State’s first hydrogen fueling stations dedicated

South Carolina’s freeway opened Monday with dedication the state’s first hydrogen fueling stations in Aiken and Columbia.

The dedications were among the first events at this week’s National Hydrogen Association conference that started today.

State House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Aiken County dignitaries cut the ribbon on the Aiken station on Bettis Academy Road this morning.

Officials travel to Columbia in hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles for second ribbon-cutting on a fueling station in the Vista this afternoon.

The Aiken station in the Sage Mill Industrial Park is across the from the Bridgestone tire manufacturing plant that uses a fleet of 28 fuel-cell powered forklifts.

At the ceremony, an Aiken County-owned, hydrogen-powered Chevrolet Silverado pick-up received the station’s first fill up.

Officials had a second hydrogen vehicle on hand, a Kia Borrego SUV. The SUV uses hydrogen fuel-cells to provide to electricity to run the engine.

The SUV can travel more than 400 miles on a single hydrogen fill-up and produces only water that is so clean that officials said people could drink it.

The SUV is valued at $450,000, said Kwon Tae Cho, engineering manager for Kia America.

The Korean car makers plans to start mass producing fuel-cell powered vehicles between 2015 and 2020 with the SUV dropping to about $60,000.

Right now, hydrogen from the S.C. fueling stations costs about $6 a gallon. But that is expected to fall when hydrogen no longer need to be shipped from outside the state.