California is leading the way in zero-emission vehicle transportation, with more than 2,000 automobiles on the road powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which have a range of 300 to 400 miles and can refuel in three to five minutes. While at least three automakers—Toyota, Kia, and Honda— manufacture hydrogen fuel cell models, the lack of infrastructure to refuel these vehicles prohibits their wide-scale adoption. It’s a problem Paul Mutolo is tackling in New York State.
Along with two business partners, Mutolo founded Standard Hydrogen Corporation in 2012. Initially, the company won a $3 million federal award to bring a fuel cell bus to Ithaca, which would have been the first deployment of a fuel cell bus in the state. But the grant only paid for the bus itself. When the team failed to raise funds for a hydrogen fueling station—due to perceived lack of demand—they had to give the bus back, forcing the company to rethink its business model.
“We realized that we needed to diversify and make sure there was something else we could do with the infrastructure besides serve vehicles,” says Mutolo. That was an unintended blessing. In California, hydrogen stations provide fuel from storage tanks, similar to conventional gas stations. Standard Hydrogen developed a new system to produce hydrogen on site. The goal is to develop a sustainable hydrogen infrastructure to fuel vehicles and to use that infrastructure to help support the power grid across the state.
“After Hurricane Sandy, a lot of cellphone towers were the only things that remained up and running around the New York City area, and that was because they were backed up by fuel cell power units,” explains Mutolo. “That’s exactly what we’re doing, just on a larger scale.”
Standard Hydrogen has a proprietary design for the technology and is looking to build a demonstration station in New York State.
“SyracuseCoE has helped us validate our idea for functionality on the grid and for being able to generate revenues from the grid. With their support, we advanced critical conversations with Con Edison and National Grid,” he says.
An award from SyracuseCoE’s Innovation Fund helped the team develop a print and digital media campaign to educate stakeholders
about hydrogen fuel cell technology and the advantages of this dual-use, multi-revenue station.
Says Mutolo, “New York has goals to replace several million conventional vehicles with zero-emission vehicles over the next several years and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are part of that solution. Standard Hydrogen is helping New York achieve this essential goal.”