Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) are gaining momentum in the northeastern U.S., as carmakers parade their cars through the region in efforts to raise awareness and support for the technology.
On Wednesday, the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai shared the spotlight at a press conference with District Department of the Environment Director Tommy Wells. While introducing the car in Washington, D.C., Wells also addressed a top concern for hydrogen-powered cars: the availability of fueling stations.
“Recently I’ve talked to one company that’s looking at putting the hydrogen fueling stations in our region,” said Wells. “I know that this very likely will be our future.”
The press conference is part of Toyota’s strategy to drum up popularity for the Mirai. After touring the car throughout the East Coast, the carmaker wants to begin working on a plan for fueling stations.
“The hope is that our work with these service providers will encourage others to invest and to grow that infrastructure into a ‘hydrogen highway’ all the way from the Northeast down to Washington and possibly further,” said Bob Wimmer, the energy and environment manager for Toyota.
“That will take time, that will take investment, and that will take foresight.”
The Mirai’s tour also included a stop at the University of Delaware, home to the Center for Fuel Cell Research (CFCR). In addition to putting hydrogen-powered shuttle buses on the campus, CFCR efforts include increasing public support for the FCVs.
“Our goal is to educate the public that fuel cells are clean, safe and reliable and that fuel cell vehicles are easy to refuel,” says CFCR Director Ajay Prasad.
“For fuel cell cars to become a reality, the challenges associated with developing the hydrogen infrastructure – including production, storage and delivery – will need to be resolved.”
Toyota isn’t the only carmaker on the road with FCVs on the East Coast. This week, Hyundai shared its Tucson Fuel Cell in New York City. The four-door has been for sale since June 2014, though it’s currently only available in California. But the carmaker said that’s about to change.
“We’re looking at bringing [the Tucson Fuel Cell] over to the East Coast,” said Gil Castillo, the senior group manager for alternative vehicle and advanced vehicle strategy at Hyundai Motors America.
“California was the first step. We want to bring the Northeast now into the picture.”
Castillo walked news reporter Dan Mannarino through the technology and benefits of an FCV.
“Because it’s an electric vehicle, you get the perks of HOV access,” said Castillo.
“For our Long Island Expressay drivers, it’s all about the HOV lane,” joke Mannarino, who had a chance to expereince the car firsthand.
While Mannarino was impressed with how quiet the car was, he also wanted to know more about how Hyundai will approach the issue of refueling stations.
“We’re actually seeing hydrogen stations being developed,” Castillo said.
“There are some in Massachuesstes being developed this year. I think you’ll start seeing some in New York as early as next year.”
Photo credit: Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images