Hydrogen Highway Gets First Fuel Station

From Maine to Florida, purely on sun and water: that’s the driving vision of Tom Sullivan, the guy who built Lumber Liquidators into a hardwood floor giant and is now a hydrogen fuel devotee and entrepreneur. His young company SunHydro kicked off the effort by opening its first solar-powered hydrogen fueling station in Wallingford, Conn., filling the tank on a hydrogen fuel-cell powered Toyota Highlander SUV.

SunHydro has coined the term “East Coast Hydrogen Highway” to refer to its network of envisioned stations. Wallingford is first, with stations planned at Lumber Liquidator stores in Scarborough, Maine; Braintree, Mass.; Claymont, Del., Richmond, Va.; Charlotte, N.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Orlando; Fla.; and Miami.

image via Toyota

“My main reason in building these stations is to show that they can work,” Sullivan told the Record-Journal newspaper. “Hydrogen is real.”

SunHydro said the fueling station is powered by a system constructed by its sister company, Proton Energy Systems. Hydrogen is generated on-site using “enhanced proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology that derives hydrogen from water.” Solar cells on the nearby Proton Energy building power the operation.

SunHydro said for now, the Wallingford station will fill up company-used Toyota FCHV-adv vehicles, and figures a broader need won’t come until 2015. Why jump into the technology so early in the process? “I thought, ‘I’ll build some stations and see if we can get it going,’” Sullivan said in an Atlantic magazine profile. “Somebody had to just get off their ass and do something.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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