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America's first hydrogen fuel cell tow truck fleet is coming to Colorado


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In the ever-escalating conversation about increasing the number of zero-emissions vehicles on Colorado roadways, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles typically have taken a backseat to those fueled by other kinds of batteries. But AAA Colorado is hoping to change that.

The century-old nonprofit auto club has announced an agreement with Denver-based New Day Hydrogen LLC in which it will introduce America's first hydrogen-powered tow trucks and other emergency rescue vehicles in Colorado. As part of the partnership, New Day Hydrogen will design and construct stations to create hydrogen fueling by electrolysis, a process that creates emissions-free hydrogen from water and renewable energy, in anticipation those stations eventually will open to the general public.

Hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, like more popular lithium-battery-powered EVs, produce no tailpipe emissions, but advocates note they can charge up cars and trucks more quickly in many cases and are more resistant to cold temperatures that can plague Colorado. But critics have argued this source of power is less efficient than batteries proliferating on the market and that the special stations needed to fuel them are rarer, particularly with governments like the state of Colorado funding a slew of battery-charging stations.

AAA officials, however, believe that by working with a local company to push forward such technology in the state in a way that it can be seen by a wider audience — particularly anyone needing roadside assistance from the nonprofit — it can accelerate the hydrogen movement. The organizations are aiming for the fleet of hydrogen-powered tow trucks to be on the road in 2022.

"Adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology will help Colorado reach its carbon-reduction goals, as fuel-cell electric vehicles offer vehicle owners the same performance and experience as their current vehicle with no lost time to charging, and no range anxiety,” New Day Hydrogen CEO Seth Terry said in the announcement.

Gov. Jared Polis has made it his goal to get 940,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030, even as there are just about 35,000 on state highways now. To accelerate that transition, the Legislature this year passed a $5.3 billion transportation funding bill that is heavy with spending on charging stations across the state and incentives for even lower-income residents now priced out of the EV market to be able to consider purchasing one.

A number of automakers, including Toyota and General Motors, have begun producing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles already, and some 8,000 are estimated to be on California roadways. Skyler McKinney, AAA regional director of public affairs, compared the group’s activism for hydrogen fuel cells to its push a century ago to popularize the individual automobile as a means of transportation.


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