Section: Archived News Stories

New Ithaca company seeks to showcase hydrogen-powered vehicles

August 21st, 2012 ›




Written by David Hill

Southern Tier regional economic officials on Tuesday plugged a recently formed Ithaca company that could help make the city a showcase for vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Standard Hydrogen Corp. intends to build a refueling station for vehicles using the technology, in which stored pressurized hydrogen is combined with oxygen in the air to create electricity that drives electric motors in cars, trucks and other vehicles.

The new company is working with Cornell University and other organizations interested in buying fuel-cell vehicles. The idea is to crack the chicken-and-egg dilemma that stations won't be built if there is no demand for the fuel, while the vehicles are unlikely to be sold in a place without fueling stations.

An advantage of fuel-cell vehicles over those powered by batteries is they have longer ranges and are easier to refuel, said company co-founder and president Paul Mutolo. He is also director of external partnerships at the Energy Materials Center at Cornell, which is designated by the U.S. Department of Energy as a center for researching and developing advanced materials to improve fuel cells, batteries and related technology.

Drivers would fill up a vehicle's fuel cell in three to five minutes and drive about 300 miles on the fill-up. The first station would support 10 to 15 cars a day.

Some fuel-cell stations get their hydrogen trucked in, but the first Ithaca station would convert water to hydrogen and oxygen by using electricity from renewable sources. Sites downtown and on East Hill are being considered, Mutolo said.

Mutolo and co-founder Bill Dailey are presenting a summary of the project to the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council today in Binghamton. Along with Cornell, they have made a proposal to the council for $1.1 million in state economic-development funding. They're seeking private and other public investment as well.

A vehicle expected to be part of a demonstration is a Cornell Lab of Ornithology shuttle for students, staff and researchers from the lab to the Cornell central campus. Ithaca CarShare also is exploring the use of one or more vehicles in its fleet, and Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit is investigating the addition of a hydrogen fuel-cell bus from BAE Systems in Endicott to its fleet, Mutolo said.

Cornell Plantations and the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station in Ithaca also have expressed interest in fuel-cell utility vehicles, including lawn mowers.

But the station would be open to anyone with a fuel-cell vehicle, Mutolo added.

The vehicles involved so far are from General Motors and Mercedes-Benz, but other manufacturers' products may be added.

At one time, New York had about 12 fuel-cell stations, but only seven remain, Mutolo said, the others having closed for various reasons such as completing their demonstrations. The nearest is in Rochester, he said.

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