Source:Burlington Free Press
In the spring, a hydrogen-powered Toyota Prius will join the city's fleet of cars.
It will fill up at the only hydrogen pump in New England, located between the Public Works
and Burlington Electric departments, and demonstrate, its pro- ponents hope, that
hydrogen-fueled cars will someday offer a realistic alternative to gasoline.
Rep. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday announced a $1 million grant from the U.S.
Department of Energy to build a small hydrogen-fuel generator and hydrogen pump at the
Public Works site. It will take its power from a BED wind turbine. The electricity, using a
device called an electrolyzer, splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen will be
compressed and stored in a high-pressure tank on the small site.
The station is being built and tested by Proton Energy Systems of Wallingford, Conn. The
custom Prius, slated to be a Public Works car, is an internal-combustion hybrid. It is being
converted now so that it will run on hydrogen, with water, rather than carbon dioxide, as
the byproduct of combustion.
Nick Borland, an engineer with Northern Power Systems of Waitsfield, the overall
coordinator of the project, said he recently drove a similar vehicle in California, one of
fewer than 100 in the country.
"It feels like a regular car," he said.
The Burlington hydrogen project is one of several across the country operating with
Department of Energy funding. Chris McKay, a Northern Power Systems engineer, said the
testers from the various locations will meet at the Department of Energy once a year to
exchange information and learn from each other.
The Burlington site, Sanders said, will allow testing of the new car under cold weather
conditions. It also serves as a demonstration project of a "decentralized" hydrogen-
The technology being used at the Public Works site is familiar from industrial applications,
said John Kassel, chairman of the board of EVermont, a non-profit group that will test the
car. Kassel, a former head of the state's Agency of Natural Resources, said the novelty of
the Burlington project is that the hydrogen will be produced on site from wind, a
renewable energy source.
Sanders, a candidate to fill the U.S. Senate seat of retiring independent Jim Jeffords in
November, called the undertaking "a fascinating project with huge potential."
"We cannot overstate the significance of the problem or our need to break away from
gasoline-fueled cars," he said in a prepared statement. "Cars are America's biggest reason
for oil dependence and they represent the single biggest piece of our global warming
Tim Lennon, campaign manager for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rich Tarrant, said
Tarrant supports such grants. "It's a good step for the administration and the Department
of Energy to fund these activities around the country," Lennon said.
"As a United States senator, Rich Tarrant would work to do more in the area of alternative
Harold Garabedian, EVermont's research director, said the Burlington hydrogen facility will
have capacity enough to serve up to eight hydrogen-fueled cars.
The single Prius, which will run about 80 miles on one hydrogen fill-up, represents "a
beginning" for the innovative hydrogen application, he said. The practical problem, he
said, is ultimately to make decentralized manufacture of hydrogen less expensive and the
hydrogen more readily available.
He said hydrogen is no more dangerous than gasoline in cars.
"The point here," Sanders said, "is to learn."
HOW IT WORKS Electricity splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using a device called an
The hydrogen is compressed and stored in high-pressure tanks
The hyrdogen is dispensed into the vehicle, which has a 5,000-psi tank
The vehicle, a converted 2005 Toyota Prius, burns the hydrogen the same way a regular
car burns gasoline, except water is the main byproduct rather than CO2.
WHEN IT STARTS The fueling station is assembled and being tested in Connecticut
The vehicle is in California undergoing conversion
Construction at the Pine Street site is 90 percent complete
Equipment to be commissioned in the spring