April 2020 Hydrogen Station Update Webinar - Questions & Answers

Thank you for joining us for the April 8, 2020 Hydrogen Station Update Webinar. We hope you enjoyed it and found it informative.

We’ve tried to answer most of your questions as thoughtfully as possible and included relevant documents where necessary. In some cases, we responded directly to you. 

You can find the video recording from the webinar here, and a PDF of the presentation here.

Questions and Answers

Station Operational Status System (SOSS): suggestions
We received several suggestions during the webinar for improving SOSS. We regularly receive input from drivers and others with ideas for improving SOSS and we very much appreciate it. We are currently discussing the addition of several characteristics to SOSS with our members.

Is the station status tracked in real time? How often is SOSS updated with new station information?
In most instances we track station status in real time. Those that do not reported in real time provide status updates in intervals of 15 minutes or less... As always, we encourage you to look at the timestamp when looking at a station’s status.

Fueling:  What is H70 and H35?
Hydrogen is dispensed as a pressurized gas, and the numbers (H70, H35) refer to the pressure at which hydrogen is dispensed. The H70 designation indicates a dispensing pressure of 70 Megapascals (MPa) or approximately 10,000 psi.  H35 indicates a dispensing pressure of 35 MPa or approximately 5,000 psi.

Today’s hydrogen fuel cell electric passenger cars have H70 fueling systems, and can be fueled with either nozzle, H70 or H35, the difference being, H35 will result in a partial fill, due to the lower pressure.  Cars built with H35 fueling systems (which tend to be older vehicles) can only utilize the H35 nozzle and are not compatible with H70 nozzles.

Buses have fuel systems rated to 35MPa and so can only use an H35 nozzle. At the moment, medium- and heavy-duty trucks utilize both pressures, but many stakeholders expect that H70 – and perhaps H50 (50MPa or approximately 7,250 psi) – will be the likely pressures utilized in the near future.

Station locations:  How can I find out where and when the new stations are to open?
The H2 Stations List provides information about the status of stations in development and can be found on CaFCP's Resources page at www.cafcp.org/resources.  This document is updated monthly and It relies on information provided by the station developers. You can also see these locations on the CaFCP stations map at www.cafcp.org/stationmap.

Will stations built for the heavy-duty trucks be restricted only to trucks or will passenger vehicles be allowed to fill up at those truck stations?
In general, being able to provide hydrogen fuel to light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles at a single location depends on several factors, including the footprint of the station and site, station developer strategy and business model, and other factors. Today’s conventional fueling locations rarely co-locate light- and heavy-duty fueling, with the exception being interstate travel plazas. Nikola Motor, however, has indicated that they will offer fuel to various categories of fuel cell electric vehicles, including passenger cars and trucks.

What is the expected lifetime of a fuel cell stack (power plant) for light duty/passenger cars, and heavy-duty buses and trucks?
Generally, automakers of cars, buses and trucks aim for a fuel cell stack (power plant) lifetime that matches the longevity of a typical vehicle engine in that category.

For example, many automakers of passenger cars aim for a fuel cell stack lifespan of at least 5,000 hours or approximately 150,000-200,000 miles. In the heavy-duty category, bus fuel cell stacks (power plant) have reached lifetimes of 20,000 hours and more, with a goal of 30,000 hours by 2030. We anticipate trucks’ fuel cell power plants will perform in a similar manner.

Do any of the California hydrogen stations provide fuel for internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles that use hydrogen as the fuel?

They do not. All California retail hydrogen stations are designed to dispense hydrogen into fuel cell electric cars that are original equipment manufacturer (OEM) built (i.e. they are not retrofitted), and we are not aware of any automaker making internal combustion engine vehicles that use hydrogen as fuel.   The stations are programmed with an industry standard fueling protocol that communicates with the fuel cell cars’ industry standard hardware and software.

Why were the four light-duty (passenger car) stations closed?
These stations closed or were temporarily closed for various reasons. The West LA station, for example, closed permanently because the property was sold for a different use (housing). Another example is the Newport Beach Station which is in the process of being upgraded. CaFCP gives updates on this and other stations as they become available from the station developers. 

With the Riverside station going offline at the end of 2019, there are now no operational stations in the Inland Empire.  Is there any work being done to return a working commercial station to the Inland Empire? 
Stakeholders, including CaFCP members, are working in the background to support and identify ways to bring this station back online as soon as possible.

What is the average cost of developing a station in the Southern California market (exclusive) of land? Do you see this cost dropping in the coming years?
Without knowing any specifics about a particular site regarding its location, size of the station, anticipated throughput, etc., generally, the cost of developing a hydrogen station could range between $1.5 to $2 million. This amount includes only capital costs and doesn’t consider the operational expenses; in some cases, this may include the land lease at the gas station.

Data regarding the cost of developing a hydrogen station can be found in annual reports published by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California Energy Commission (CEC), several of which are available in our resources database at www.cafcp.org/resources. Two recent documents that may be of particular interest are the “Joint Agency Staff Report on Assembly Bill 8: 2019 Annual Assessment of Time and Cost Needed to Attain 100 Hydrogen Refueling Stations in California” and “Annual Evaluation of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment & Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development.

We also note that this is an early market with low volumes, and therefore high capital and operating costs are expected.

Many hydrogen and fuel cell stakeholders have a line of sight to a business case in the coming years, and reports and data from various reports and analyses over the last year confirm what many have known for some time: that scaling up and other activities will help drive down the cost of stations, hydrogen solutions, and fuel cell electric vehicles, leading to economies of scale.

You may want to review various documents and reports regarding predicted cost reductions in hydrogen solutions, including:

Hydrogen Council: Path to Hydrogen Competitiveness: A Cost Perspective
Shell: Hydrogen Refueling Station Cost Reduction Roadmap
Shell: Towards Competitive Refueling Infrastructure
NREL: Manufacturing competitiveness analysis for hydrogen refueling stations
BloombergNEF: Hydrogen Economy Outlook Key Messages

2020 seemed to be shaping up as a pivotal year for hydrogen station development. Can you estimate the impact from COVID-19 on any reduction in efforts?
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed, in some cases, but not stopped the rollout of hydrogen stations. Hydrogen stations that were open for retail commerce before the shelter-in-place are still open and considered essential businesses, much like gas stations and charging stations.

Some activities related to station network expansion, including funding and planning, are continuing. The CEC released a grant funding opportunity for light-duty (passenger car) stations in late December and the deadline to submit is late May. It is expected to fund 40-to-50 stations, pushing California past the 100-station milestone and toward the state goal of 200 hydrogen stations by 2025.

At the same time, hydrogen and fuel cell electric vehicle stakeholders are providing input to the CEC and CARB on the strategies to attract private investment to zero-emission fueling and charging infrastructure, planning documents, medium heavy-duty vehicles (buses and trucks) and fueling infrastructure, etc.

Other indicators of future development include the recent announcement by Chevron about entering the California market with "test-and-learn" stations.

Why are there so few stations in the San Diego area? And can you give more details about the new station on Mission Center Road that is scheduled to open in mid-2020?
When the CaFCP members released the road map for light-duty retail stations in California in 2012, the strategy focused on five key early adopter areas: Silicon Valley, SF East Bay, West LA/Santa Monica, South Bay/Torrance and South Orange County. They were chosen for a variety of reasons, including data that indicated these communities had high concentrations of likely early adopters. Like most plans that evolve over time, data emerged that suggested San Diego and Sacramento be added to these early adopter clusters.

Last year, our automaker members issued a letter to stakeholders that provided “a collective response to identify fuel cell electric vehicle customer market locations in support of future development of light-duty retail hydrogen stations.” In it, they identified 114 locations, listed in order of priority. Five San Diego locations were listed in the Group 1 Priority Target Markets. 

San Diego / Airport / Downtown (US5)
San Diego / Carlsbad / Oceanside / Encinitas (US5)
San Diego / La Jolla (US5 / US805)
San Diego / La Mesa (US8)
San Diego / Rancho Bernardo (US15)

First Element has an open hydrogen station near Del Mar and is constructing a large capacity station in Mission Valley with three fueling positions (fueling three cars at the same time). On a monthly basis, we publish an updated list of hydrogen stations in development in our resources database, including an estimate of the opening of the station. Also, we know the dispensing capacity and number of fueling positions of some stations from the list of approved stations under the new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) capacity credit for hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

Another First Element station is also planned near the San Diego Airport on Washington Street which is also large capacity, with four fueling positions.

Lastly, the California Energy Commission released a grant funding opportunity (GFO 19-602) for light-duty hydrogen stations in late December. It is expected that this GFO will push us beyond the 100-station milestone toward the state goal of 200 stations, setting the foundation for the CaFCP 2030 goal of 1000 stations. It is possible that additional stations in San Diego will be funded in this GFO.

Can you explain why the stations in the U.S. Northeast aren’t in operation yet. 
The hydrogen stations in the Northeast (Northern New Jersey to Connecticut and Massachusetts) will open once a sufficient number are ready to support fuel cell electric vehicles, enabling a regional network and travel across key Northeast state. Stakeholders continue to work with authorities in the region to allow the vehicles to travel through tunnels and over bridges in Massachusetts and metro New York, recognizing that modification of long-standing municipal regulations can take time. California has provided assistance and been a part of those discussions.

Are there plans to increase the percentage of renewable hydrogen fuel beyond 33%?
Just like electricity, hydrogen is on a renewable pathway in California and around the globe. Most hydrogen and fuel cell stakeholders support a pathway to 100% decarbonized hydrogen fuel. A key example is the Hydrogen Council's 2018 announcement committing to 100% decarbonized hydrogen fuel; contingent on working “together with governments to help create the right technical, financial and legislative environment that will enable decarbonized hydrogen to scale up.” 

Like the electrical grid in California, hydrogen will likely achieve renewable content by milestones established by law and regulation. Currently, all hydrogen stations must dispense hydrogen fuel with a minimum renewable content of 33%, but CEC has reported a higher renewable content throughout the network. With the new capacity credit in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, qualifying stations will comply with a 40% renewable content requirement. California stakeholders are currently working on legislative language to put hydrogen on the path to 100% renewable content.

Is there work to develop proposals for national funding and policies for hydrogen production and fueling stations?
Across the globe, stimulus packages are being developed and discussed, and a number of leaders have called for the inclusion of renewables, including hydrogen, in those packages. For example, Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency said several times over the past month that governments could drive rapid growth in battery and hydrogen technology as part of stimulus packages. Similarly, Norwegian business leaders called on their government to facilitate “the development of forward-looking industries where Norwegian companies can take international lead positions.”

In California, the Governor recently announced the creation of the Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery with appointees who represent the leadership of business, labor, and NGOs spanning California’s many and varied industries. Here and at the federal level, hydrogen and fuel cell stakeholders, including the newly created California Hydrogen Coalition, are giving input through formal mechanisms and other channels to policy makers.  

How will the costs drop by 50%, per the Hydrogen Council Study?
Generally speaking, the expectation is that costs will come down for fuel cells, hydrogen and hydrogen fueling infrastructure, etc., as the market expands. For example, the Hydrogen Council noted in its report, "Large-scale industrialization of components and vehicle integration, together with lower-cost hydrogen fuel, will halve vehicle TCO (total cost of ownership) in the early stages of scale-up for these and similar applications. The scale in manufacturing of equipment will account for up to 70 per cent of this reduction." A deeper dive into the Hydrogen Council’s report can provide additional detail.

And there are other indicators that support the conclusion that scale is essential to lowering costs in hydrogen solutions. For example, Matthew Klippenstein compares PEM fuel cells, solar PV and wind turbine production in megawatts per year, showing the growth of PEM fuel cells is tracking along the same trajectory as these other markets have. 

Another example is the anticipated reduction in cost for hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Shell has noted that "50% of the current cost can be reduced in the next 2 years with small actions taken." Similarly,  the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found, among other things, that a "simple cost analysis shows there is some room for cost reduction in the manufacturing cost of the hydrogen refueling station systems, which could reach 35% or more when achieving production rates of more than 100 units per year."

In the first of three white papers that was released earlier this year, Deloitte China and Ballard Power Systems found that their "TCO analysis shows consistent and highly encouraging results. Even when ignoring qualitative benefits of hydrogen (i.e. zero-emission at the use end, among others), FCEVs are forecasted to become cheaper from a TCO perspective compared to Battery Electric Vehicles (“BEV”s) and Internal Combustion Engine (“ICE”) commercial vehicles over the next 10 year period in all use cases."

How can cities, associations of government and regional planning agencies in California engage with the growth of this emerging market?
To date, most of the funding of hydrogen stations in California has come from state government, with supplemental funding from air districts, so the role that cities have usually played is in the realm of planning and permitting. Local jurisdictions can take a more active role in welcoming hydrogen stations and fuel cell electric cars to serve their residents. The first and simplest way is to ensure that ordinances and policies are technology and fuel neutral. They should also clearly define zero-emission vehicles in reports and documents (climate action plans, etc.) to include battery electric AND fuel cell electric vehicles. City staff may also want to review the Hydrogen Station Permitting Guidebook produced by the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development. An updated version of the guidebook will be released shortly, and we will share it with subscribers to our mailing list.

What can the public do to help build the infrastructure faster?
It's very simple: call your legislators. Reach out – call or email – to your elected officials at the city, county, state and federal levels. Let them know you want to see more hydrogen fueling infrastructure. If they have questions or want to learn more, we at CaFCP are more than happy to talk with them or put them in touch with others who can answer their questions.