With the recent announcements by both BMW and General Motors that they will be rolling out hydrogen vehicles to the marketplace in 2007, this puts pressure on the government and industry to develop a hydrogen infrastructure to support such vehicles. The state governments of California, Florida, New York, Michigan, Arizona and Washington DC, to name a few, have worked with business to install hydrogen fueling demonstration stations in their states in order to test the feasibility of hydrogen cars and infrastructure and gain public acceptance for the new technology.
So, who are the big players now in producing hydrogen and building hydrogen fueling stations? Praxair, Air Products, Stuart Energy Systems, Shell, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobile, BP and Linde are some of the companies who have been gearing up for increasing hydrogen production and distribution.
Many challenges remain, though, in the building of the hydrogen infrastructure. The first challenge is deciding on which current infrastructure system to model the hydrogen system after. The current gasoline infrastructure seems to be the most popular since it provides familiarity and convenience and will most likely be accepted by society. A less popular, alternative method would be to develop a system after the natural gas infrastructure that is already in place. And, then there are some calling for building a new hydrogen infrastructure not based upon any current infrastructure models. This scenario may include small hydrogen production stations located at corporate business parks, large malls and shopping centers and even home hydrogen refueling units.
It is important to note that all of these systems can be developed concurrently. The prudent thing to do, however, is to just get started. And, with BMW and GM applying a bit of pressure with their aggressive timeframe for rolling out hydrogen vehicles, hopefully the government agencies, hydrogen producers and distributors will respond, in kind, to meet the challenge.