New hydrogen fuel station opens in Torrance

TORRANCE, Calif.

"It's a very attractive fuel when used in vehicle applications, such as these fuel cell cars, as the only thing emitted from the car itself is simple water vapor," said Julian Everson of Shell alternative energies.

Fuel cars are rarely seen around town, but if the future is going to include vehicles that run on hydrogen instead of gasoline, there have to be places to fill them up.

"We see long-term interest here," Everson said. "These are lovely things to drive. The problem is you won't drive them if there's no infrastructure and building infrastructure is expensive. We can't make that happen unless we're certain of the vehicles."

The new station in Torrance is unique in that it's connected directly to an industrial hydrogen pipeline that runs under 190th Street. Other stations have to make it on site or have it trucked in.

The land is owned by Toyota, a partner in the project. The station is open to any hydrogen-powered car from any make and there's no charge to fill up - for now.

With the new station in Torrance, the number of places to get hydrogen has gone from a handful to a slightly bigger handful. The number of hydrogen cars available to the public also just doubled from one to two.

About a year ago, Honda started leasing the Clarity, a fuel cell car, to select people since it's built in small quantities.

Now Mercedes-Benz has started leasing fuel cell cars too. It isn't cheap at $850 a month, but that includes insurance and the fuel once stations start charging for it.

Those who want a fuel cell car must also live near a hydrogen station to be considered.

"Currently, that's our biggest challenge," said Mercedes spokesman Larkin Hill. "The technology is ready, but the fueling is an integral part, and we need to have people live next to or close to a fueling station."

More outlets like the one in Torrance will mean more availability. That should bring more cars and that should make the cars a viable alternative.

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