They’re quiet, have zero emissions and have three times the range of an electric-battery powered scooter.

Hydrogen fuel-cell scooters are expected to be on Honolulu roads early next year, thanks to a partnership between H2 Technologies, a Big Island company, and Taiwan-based, Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies.

The scooters were one of the emerging technologies to be showcased at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo this week, where hundreds of leaders in the business and government sectors have convened for a three-day conference at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

While small, gasoline-powered scooters might seem to be the least of the state’s worries when it comes to trying to reduce its dependence on imported fuel and lower carbon dioxide emissions, they’re actually one of the most noxious vehicles on the road, according to Guy Toyama, CEO of H2 Technologies.

They release about 1,000 times the pollution of a standard, five-passenger car, he said, and unlike most vehicles, their carbon emissions aren’t regulated.

The hydrogen scooters can travel 50 miles at 35 miles per hour — their top speed — on two small canisters of hydrogen. Like other scooters, they don’t go fast enough to make them highway capable. The can also be charged by solar panels, which would eliminate the need for hydrogen fueling stations.

As part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, signed in 2008, the state has a mandate to reduce the amount of gasoline consumed in the state by about one-third. Currently, there are about 15,000 electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads, according to Mark Glick, who heads the state energy office, though the number will have to increase to 300,000 vehicles.

“It’s a daunting task,” he acknowledged, but said that he believed the state was going to meet the challenge.

H2 Technologies and Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies, aren’t the only companies to introduce clean energy vehicles in Hawaii. Nissan chose Hawaii as one of several states to launch its Nissan Leaf. And in 2010, General Motors announced that it planned to make Hawaii the test bed for its hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, which are supposed to be unveiled in 2015. The company is working in collaboration with HawaiiGas, formerly The Gas Co., to develop hydrogen fueling stations. For automobile companies the market has been attractive because people can only drive so far in Hawaii, reducing the “range anxiety,” or fear of being stranded with no charging station, that has hampered the adoption of the vehicles in the mainland market.

Toyama said that the initial plan is to begin offering the scooters as rentals for the tourist market in an effort to eventually build an economy of scale that will drive down the price. Currently, the cost is about $3,500, or triple what a gas-powered scooter would cost, according to Toyama.

The Taiwanese government funded the development of the scooters and is currently using them as fleet vehicles.


Toyama talks about how the vehicles work:

The test drive:

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