California is home to the first and biggest network of hydrogen fueling stations—with 12 retail locations available today and eight more expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2016, according to the California Fuel Cell Partnership. Dozens more are in the works. Meanwhile, New England—and the broader northeast corridor—is vying to become the second region in the United States to establish hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
Air Liquide, the French energy company, last week announced that it established long-term lease agreements for hydrogen stations in two Massachusetts communities: Braintree (13 miles south of Boston) and Mansfield (about halfway between Boston and Providence, R.I.) The company plans to open the stations to the public in early 2017.
The Massachusetts stations are two of four hydrogen stations that Air Liquide plans to open in the state—with eight more slated for the northeastern United States. At least one of the stations will be in Hartford, Conn. and another one in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. There will be additional stations in Delaware and New Jersey. Air Liquide has installed about 75 stations around the world.
“We’re very excited,” said Charles Myers, president of the Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition, in an interview with Boston.com. “The announcement by Air Liquide confirms the start of a northeast hydrogen station network that will enable the launch of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the region.” Air Liquide said the hydrogen will be produced off-site and delivered to the stations.
For many automakers, the key to selling cars in any specific region is the availability of hydrogen fueling. With the establishment of hydrogen stations in the Northeast, Toyota and other automakers are expected to begin selling fuel-cell cars in the region. Toyota has not confirmed a specific month for when sales of its Mirai fuel-cell sedan will begin in the northeast.
Toyota has “announced plans to develop refueling infrastructure throughout the Northeast, starting with 12 stations in five states,” said Jim Lentz, chief executive of Toyota North America, in an interview with Automotive News, a trade publication. “Toyota’s investment in fuel cell technology is for the long term, so we’re playing a leading role in bringing together automakers, energy companies, government agencies and others to help build the required refueling infrastructure,” Lentz said.
The Toyota Mirai was displayed at the New England International Auto Show in 2015 and 2016.
Toyota plans to increase deliveries of its Mirai sedan from about 1,000 for the 2016 model year to around 3,000 by the end of 2017. Hyundai leases its fuel-cell SUV in Southern California. In March, the company announced that it will begin leasing the Tucson fuel-cell vehicle in Northern California, at a San Jose-based dealership. Honda is expected to introduce the Clarity, a fuel-cell model, later this year.
Myers of the Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition believes the first 12 stations will be enough to launch the northeast market for fuel cell cars. “But to sustain growth, we need significantly more stations than the initial 12,” he said. Myers believes that the demand for hydrogen cars will be significant once consumers begin to understand the benefits of the technology in terms of zero emissions from the tailpipe, long driving range, and refueling times of about five minutes.