A bevy of industry figures and politicos congregated yesterday in Torrance, CA, to celebrate the grand opening of a new gas station. But it wasn’t just any new gas station …
As a collaborative effort between Toyota, Air Products, Shell, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the Department of Energy (DOE), the first hydrogen fueling station in the U.S. that is fed directly from an active industrial hydrogen pipeline was opened.
Don’t drive down yet to fill up your hydrogen car (which you are unlikely to have): The station will provide hydrogen for Toyota fuel cell hybrid demonstration program vehicles as well as other manufacturers’ fuel cell vehicle fleets in the Los Angeles area.
The word “hydrogen” triggers associations of “bomb” in some people. Toyota puts that to rest by placing the hydrogen gas station right next to their U.S. HQ in Torrance. Toyota leases the land “for a nominal fee” to Shell, which owns and operates the station. The gas is supplied by Air Products via a pipeline from its plants in Wilmington and Carson, CA. There is some tax payer’s money involved: “SCAQMD and DOE provided project funding assistance,” says Toyota’s press release.
At the inauguration of the gas station, Chris Hostetter, group vice president of product and strategic planning at Toyota U.S. said: “Toyota plans to bring a fuel cell vehicle to market in 2015, or sooner, and we will not be alone in the marketplace.” Let’s see …
Last year, we had picked up signs of a revival of the hydrogen fuel cell technology. There was a lot of renewed excitement in the industry about the technology, especially on the Asian and European side of the globe. Everybody seemed to be gearing up to make 2015 the year of hydrogen. Daimler sent a fleet of hydrogen-powered cars around the world.
They are still at it. Forgotten by the fickle media, the hydrogen-powered Benzes are making their long way back from China to Europe, live-blogged by an intrepid reporter of Auto, Motor und Sport who just posted issue #52. Judging from the comments, only a few bother to read.
A few months ago, the hydrogen euphoria seemed to suddenly run out of fuel – around the world. Even the Obama administration cut $70 million from hydrogen funding. That’s not what killed the mood, carmakers in Europe, Korea or Japan never harbored great hopes to get a lot out of U.S. coffers. From repeated talks with insiders at major automakers, I am given the impression that there is not big breakthrough with the hurdles that stand in the way of wholesale hydrogenification of the universe. As there are the problems of polar bear-friendly hydrogen production, efficient distribution and escape-proof storage, only to name a few.
A spokesman of a usually straightforward German automaker said: “If we have a breakthrough in any of these areas, we’ll call you.” I’m not sitting by the phone.
At the same time, as hydrogen-disillusion sank in (for the umpteenth time), interest in EVs started to rise, even at the formerly most electricity-insulated companies.