Aiken launches hydrogen plan

AIKEN – Federal, state and local officials gathered in Aiken County this morning for the opening of a hydrogen fueling station considered a first of its kind on the East Coast.

“What you’re seeing today in Aiken and later in Columbia is a landmark event for the state of South Carolina,” John Troutman, chairman of the Economic Development Partnership, said to the day’s crowd. “...You are part of history.”

The event started at Aiken County’s hydrogen fueling station at the Sage Mill Industrial Park with the fueling of two hydrogen-powered vehicles – one owned by Aiken County, one brought to the event by a representative of Hyundai.

Those vehicles were then driven to Columbia, where a second hydrogen fueling station was celebrated.

With the possibility of a hydrogen-fueled vehicle now being able to travel from a fueling station in Aiken County to one in Columbia, officials also unveiled today a sign declaring the route taken by the hydrogen vehicles as the South Carolina Hydrogen Freeway.

Bobby Harrell, the speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, was on hand for the Aiken County event. He said hydrogen power for vehicles is not only an avenue for growing the state’s economy, but it’s primary goal is to rid the country of its dependence on foreign oil.

After a ribbon cutting, officials demonstrated how to fill up a hydrogen-powered vehicle. It was similar to a regular fill up at a gas station: a pin number was entered for payment, a hose was connected to an opening on the vehicle’s side and a quiet rush of hydrogen entered the vehicle, filling it in a matter of a few short minutes.

Officials said that for now, a comparable amount of hydrogen to a gallon of gas would cost as high as $7. However, officials hope that as interest grows and more people buy such vehicles and more stations are opened, that cost will diminish.

“Hundreds of stations and thousands of vehicles would drive down the cost dramatically,” said Mr. Harrell as he finished pumping Aiken’s County hydrogen-fueled vehicle.

When the county’s vehicle isn’t in use, officials also said they hope to have it on display at the fueling station for the public. A wall detailing information about the vehicle and the technology is on display at the site.

“It is our hope it can be a stopping point for schools on field trips as well,” Mr. Troutman said.

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