California Air Resources Board to Lease HICE Vehicles

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has posted a notice of intent to award contracts for the lease of six vehicles that will lower the cost of using hydrogen. Hydrogen will be used in conventional engines, not fuel cells. This will expand to 37 the total number of hydrogen internal combustion engine (HICE) vehicles in California.

Four of the hydrogen vehicles will be Toyota Priuses modified by Quantum Technologies to run on gaseous hydrogen. Other fleets that each uses five of these Quantum Priuses include the cities of Riverside, Burbank, Santa Ana, and Ontario. AQMD in Diamond Bar also uses five Quantum Priuses. This June 15, Santa Monica will start using five.

Two Ford E450 HICE shuttle buses will also be leased by ARB. These buses can be configured to carry 11 to 17 passengers. The E450 uses a standard Ford V10 engine designed to run on gaseous hydrogen. The Ford E450 offers a range of 150 miles. This same engine has been used in a large 40-foot hybrid hydrogen bus carrying hundreds of people daily at Sunline Transit in Thousand Palms. The range is greater on the larger bus because it uses an ISE hybrid drive system that stores braking energy in ultracapacitors.

Three public companies are competing with HICE offerings: Ford, Quantum Technologies and BMW. In the heavy vehicle space, venture capital backed ISE Corporation is also competing. A number of smaller HICE specialty integrators also have offerings.

Competition between HICE and fuel cell vehicles is lowering the cost of hydrogen vehicles. As more of these vehicles are on the road, there consumption of more fuel is lowering the cost of the fuel which in turn encourages more vehicles. One fleet at a time, the “chicken and egg” problem is being resolved. Instead we are starting to see vehicle manufacturers and hydrogen station providers engage in a race for early market leadership.

Will we see a hydrogen vehicle for under $60,000?

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