For the past decade or so, numerous automakers have been researching the use of hydrogen fuel for next-generation automobiles. Until the recent announcements of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, fuel-cell vehicles like the Honda FCX Clarity looked like the hydrogen promise would hit the market first.
Unfortunately, among the public at large, the first thing people think of when they hear the word “hydrogen” is the Hindenburg and explosions. While hydrogen in cars is no more flammable than gasoline, the perception could be even more of a reality after an explosion Thursday at a hydrogen refueling station in Rochester, N.Y.
During a swap of hydrogen tanks by a company that supplies GM with tanks for its fuel-cell fleet, one tank exploded, and the resulting fire led to a second tank exploding. One person was treated at a hospital with second-degree burns. The fueling station is at an airport that was shut down for 50 minutes after the explosion. Some flights were rerouted in midair.
The cause of the explosion hasn’t been determined, but this does not bode well for companies and energy companies looking to introduce fuel-cell vehicles to the masses.