen to be a viable fuel, basically we're going to have to change our entire fleet. That means you, me, and commercial people are going to get off of conventional gasoline and into hydrogen," he said.

The GM Equinox is still in the research and development phase.

"You can drive it at highway speeds. You can drive it for long distances. And you're not constantly worrying about how you're going to charge it. And it's zero emissions. Only water vapor comes out the tail pipe," Freese said.

Toyota and Mercedes are also working on hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Hawaii's gasoline has seven to twelve percent hydrogen in it, so the state's ahead of the mainland in getting it to consumers.  It would just have to be separated and sent to fuel pumps.

The bigger challenge is making sure supply and demand travel at the same speed.

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