California Continues Steady Growth in Hydrogen Fueling Stations

Featured, Stations  /   /  By Bradley Berman

The California Fuel Cell Partnership (CAFCP) held a webinar last week to report on the state’s progress in commissioning hydrogen stations for public retail use. Joe Gagliano, the partnership’s infrastructure specialist, indicated that there are now 12 retails stations available to fuel-cell car drivers in California. In addition, there are eight more stations that are fully built and expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2016.

The CAFCP promoted a revamped online map that not only shows the locations for all the operational and planned stations—but also provides the real-time operational status of each location via updates every 15 minutes.

Here’s the list of eight stations about to come online:

April:

  • Hayward – 391 West A Street, Hayward, CA 94541
  • Santa Barbara – 150 South La Cumbre Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
  • Saratoga – 12600 Saratoga Avenue, Saratoga, CA 95070

May:

  • Lake Forest – 20731 Lake Forest Drive, Lake Forest, CA 92630
  • Los Angeles – Woodland Hills, 5314 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Woodland Hills, CA 91364
  • Los Angeles – Beverly Boulevard, 7751 Beverly Los Angeles, CA 90036

June

  • Riverside – 8095 Lincoln Avenue, Riverside, CA 92504

2016 (month not specified)

  • Los Angeles – CSULA 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90032

On top of those, seven more stations are under construction: Anaheim, Campbell, Mill Valley, Los Angeles (Hollywood Blvd.), Los Angeles (Lincoln Blvd.), Ontario and Truckee. Gagliano said the build-out process was moving on schedule. “By the end of this year, we’re on track to have over 40 retails station in the California network.”

Gagliano explained that even after stations were fully operational, most of them will have a so-called soft opening. During this period, drivers can use the stations, but the equipment and processes would be subject to careful scrutiny by the developers and automakers. “It’s a 30-day shakedown period when automakers put the stations through its paces and customers can provide feedback,” Gagliano said.

Presenters also explained that in most cases hydrogen is delivered to stations in gaseous tube trailers that are swapped out with empty trailers. There are exceptions. For example, stations operated by The Linde Group use liquid hydrogen stored on site, and vaporized and compressed before being dispensed to vehicles. This method allows for greater storage capacity. Gagliano explained that at least two legacy (non-retail) stations—in Burbank and Newport Beach—produce hydrogen on site from natural gas lines. In addition, the station at California State University – Los Angeles has an electrolyzer that produces hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Gagliano said that the current price of hydrogen today is about $14 a kilogram, which roughly equates to $7 per gallon—a high price due to lack of scale, but that’s a temporary situation. The price is expected to dramatically fall as more stations and fuel-cell cars are added. Besides, today’s price is somewhat irrelevant because automakers selling hydrogen cars are including fuel at no additional cost for three years as part of the purchase or lease agreement. By 2019 or so, the price of hydrogen is expected to be on par or cheaper than the equivalent cost of a gallon of gasoline.

While CAFCP doesn’t track the number of hydrogen cars on the road, the presenters referred to reports indicating about 300 drivers of fuel-cell cars currently on California roads.

In the webinar, CAFCP anticipated the further growth of California hydrogen fueling infrastructure by outlining a process whereby developers or municipalities could propose new locations. The criteria for selecting a station for funding and construction includes the level of support by local governments and citizens and the availability of sufficient space at the location. Officials are particularly interested in key locations that serve likely fuel-cell car buyers and spots that can connect hubs—for example, a convenient location for drivers traveling between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Gagliano said, depending on the configuration of a station, it required between about 1,000 and 2,000 square feet of space—for equipment like compressors, chillers, dispenser and especially above-ground hydrogen storage. He estimated the cost of each station at about $2 million. The bulk of funding comes from government grants, while developers and station owners are expected to contribute about 15 percent in cost-sharing.

With the expansion of the hydrogen fueling network, the time required to build a station—from the time a government grant is received until construction is completed—has been reduced from years to months.

“Obviously, we would like to have at least 2,000 stations from San Diego all the way up to Lake Tahoe as quickly as possible,” said Gagliano. “But we have to be methodical about how we roll this out. We’re making sure we roll them out in the right communities and that we get government public money going to the stations of the highest need and expected to yield the greatest benefits.”

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