October 9, 2017
FOCUS: Construction and Transportation

Fuel-cell vehicles await their moment

Photo | mariordo59, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo | mariordo59, Flickr Creative Commons
A Toyota Mirai fuel-cell vehicle.

Of the 5,565 electric vehicles (EV) registered in Connecticut, three are powered by fuel cells — which convert compressed hydrogen gas into electricity.

Fuel cell vehicles, or FCEVs, could help Connecticut's EV ambitions, but it will require the state to adopt hydrogen fueling stations to become a factor.

"That is a huge barrier to moving forward," said Joel Rinebold, director of energy initiatives at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, which administers the Northeast Electrochemical Energy Storage Cluster.

But progress is being made. Air Liquide, in conjunction with Toyota, is slated to open the state's first commercial-scale hydrogen station by year's end. There's another facility at Proton OnSite in Wallingford.

After Air Liquide opens its facility in Hartford's North Meadows section, Rinebold expects momentum to build.

"We would fully expect additional stations to be opened, some with support from government," he said. "There will be ramp-up from 2017 to the 2020s."

DEEP is planning to dangle incentives to developers who want to build hydrogen stations in a different part of the state. Farrell said the agency is hoping to offer up $800,000.

Commercially available fuel cell vehicle models are relatively expensive. The Toyota Mirai, for example, starts at $57,500.

Despite that, Rinebold predicts the vehicles, which have long ranges and can be refueled much faster than electric vehicles can be recharged, will have a steeper growth pace than EVs.

"I fully expect to see fleets of fuel cell vehicles by 2025," he said.

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