Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative Announced

Joanna Schroeder

California is not the only state to take on a “hydrogen highway“. This week, General Motors (GM) and The Gas Company (TGC) have launched an initiative to make hydrogen-powered vehicles and a fueling infrastructure a reality in Hawaii by 2015. Ten companies, agencies and universities have joined the program, called the Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative (H2I) in what participants hope will be become an essential piece of the state’s energy program.

“Hydrogen, used as a fuel, will reduce our dependence on petroleum starting today,” said Jeff Kissel, TGC president and CEO.

According to a press release from GM, they are the “leader in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles” and the “first to field the world’s largest fuel cell demonstration fleet of more than 100 vehicles”. The release also stated that TGC currently produces enough hydrogen to power up to 10,000 fuel cell vehicles with the capacity to produce more. Yet to be determined as part of the program is how to best distribute the hydrogen but the companies are looking at the possibility of using existing natural gas pipelines.

In 2008, the state launched the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), a partnership with the U.S. DOE with a goal of generating 70 percent or more of Hawaii’s energy through energy efficiency and clean, renewable resources such as solar, wind, wave, biofuels, and geothermal. The goal of H2I is to make hydrogen available to all of Oahu’s 1 million residents by 2015 with the installation of 20-25 hydrogen stations throughout the island.

“In Hawaii, we want to address the proverbial chicken or egg dilemma,” said Charles Freese, executive director of GM Fuel Cell Activities. “There has always been a looming issue over how to ensure that the vehicles and the necessary hydrogen refueling infrastructure are delivered to market at the same time. Our efforts in Hawaii will help us meet that challenge.”

What was not discussed in the release was the cost for Oahu residents to purchase a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle nor what the cost will be to fill up the tank.