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    Shell Testing Hydrogen Pump at California Station

    Free fuel available to Newport Beach drivers of hydrogen fuel cell automobiles.

    LOS ANGELES -- Shell is taking the unprecedented step of offering unlimited free fuel at its new Newport Beach, Calif., store, but not many people will be able to take advantage of the offer: the free fuel is limited to hydrogen, good only for those who drive a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, reports the Los Angeles Times.

    Only 200 fuel cell vehicles operate in California, according to Catherine Dunwoody, executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership. Estimates predict that the number will rise to 50,000 vehicles at most by five years from now. The cars, which can only be leased for now, cost as much as twice the price of a gasoline compact or mid-size auto.

    Shell is paying for the hydrogen fuel pumps because it wants to learn about "costs, consumer behavior and how to dispense it efficiently to different vehicles," said Matias Sanchez Cane, North America commercial manager for Shell Alternative Energies.

    The fuel is free because Shell does not know how to charge for it, according to the report. The California Division of Measurement Standards is waiting for state lawmakers to authorize it to regulate sales of automotive fuel in kilograms, the method for measuring compressed hydrogen gas, said agency spokesman Steve Lyle. California Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered regulators to have infrastructure for use of alternative-fuel, zero-emissions vehicles in place by 2015.

    The new Shell station is the eight public hydrogen station in the state, said Dunwoody. The plan is to have 68 built in metropolitan areas and key locations throughout the state, she added.

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