Faizan Agha, manager of advanced product development for Hyundai Canada, accompanies Black Press reporter Tom Fletcher on a test drive in the prototype Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel cell sport utility. Saanich council will consider plans for a hydrogen fuel station at the corner of Quadra Avenue and Mackenzie Street.(Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Saanich to potentially host first hydrogen fuel station on Vancouver Island

Station proposed for corner of Quadra Street and McKenzie Avenue

Saanich residents get their first official look at plans for the region’s first hydrogen fuel station next month.

Council, meeting as committee-of-the-whole on April 1, will hear plans from Hydrogen Technology & Energy Corporation (HTEC) to build a hydrogen refueling station at the corner of Quadra Street and McKenzie Avenue.

The station would be the first of its kind in Greater Victoria as part of a six-station network in the region and the Lower Mainland.

“HTEC’s goal in building its six-station network in the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria is to have infrastructure in place to support the initial rollout of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in the province,” said Rebecca Johnston of Puzzlewood Communication.

RELATED: Hydrogen vehicles entering zero-emission auto market in B.C

The Saanich location would be the second retail hydrogen station in British Columbia after HTEC’s existing location in Vancouver on South Granville, and the third in Canada.

FCEVs combine hydrogen and oxygen to create vehicle-powering electricity. Supporters of this technology considers FCEVs zero-emission vehicles, since they only emit water vapour.

As of May 2018, some 3,000 FCEVs were on the road, mostly in Japan, California, Germany and France, and the provincial government has announced a plan to promote FCEVs.

“FCEVs offer certain benefits to consumers that other technologies don’t,” said Johnston. They include not only zero emissions; but also a longer range [up to 600 kilometres for some models] to eliminate range anxiety; and the ability to refuel in only five minutes, as opposed to hours for battery-powered electric vehicles, she said.

Saanich staff said in a report to council that the introduction of hydrogen fuel would diversity fuel options for vehicles away from petroleum and towards cleaner, safer options.

The proposed hydrogen station would also make use of existing urban infrastructure by operating as part of an existing service station that includes an Esso gas bar, car wash and a 7-Eleven convenience store outlet. HTEC earlier this month announced a collaboration agreement with the largest chain in the convenience-retailing industry.

“We couldn’t lead the rollout of Canada’s first network of hydrogen refueling stations without strong relationships with companies supporting the drive towards clean transportation,” said Colin Armstrong, HTEC’s chief executive officer in a release. “The stations we build with 7-Eleven will expand HTEC’s hydrogen refueling network considerably.”

But if Saanich praise the proposed station, they also cite critics, who note that it takes more energy to make and transport hydrogen in trying to lower expectations about the effects of FCEVs.

“It should be noted, however, that hydrogen fueled vehicles are only part of a portfolio of choices that include battery electric vehicles, low carbon fuels, and public transit that will reduce transportation impact on the environment,” the staff report reads.

Johnston strikes a comparable tone, when asked about which larger message the proposed station sends.

“[Climate] change is a compelling issue for many and there’s no silver bullet in the battle to reduce carbon emissions,” she said. “From a transportation perspective, it’s going to take many different solutions, and a number of alternative fuel … technologies, because it’s all about offering consumers choices to meet their needs and their lifestyles.”

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