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Could Hawaii Be Paradise For Hydrogen-Powered Public Transit?

As prices drop for renewable power, some researchers hope the island state could be the ideal testbed for hydrogen fuel cells in public transportation.
Sunny Hawaii could be the place to show off the eco-benefits of fuel cell vehicles.
Sunny Hawaii could be the place to show off the eco-benefits of fuel cell vehicles.Caleb Jones/AP

For nearly a century, the hydrogen energy economy has been the greenest pipe dream. Inventors, theorists, and wealthy entrepreneurs have envisioned whole societies powered by the chemical reaction that occurs when hydrogen meets air. But the cost and efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells has held back widespread adoption.

Now some proponents insist that this magical-seeming alternative fuel is ready for prime time. To illustrate why, look to the warm shores of Hawaii. In the coming months, a hydrogen-powered shuttle bus will be integrated into the Hawaii County public transit fleet. By summer, an electrified Ford F-550 equipped with a fuel cell should be transporting citizens up and down the hills of the Big Island.