DETROIT – Oil refiner BP plc, NextEnergy Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG open a new hydrogen refueling station in southeastern Michigan with the goal of providing greater real-world experience and education of fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs).

Located at the sprawling 45,000-sq.-ft. (4,181-sq.-m) NextEnergy Center here in Detroit’s TechTown technology park, the new station is BP’s third in the state and is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s 5-year FCV and infrastructure validation effort, BP says.

“This newest station allows us to continue our ongoing work to gain real-world experience in hydrogen-fueling infrastructure and help build awareness of this developing technology,” says BP’s Bill Fitzharris, general manager-technology for hydrogen for transport.

NextEnergy is a non-profit organization founded to accelerate the development and commercialization of alternative-energy technologies.

“The NextEnergy Center provides a unique platform for alternative-fuel innovators like BP to test and validate their technologies in a real-world environment,” says NextEnergy CEO Jim Croce, adding the station will help position Michigan as a leader in alternative-fuel technology developments.

In addition to providing experience with hydrogen vehicle refueling, the new station also will serve as a fuel depot for FCVs in the area, such as DC’s F-Cell small car.

Part of a 60-vehicle global fleet based on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback, the F-Cell is one of DC’s many ventures into hydrogen FCV development.

The F-Cell features a 97-hp fuel cell/nickel-metal hydride battery powerplant and a range of about 90 miles (145 km).

More than 30 F-Cell vehicles are in operation in the U.S., DC says, including one given to nearby Wayne State University for use as a campus police vehicle and alternative technology learning tool.

“We’re solving the chicken-and-egg problem as auto makers continue to advance powertrain development,” Croce says, referring to the need to have a viable hydrogen infrastructure in place before manufacturers and consumers are willing to adopt the technology.

To this end, NextEnergy also is working with auto makers and the government to outline the codes and standards needed to regulate the widespread use of hydrogen in the future, Croce says.

The new hydrogen pump is the second phase of NextEnergy’s alternative-fuels effort, following on the heels of its Microgrid Power Pavilion. The on-site electrical power-generation complex provides application and integration evaluation for various alternative-fuel technologies.

Additional phases of the program, to be completed in the near future, include the construction of onsite hydrogen-generation facilities, Croce says.

Along with the three pumps in Michigan, BP also has established hydrogen-fueling stations in Florida, California, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the U.K., Singapore and Australia, Fitzharris says, noting BP produces about 5,000 tons (4,536 t) of hydrogen per day at its facilities around the world.

msutton@wardsauto.com