MARK RECHTIN

Hydrogen filling station opens in Toyota's back yard

LOS ANGELES -- A hydrogen fueling station opened today in Torrance, Calif., in the back yard of the U.S. headquarters of Toyota and Honda.

Funny thing about media relations: In separate news releases, each automaker took some credit for the Shell station's hydrogen bay construction.

The Toyota release states that the station is "a collaborative effort between Toyota, Air Products, Shell, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Department of Energy."

The station is on land that belongs to Toyota, which leases it to Shell.

Not to be outdone, Honda scored a coup by having the first retail customer fill his tank at the hydrogen pump in a Honda FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle.

While Toyota has some hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on the road in government and university demonstration fleets, Honda has the only one that consumers can lease. Honda has leased a couple dozen FCX Claritys to L.A. residents for $600 a month -- not a bad deal for what are essentially $1 million hand-built prototypes.

The Shell station is the first that taps into an industrial hydrogen pipeline. The pipeline also will be diverted onto Toyota's campus to power a Ballard fuel-cell generator, which will help offset electrical power surges during peak hours of hot L.A. summers.

Regardless of which company ends up being cloaked more in green, the real winner is the general public that wants to find alternative-energy solutions to our driving needs.

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