Wednesday, July 2, 2008

US hydrogen maker sees car filling stations soon


LOS ANGELES - One of the main obstacles to the development of hydrogen as a fuel for cars is the lack of a system of fueling stations.

Barney Rush thinks the Northern Virginia company he heads can be a part of a now-nascent hydrogen filling station network because much of the infrastructure for it are the natural gas lines that already run under most city streets in America.

Rush is CEO of H2Gen Innovations, a seven-year-old maker of machines that use natural gas to make hydrogen.

H2Gen shipped its first machine in 2005. They look like big metal boxes that house methane steam reformers that change natural gas into hydrogen by striping away carbon. The hydrogen fuel is free of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

Most of the 25 machines H2Gen has delivered make hydrogen for industrial purposes. But the company sees expansion in making hydrogen for fuel cell cars.

"So many people talk about what we have to do in the future in order to provide the hydrogen for these cars," said Rush. "We've got the machines today."

General Motors Corp and Honda Motor Co have hydrogen fuel cell prototypes now, and plans for affordable cars within a decade.

"Right now, infrastructure is a big obstacle," said Diedra Wylie of GM which is putting 100 Chevy Equinox SUVs in the hands of consumers in its three-year Project Driveway.

Honda's FCX Clarity fueled by hydrogen will have up to 200 models on the road this year, many leased at US$600 monthly, which represents only a fraction of the cost for the carmaker.

There are now about five dozen hydrogen fueling stations in the United States, and most serve only fleet vehicles.

One day retail hydrogen stations may rival the existing network of 180,000 existing US gasoline stat

Story by Bernie Woodall

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