Hydrogen Filling Stations Opening in Northeast

Video and Text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island has one hydrogen filling station but more are anticipated as hydrogen-fueled cars gain acceptance as a clean-emission transportation option.

The state’s lone station occupies a corner of the Stop & Shop parking lot on Branch Avenue. It’s part of a rollout of stations in the Northeast and California funded by Air Liquide and Toyota. The Toyota Mirai is one of several hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles to hit the market in recent years and manufactures are offering generous incentives for the right customers.

The engines don’t run on hydrogen but are electric motors charged by onboard hydrogen fuel cells. The fuel cells generate electricity from liquid hydrogen stored in 5-liter tanks.

Hydrogen truck and car manufactures expect the production of hydrogen to become less expensive and less reliant on fossil fuels as the energy needed to create pure hydrogen comes from renewable sources.

The filling stations are similar to gasoline stations. It takes about 4 minutes to refill a tank and costs between $65 and $70. The driving range is about 312 miles per fill-up. Toyota offers leases that include $5,000 for fuel and free maintenance during a three-year lease.

“Liquid hydrogen is the future,” said Roy Bant, business development manager for Air Liquide’s Northeast region.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet but it doesn’t exist in an independent form. Various energy-intensive techniques produce hydrogen or separate it from water. Air Liquide, based in Paris, pledges to use 100 percent hydropower and renewable energy to make hydrogen by 2030.

So far, filling stations are operating or near completion in Hempstead, N.Y.; Mansfield, Mass.; and Hartford. Twelve filling stations and a distribution center are planned for the region.

A few big retailers use hydrogen fuel-cell forklifts in their distribution warehouses.

Rhode Island is one of nine Northeast states to participate in the ZEV Task Force. The group pledges to have at least 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles driving on their roadways by 2025.