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GM Plans Fuel-Cell Vehicle Pilot Program in Hawaii

General Motors is launching a fuel-cell vehicle pilot program in Oahu thanks to the island’s rich source of hydrogen. The automaker is partnering with The Gas Company, the island’s major gas energy provider, which will tap into its 1,000-mile utility pipeline at key locations and separate the hydrogen for use by local fueling stations for fuel-cell vehicles.

GM says Hawaii is a motivated partner to make hydrogen-powered fuel cell transportation since it imports petroleum for 90 percent of its energy. The state has committed to reducing petroleum use by 70 percent through a combination of efforts including renewable energy resources, conservation and efficiency.

Pricing for hydrogen could be available at the equivalent price of gasoline or less, according to GM.

GM, which has invested more than $1.5 billion in fuel cell transportation over the past 15 years, is developing a production fuel cell system that could be ready for commercialization in 2015.

Chevrolet fuel cell vehicles are part of Project Driveway, the world’s largest demonstration of fuel cell vehicles, which have collectively driven nearly 1.4 million miles since 2007.

Toyota recently announced that it has cut the cost of manufacturing hydrogen cars by 90 percent, and expects it could sell its first hydrogen vehicle for $50,000 by 2015.

According to Pike Research, fuel cell light vehicles are expected to be commercially launched in 2014 in most regions of the world, and their sales are projected to reach almost 670,000 vehicles per year by 2020.

The state of Hawaii was also chosen as the initial launch market in the U.S. for Nissan North America’s all-electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, starting in early 2011. The state was selected in part due to its efforts in clean energy and zero-emissions mobility in combination with strong consumer demand.

Hawaii and the automaker are working towards a partnership that will promote the development of an electric vehicle network.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the LEAF is $32,780. A federal tax credit of $7,500 is available. The lease price starts at $349 per month.

According to Nissan, at $0.23 per kilowatt-hour, the Nissan LEAF has a fuel cost of 5 cents per mile, compared to $3.50 per gallon of gasoline, which translates into a fuel cost of 14 cents per mile for a car that gets 25 miles per gallon.

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