The first fueling station in the privately funded but publicly accessible East Coast Hydrogen Highway from Maine to Florida filled up its first fuel-cell vehicle Friday in Wallingford.
SunHydro, the sister company of Wallingford fuel cell manufacturer Proton Energy Systems, plans to open at least a dozen hydrogen fueling stations from Maine to Miami, making it possible for vehicle powered by fuel cells -- rather than gasoline -- to drive the entire Interstate 95 along the East Coast.
"My main reason in building these stations is to show people it is possible," said Tom Sullivan, owner of SunHydro and Proton Energy Systems.
Fuel cell vehicles run on hydrogen gas and emit only water vapor. Their only carbon footprint comes from the manufacturing of the hydrogen gas, which is achieved through separating water molecules with electricity. The electricity is typically powered by natural gas, making the fuel cell cars significantly less harmful that gasoline-powered cars.
SunHydro stations use solar power instead of natural gas to separate the water molecules to form hydrogen, removing the carbon footprint of the fuel cell vehicle.
"Imagine powering an entire transportation system on sun and water," said Gil Sperling, representative of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy at Friday's event.
At the Wallingford event on Friday, both Toyota and Chevrolet showcased their fuel cell vehicles that run on hydrogen. Toyota has given 10 of its fuel cell Highlanders to Proton Energy Systems for use in Wallingford. One of the Toyotas filled up at the hydrogen station during the event.