California Hydrogen Station Development: Status, Challenges and Lessons Learned

Slide deck showing status and lessons learned from miniscule fuel cell infrastructure deployments in California.

This report by the California Energy Commission, dated October 14, 2013, to the California Fuel Cell Partnership, goes over status and “Lessons Learned” during deployment of fuel cell refueling infrastructure.

It covers $15.7 million spent on building 8 stations – or nearly $2 million per station. For comparison, a fast charging station installation costs less than 1/10th of this amount. NRG’s settlement with the California Public Utilities Commission that brought eVgo to California budgets $250,000 per Freedom Station, each of which includes one fast charging station, two level 2 charging stations, and some additional equipment for security at each location.

Hence – $2 million for a Fuel Cell recharging station – $250k at most for an EV fast charging station – seems to me that the EV recharging infrastructure has a big price advantage and will naturally grow faster.

Electric vehicle charging station guide

It also says new fuel cell stations require several years to get installed. Whereas, EV fast charging stations get installed much quicker than that.

Some places simply refused to allow Hydrogen stations in residential settings. The slide deck doesn’t describe the concerns of those localities. The San Francisco Airport Commission refused to authorize a station due to “liability concerns.” Airports might be a good place for fuel cell buses. However, there was a fuel cell refueling station in Alameda County that blew up last year (described in the slide deck as “Linde valve incident at AC Transit”), maybe that story is weighing heavily in peoples’ minds.

Alameda County has several fuel cell driven buses in their transit fleet.

Supposedly the big play for fuel cell vehicles is cars. The report has this to say about fuel cell cars:

  • Uncertainty on dates and volumes of initial FCV deployments creates financial uncertainty for early year cash flow at new H2 stations year cash flow at new H2 stations
  • Toyota, Honda and Daimler maintaining 2015 schedule but GM Nissan and Daimler pushing back schedule, but GM,  Nissan and Daimler pushing back initial launch to 2017
  • ARB reduced estimate of 2015 ARB reduced estimate of 2015-17 deployment downward from 50,000 cars to 20,000 cars in Energy Commission’s draft 2013 IEPR

In other words, the car makers are downplaying fuel cell vehicle development, and the California Air Resources Board is downplaying estimates of deployment.

California Hydrogen Station Development: Status, Challenges and Lessons Learned

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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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