The proliferation of hydrogen vehicles on the east coast even strained Mr. Strizki’s talent for invention. On the west coast, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California who owned a hydrogen lobster, removed regulatory obstacles with the stroke of a pen in 2004. The East has a number of bureaucracies to deal with. For example, hydrogen is not allowed to drive over bridges and tunnels. “We don’t want to bring out a vehicle that you can’t drive to Manhattan,” said Gil Castillo, who oversees regulations at Hyundai Motor North America.
In addition, Air Liquide, a gas maker, has quietly built five operational stations between Hempstead, New York and Littleton, Massachusetts that have to deal with state and city officials through to the firefighter, said David Edwards, director of the hydrogen team for Air Liquide in the USA. “Every place has its own firefighter.”
Progress is hampered by the impression that hydrogen is likely to explode, an idea cemented by the burning of the Hindenburg in 1937. More recently, hydrogen took a hit when Nikola, a hydrogen-electric vehicle maker and darling of the exchange, claimed to have exaggerated its accomplishments. The allegation came from a short selling company called 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 volunteer group Mr. Strizki knew from her time in the energy division. She cited a 2019 study by Sandia National Laboratories that found that a hydrogen car is no more flammable than a conventional vehicle.
Ever since Elon Musk described fuel cells as “amazingly stupid,” there has been a fierce rivalry between lithium-ion and hydrogen supporters. Cooler heads always see a place. Electric is suitable for those with a garage who can travel limited distances and charge overnight. In long-haul trucks, however, hydrogen does not add weight or cargo space like batteries. In addition, hydrogen tanks can be refueled in a few minutes.