Cleantech blog

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) opened the first public access hydrogen station in the nation in October 2004. The station supports the fleet of five hydrogen vehicles used daily near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It is available to the growing hydrogen fleets at the City of Los Angeles, UCLA, Toyota, Honda, and soon others. It is part of the California Hydrogen Highway.

The station is a jointly funded by BP, Praxair, LAWA, South Coast Air Quality Management District, California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy, all of which helped fund the $1.5 million construction cost. For station funding partner, BP, this is part of their $8 billion investment in alternative energy. Industrial gas giant, Praxair, is the station operator.

Within transportation, aviation accounts for about 13% of CO2 discharges according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Because the entire industry is committed to jet fuel, reducing this percentage will be difficult. Airport operator, LAWA, has no control over the airplane emissions in the air. On the ground, electric generators are available so that running the tail jet engine is not required to run air conditioning and other accessories. LAWA has taken an active role in reducing the emissions of ground vehicles. These vehicles account for about 50% of airport emissions.

Since 1993, LAWA has been buying vehicles which reduce smog-forming emissions and which reduce greenhouse gases. LAWA now has 490 alternate-fuel vehicles at the four airports which it operates – LAX, Ontario International, Palmdale and Van Nuys. At LAWA, I met with Dave Waldner, Alternative Fuels Fleet Manager, who has been reducing emissions for over 13 years. He is justifiably proud of running the second largest alt-fuel fleet of airport vehicles in the country.

He explained that early success started with compressed natural gas (CNG) in vehicles in 1993. Then liquid natural gas (LNG) was used in transit buses. LNG provided for longer-range than CNG. With oil prices increasing over 50% annually, CNG has proved to lower fuel cost. LAWA has secured very favorable long-term contracts, paying a little over $3.00 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas. CNG is also available to the many independent fleet operators and individuals using airports. LAWA encourages independent operators to use clean vehicles that use CNG and hydrogen. Clean Energy operates public CNG stations at LAX and Ontario.

An easy way to reduce emissions is to encourage people to ride together. For its own employees, LAWA has 70 Van Pools. There are also three pool fleets of 30 vehicles each. Many of these vehicles are hybrids, CNG vehicles, and five are new DaimlerChrysler F-Cell hydrogen fuel cell cars. The only emission from the F-Cells is water vapor.

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