The founders of the True Zero hydrogen fueling network last week completed a 1,438-mile drive of a Toyota Mirai fuel-cell car in a 24-hour period. The drive demonstrated how California has made significant progress with its network of hydrogen fueling stations in the past year. It is now possible for drivers of hydrogen cars to travel between Northern and Southern California using stations that are open for retails customers throughout the state.
Today, there are 21 retail hydrogen stations in operation—a significant increase compared to just six months ago when there were only 12 stations available to fuel-cell car drivers in California. By the end of this year, there will be about 27 hydrogen refueling locations open to the public, with 49 stations expected before the end of 2017. All new stations added to the network are now designed for retail use by drivers of passenger cars, not commercial vehicles or transit buses.
The drive, which started in Long Beach, was somewhat of a relay race. Joel Ewanick, chief executive of First Element Fuel, the parent company for True Zero, set off solo at 12:01 am Wednesday from Long Beach, Calif. He drove to Sacramento where he was relieved by Dr. Shane Stephens, True Zero’s chief development officer. Dr. Tim Brown, the company’s chief operations officer, took the wheel in San Jose for the final section.
“All it took was grabbing a credit card, hopping in our Toyota Mirai with its carpool sticker, and charging up at the True Zero hydrogen stations that are open throughout California,” said Ewanick. The following locations were used for hydrogen fueling during the journey: Long Beach, Saratoga, Santa Barbara, Harris Ranch/Coalinga, Mill Valley, Sacramento and Truckee. The drivers passed through six of California’s largest cities on the journey. The route peaked at 7,200 feet of altitude.
The Mirai, which officially travels 312 miles on a single tank, was refueled in a series of refueling stops—each taking about four minutes. The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell sport utility has an EPA rating of 265 miles on a single tank. Honda is expected to introduce the Clarity fuel-cell sedan, with a reported range of more than 300 miles, in 2017.
“Electric cars are so important to California’s environmental goals and we’re starting to see the momentum build with fuel cells as part of that electric car mix,” said Ewanick. He said that in the past six months True Zero hydrogen stations powered more than a million miles of all-electric driving.
Earlier this month, Information Trends—a Washington, DC-based market research firm—issued a report said that by 2020, sufficient hydrogen filling infrastructures would be in place in several regions of the world. Information Trends forecasts that global annual sales of fuel-cell cars will climb from a few thousand this year to 360,000 in 2023; more than 1 million by 2026; and more than 5 million by 2032. Availability of refueling stations is often cited as the key to increased consumer adoption of hydrogen fuel-cell cars.
The drivers expect the 1,438-mile journey to become an official record for distance a zero-emissions car traveled in a single day.