Before this year, the growth of hydrogen fueling infrastructure was measured by the sporadic launch of individual stations. However, throughout 2016, hydrogen dispensers started to sprout simultaneously in multiple locations—representing the emergence of an interconnected networks of stations providing fuel-cell car drivers greater convenience and enabling long-distance trips.
During the past year, First Element Fuel, based in Irvine, Calif., has launched approximately 16 hydrogen dispensers in California—a network of branded retail stations called True Zero.
Meanwhile, Air Liquide, the French energy company, is executing plans for its first 10 stations in the US Northeast. In early 2017, Air Liquide is expected to open four stations in Massachusetts and additional stations in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
Air Liquide last week launched a new smart-phone mobile app—a first dedicated to drivers of fuel-cell cars. It’s designed to help owners of hydrogen-powered cars find the closest place to fuel their vehicles. The app allows users to see real-time updates on station information, and to read ratings and other comments posted by fellow fuel-cell drivers. The app is available for free to Apple iOS and Android users.
The app was launched as part of Air Liquid’s “Let’s Clear the Air” campaign, an effort to educate the public about the benefits of hydrogen cars. “By promoting the benefits of hydrogen and other efficient energy sources, we can support sustainable mobility and improve the health, environment and economy for generations to come,” said Ole Hoefelmann, chief executive of Air Liquide Advanced Technologies US. Air Liquide committed to producing at least 50 percent of the hydrogen through carbon-free processes by 2020.
“All it takes is a four-minute stop at a True Zero hydrogen dispenser to fill up and get back on the road,” explained Joel Ewanick, chief executive of First Element Fuel. Using the company’s True Zero network of stations, the owner of a Toyota Mirai or Honda Clarity—cars that travel more than 300 miles on a full tank of hydrogen—can readily drive from Orange County to Santa Barbara, up to the San Francisco Bay Area, and to the Lake Tahoe region.
In September, Ewanick and other True Zero executives completed a 1,438-mile drive of a Toyota Mirai fuel-cell car in a 24-hour period. The number of hydrogen car fueling stations in California is expected to reach 50 stations by the end of 2017.
First Element Fuels says that the completion of 16 of its planned 19 hydrogen-fueling stations in California make up just the first phase of its network. With the number of fuel-cell car drivers expected to grow in 2017 from a few hundred to several thousand, the company is now planning the further expansion of its network.
In August, True Zero announced that in the first nine months of its operation it had dispensed enough hydrogen fuel for more than one million miles of travel in fuel-cell cars—vehicles that have water vapor as their only emissions. Last week, the South Coast Air Quality Management District named True Zero the winner of its “Clean Air Award for 2016” in the category of Business Leadership in Air Quality.