There are a few dozen fuel-cell vehicles roaming Southern California, and today the early adopters driving them got one more place to fill up. But the nation’s newest hydrogen-fueling station is unlike any other in the United States.

The public station in Torrance is the first in the country supplied by an active hydrogen pipeline. This is significant, because most of the stations in the United States provide hydrogen that is delivered by truck.

The station is run by Shell on land leased from Toyota, which remains enamored with hydrogen. For all the love automakers and policymakers are showering on battery electric vehicles, several automakers remain firmly committed to hydrogen fuel cell technology. Honda, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz promise to have mass-market hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in showrooms by 2015.

“Fuel cell technology is viable and ready for the mass market,” Chris Hostetter, Toyota vice president of strategic resources, said at this morning’s grand opening. “Toyota plans to bring a fuel cell vehicle to market in 2015 or sooner, and as you see, we will not be alone in the marketplace. Building an extensive hydrogen re-fueling infrastructure is the critical next step in bringing these products to market.”

The station, near several freeways and Los Angeles International Airport, is open to all. It can fuel as many as four vehicles simultaneously in less than five minutes and can dispense up to 100 kilograms of hydrogen in 12 hours. A Honda FCX Clarity holds 3.92 kilograms of the stuff, while the Mercedes-Benz F-Cell holds four.

The hydrogen will come from Air Products plants in Wilmington and Carson that serve several industrial sites, including the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance. The project was funded in part by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Department of Energy.

“This fueling station will be a tremendous model to show how effortless a pipeline supply of hydrogen can be to an automobile fueling station and other hydrogen fuel cell applications,” said David J. Taylor, VP of energy business at Air Products. “This site will be a model to learn and expand pipeline-fed stations as opportunities arise.”

Honda FCX Clarity driver Jon Spallino (pictured) was the station’s first retail customer.

Toyota has said it has cut the cost of fuel cell vehicles more than 90 percent by using less platinum and other expensive materials. It plans to sell its first hydrogen vehicle for around $50,000.

courtesy of ~Wired~