When I had spoken with a couple of representatives from ITM Power a couple of weeks ago about revisiting the “green box” hydrogen home refueler and the possibility of using the same or similar refueling for the forklift market they were non-committal. This is because they had something up their sleeves and weren’t ready to reveal it yet.
Earlier this week, ITM Power announced that they had beaten out several other companies and won a design contract from The NextEnergy Centre to build a home hydrogen refueling station that “…will be suitable for the next generation of hydrogen-powered vehicles currently being developed by major automotive OEMs.”
This last point had me confused since I had thought that the “Green Box” ITM home H2 refueler that I had talked about in July 2008 had filled the bill. So, I got on the phone with ITM Power CEO Dr. Graham Cooley to clear up this confusion.
According to Cooley, the old Greenbox design didn’t meet the needs of the major automakers as it was designed to output H2 at only 75 bar. The new small scale alpha prototype, however, that is being designed to NextEnergy specifications will be able to output at both 350 bar (5,000 psi) and 700 bar (10,000 psi) satisfying the international protocols for the European Union and the United States.
Besides home refueling the new hydrogen generator, which will be able to accept both electricity from the grid (in off peak hours presumably) and the intermittent power of renewable energy such as wind or solar power, may also be headed for warehouses to be a part of the emerging hydrogen forklift and palette truck market.
But, according to Dr. Cooley, ITM Power’s main thrust going forward in refueling hydrogen autos is a two pronged approach. The first prong is the building of the ITM Power HFuel commercial refueling station that is getting ready for prime time now. And, the second approach is the development of a home hydrogen refueling station that meets international automaker standards.
This way, consumers will be able to refuel their hydrogen autos at home, take a road trip, refuel in town or another town as needed, then head back home where they will refuel overnight. Putting part of the national refueling infrastructure inside of people’s garages will cut down on the amount of large-scale commercial refueling stations that will need to be built in public area and will be consumer-friendly as well.
This is the type of win-win situation that is necessary in order to expedite the building of the hydrogen refueling infrastructure that is so badly needed within the next 5 years in order to keep up with the major automakers who say they will be rolling out commercial H2 vehicles in 2015.