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Hydrogen cars to roll into state in November

The GM-Gas Co. partnership will get a boost from a fueling station in Kakaako

By Alan Yonan Jr.

LAST UPDATED: 2:19 a.m. HST, Sep 2, 2010

General Motors said yesterday it will bring 20 hydrogen-powered vehicles to Hawaii later this year as part of a partnership with the Gas Co. to grow the state's green-energy automobile market.

The Gas Co., which will supply the hydrogen for the fleet of Chevrolet Equinox SUVs, is moving ahead with its plans to install the first nonmilitary hydrogen fueling station at its Kamakee Street facility in Kakaako. The Equinox and other hydrogen-powered vehicles use fuel cells rather than internal combustion engines as their motor.

"We'll be able to start fueling vehicles on an experimental basis in town by mid-November," said Jeff Kissel, president and chief executive officer of the Gas Co.

Kissel and GM executive Joe Mercurio, speaking at the 2010 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Expo, provided more details of the partnership first announced in May.

Oahu is the latest market where GM has taken its "Project Driveway" initiative to test its hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

GM, which built about 100 hydrogen Equinox SUVs two years ago, hopes to begin large-scale production of the vehicle in three to four years, Mercurio said.

Yesterday's news is the latest in a series of announcements made in Hawaii this year by companies promoting vehicles that use renewable sources of power.

Nissan used the Clean Energy Expo as a venue to unveil its first Leaf electric car in the islands. The first Leaf shipments are expected to arrive here in January.

Meanwhile, South Korea-based CT&T in May said it plans to build a $200 million assembly plant on Oahu that would turn out two-seat electric cars and other vehicles and employ as many as 400 people.

Kissel said the Gas Co. has the capacity to produce up to 7,000 gasoline-equivalent gallons of hydrogen per day to power the fuel cells of up to 15,000 vehicles.

The hydrogen, which the Gas Co. generates as part of its production of synthetic natural gas, would be delivered to fueling stations on Oahu via the company's network of 1,000 miles of underground pipelines on the island, Kissel said. Hydrogen would be delivered to the neighbor islands in tanks.

Mercurio said GM's long-term plan is to work with 25 of the 170 gas stations on Oahu to sell hydrogen delivered via the Gas Co. lines.

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