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First hydrogen fuel cell station on LI

The hood of Toyota fuel cell hybrid car

The hood of Toyota fuel cell hybrid car Photo Credit: Toyota

Long Island’s first filling station for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is to be officially opened at a ceremony Tuesday in Point Lookout.

The $2 million Hempstead Town station is to provide hydrogen for two experimental Highlander sport utility vehicles provided by Toyota that are propelled by electricity produced on board by a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in fuel cells. The SUVs are to be used by staffers of the town’s Conservation and Waterways Department, said town spokesman Mike Deery.

The facility, at the town’s Conservation and Waterways Energy Park, will dispense hydrogen, natural gas and a mix of the two — the last for a third vehicle, a bus with a more conventional engine, that will be used by the town to transport senior citizens, said Deery.

He said about half the cost of the filling station is being paid by the state Energy Research and Development Authority, with the rest coming from National Grid grants or in tax credits arranged by the gas utility.

When it announced plans for the station in October 2009, the town said General Motors was expected to provide the town with experimental fuel cell vehicles.  Deery said Monday that’s still a possibility and that GM representatives were expected at Tuesday’s event.

Riverhead Chevrolet dealer Mark Calisi went public in 2008 with a proposal for a privately run hydrogen station on Shelter Island, but he said Monday that General Motors’ financial problems led it to lose interest in helping support his project.

Most of the world’s carmakers are experimenting with fuel cells, whose only emissions are some heat and water, but practical drawbacks to the fuel cells, especially their cost, have kept them from showrooms.

Toyota announced more than a year ago that it planned over the next three years to place more than 100 experimental fuel cell vehicles in service with universities, private companies and government agencies in California and New York.

Toyota spokeswoman Jana Hartline in Torrance, Calif., said Monday that Hempstead’s vehicles are the first on Long Island and might ultimately be the only fuel cell Highlanders running here under the 100-vehicle program. “They’re still finalizing partnerships and getting these vehicles set for rollout,” she said.

Toyota plans to begin marketing fuel cell vehicles in low volume to the general public by 2015, Hartline said. She said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has 12 of the Highlanders. The state energy authority says Hempstead’s will be Long Island’s only hydrogen vehicle facility, with the next closest of a total of five statewide at Kennedy Airport and White Plains.

Photo: The hood of Toyota fuel cell hybrid car.

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