Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cars Only Part of BC Hydrogen Highway Plan

Gold Stream Gazette
August 3, 2006

Fuel cell vehicles are only a small part of a much larger movement toward hydrogen technology in the province.

"It's amazing because most people don't realize B.C. is one of the world leaders in the hydrogen fuel cell industry," said Hydrogen Highway manager Alison Grigg.

The B.C. Hydrogen Highway program is an umbrella organization co-ordinating broad-based activities that support the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

"It's a metaphor and a real highway. It's our route to the future for B.C.," said Grigg, noting the project resembles California's Hydrogen Highway project.

The forward-thinking Hydrogen Highway initiative, jumpstarted by $1.1 million in federal funds in 2004, relies on co-operative projects and partnerships involving government, industry and academic institutions.

The Vancouver Fuel Cell Vehicle Program — and Victoria's fuel cell car — is just a tiny piece of the puzzle in place supporting the Hydrogen Highway vision, and the hefty vision to install a hydrogen fueling infrastructure between Victoria and Whistler before the 2010 Olympics games is already well underway.

Numerous hydrogen-related projects, including several fueling stations, are listed on the Hydrogen Highway's website,

The mainland has seen the most Hydrogen Highway activity, however, the web page says an anchor fueling station in BC Transit's Langford facility, dubbed the Victoria Station, will dispense fuel to support the Victoria-based Ford fuel cell vehicle.

Behind closed doors, the Victoria Station is already up and running, confirmed Joe Wong, manager of infrastructure at Powertech Labs, the Surrey-based company that operates and maintains the station.

A subsidiary of BC Hydro, Powertech opened its Compressed Hydrogen Infrastructure Program station in Surrey in 2002 and began providing hydrogen fuel for the VFCVP in 2005.

"It's a little bit smaller than the capacity of our site, but we operate more vehicles," he said of the Victoria Station that was built this year.

"It's not a cookie cutter type of technology," he explained. "There's a lot of engineering involved and design involved in the initial application."

As for filling up, Wong said it's just like a gas station.

"You pull up the nozzle to the reciprocal, pull a knob and the gas flows straight through."

The Victoria car is filled up two or three times a week at the station and gets 200 to 300 kilometers pertank — enough for a return trip to Nanaimo.

Internet controls allow Powertech to monitor the station remotely. When the hydrogen is running low, they send over a hydrogen shipment — hydrogen is provided by the BOC Group — to fill up the fueling station.

The Victoria Station is currently "under lock and key," said a BC Transit spokesperson; however, an official unveiling is slated for the fall.

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