The spread of hydrogen-powered vehicles on the East Coast has strained even Mr. Strizki’s inventiveness. On the West Coast, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, who owned a hydrogen Hummer, broke regulatory barriers with a stroke of his pen in 2004. The East has a series of bureaucracies to navigate. For example, hydrogen is not allowed to circulate through bridges and tunnels. “We wouldn’t want to take out a vehicle that you couldn’t drive in Manhattan,” said Gil Castillo, who follows regulations at Hyundai Motor North America.
In addition, Air Liquide, a gas maker, has quietly built five plug-and-play stations between Hempstead, New York, and Littleton, Mass., Must deal with state and city officials all the way down to the Commissioner of fires, said David Edwards, director of Air Liquide’s hydrogen team in the United States. “Each locality has its own fire marshal.”
Progress is hampered by the perception that hydrogen is likely to explode, an idea cemented by the 1937 fire of the Hindenburg. More recently, the hydrogen took a hit when Nikola, a manufacturer of hydrogen electric trucks and stock market darling, was confronted with claims he had exaggerated his accomplishments. The charge came from a short selling firm by the name of Hindenburg Research. The Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have issued subpoenas to Nikola.
“Hydrogen is in some ways safer than gasoline,” said JoAnn Milliken, director of the New Jersey Fuel Cell Coalition, a group of volunteers who had known Mr. Strizki from his time in the Department of Energy. She cited a 2019 study by Sandia National Laboratories which found that a hydrogen-powered car had no more fire risk than a conventional vehicle.
Ever since Elon Musk called fuel cells “incredibly stupidThere has been a fierce rivalry between lithium-ion and hydrogen backings. Cooler buds see a place for everyone. Electricity is suitable for people with a garage who travel limited distances and can charge at night. But for long-haul trucks, hydrogen doesn’t add weight or reduce cargo space like batteries do. In addition, the hydrogen tanks can be refueled within minutes.