California Fuel Cell Revolution Webinar - Questions & Answers

You can find the video recording from the webinar here and presentation PDF here.
Please note that similar questions have been combined and summarized.

Questions about Revolution Projections

If the 2030 goal is 1,000,000 FCEVs and 1,000 stations, how many vehicles to you expect each station to handle?

ARB’s modeling to reach 1,000 stations includes stations for cars and trucks, and the volume varies depending on location and year built. The Revolution document states “appropriately sized stations,” and we are well aware that the size will change with vehicle deployment and technology innovations.

What is the cost benefit of 1,000 hydrogen stations?

The Revolution report considers several factors, and cites Shell’s report, Hydrogen’s Role in the Future of Transport, that capital costs for hydrogen infrastructure could be reduced by 50 percent through economies of scale by as early as 2020, if developers were to build between 30 and 50 hydrogen stations per year globally. In addition, building hydrogen stations at the scale we project, the cost of hydrogen could approach the U.S. Department of Energy’s target of $4 per kilogram. That would make a zero-emission fuel roughly half to two-thirds the cost of gasoline.

What is the targeted cadence for station rollout from 2020 to 2025 to reach 200 stations by 2025?

CaFCP members are working on the station deployment implementation plan, and the first step is to build 30 to 50 hydrogen stations a year globally.

The plan calls for an increase in renewable hydrogen. How will that be produced differently than today?

Hydrogen is a common industrial gas used to make a wide variety of products, ranging from gasoline to computer chips. As of July 2018, most of the hydrogen sold at hydrogen stations was excess production, primarily from natural gas. California law requires that 33 percent of hydrogen be made from renewables today, which include renewable electrolysis, biomass, and biogas. Strong policies coupled with industry commitment incentivize the transition to 100 percent renewable hydrogen, and we expect most of that will come from excess renewables, including wind and solar.

In the meantime, the Energy Commission recently awarded Stratos Fuel a grant to expand an existing facility that currently produces 3,000 kg/day of hydrogen to 5,000 kg/day using a 30-year solar and wind power agreement. We expect this grant is the first of several public/private projects to increase the hydrogen supply. In addition, Senate Bill 1369, which is currently before the California legislature, would create up to three renewable hydrogen projects across California.

Will that impact water supply?

Reports from national labs and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab shows that electrolysis is less water intense than many other energy systems. One possible technology innovation is using grey water for hydrogen production.

Does hydrogen supply create a potential bottleneck?

The Revolution calls for new, dedicated hydrogen production before supply becomes a bottleneck.

Have you modeled how the transition to hydrogen would impact the economy as fewer people purchase gasoline?

California currently has 24 million registered passenger vehicles and 13 million trucks. One million fuel cell vehicles will not make a significant impact on the economy. However, hydrogen is a regulated fuel and, as such, customers pay sales tax when they purchase hydrogen. Currently, hydrogen is exempt from state and federal fuel excise taxes.

Have you polled the automakers to understand what they want in excess refueling capacity statewide or regionally before they introduce new fuel cell vehicles?

The automakers participated in writing the Revolution and the report reflects their consensus opinion. It doesn’t consider automakers’ individual strategies or plans. Consensus is that stations, including sufficient supply, must come before vehicles.

What are some promising non-vehicle fuel cell applications that are showing signs of success?

Forklifts and material handling were an early success for fuel cells. In Europe where electric rail is common, we see more fuel cell locomotives and light-rail systems. Worldwide we’re seeing new interest in fuel cells for stationary power. Several of California’s micro-grid projects include fuel cells for grid stabilization.

What are the technical and cost synergies between automotive and non-automotive fuel cell applications?

Fuel cell components and underlying technology are the same across applications, which enables manufacturers to leverage product research and development, design specifications, and improvements across products or lead to development of an entirely new product. It distributes costs of product development and manufacturing across multiple product lines and maximizes production efficiencies, which is especially important when initial production volumes are smaller.

Do you expect increased government funding in fuel cells in the coming years?

The Revolution calls for a transition from grant funding to market-based incentives, like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, that reward early investment by private industry. It’s important that hydrogen, and other ZEV fuels, become self-sustaining without government support, however, in the early years government support and government/industry collaboration are essential.

What’s the best way to stay informed?

Join CaFCP’s email list and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Follow our policy advisor, Keith Malone, on LinkedIn.

What can individuals do to help further hydrogen?

Be vocal! Many city and state agencies are not aware that hydrogen exists, or that they should consider it in their ZEV planning. Many cities are creating “EV blueprints” that do not take hydrogen into account. Find out what actions your city is taking for zero emission vehicles and ask them to include hydrogen. Talk with your car dealerships and fuel providers about when they plan to offer fuel cell cars and hydrogen; and talk with your friends, family, and neighbors to build awareness.

Questions about Fuel Cell Vehicles

What is the advantage of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles compared to battery vehicles?

Fuel cell cars have range and refill time similar to a gasoline car, with the advanced performance of electric drive. Fuel cells are scalable across all vehicle platforms, from compact car to truck. Fuel cells are designed to last the lifetime of the car and are recyclable at the end of their lives. From well-to-wheels—including GHG emissions, air pollutants, and energy efficiency—fuel cells and batteries have a very similar environmental profile.

How many FCEVs are in the U.S.? How many worldwide? Which automakers have fuel cell cars?

At the beginning of every month, we update U.S. sales and lease numbers and post them on our website. We recently added publicly available data from Japan to this page. Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota have FCEVs available in the U.S., and Mercedes is planning to introduce a fuel cell vehicle in 2019.

Are you working with the State of California for state fleet vehicles?

Fuel cell cars are on the Department of General Services’ purchasing list and several state agencies have FCEVs in their fleets. We regularly reach out to encourage adoption of more FCEVs. Many fleets need SUVs and pickup trucks and are looking forward to the release of the NEXO

Do you have information about Hyundai’s plans for the NEXO?

Please check the NEXO page on Hyundai’s website. Information is coming this fall.

Would converting local delivery trucks to H2 help promote FCEVs near existing stations?

Our Medium- and Heavy-Duty Fuel Cell Track Action Plan summary identified local delivery vehicles as early targets for fuel cell trucks. They would, however, likely fuel at dedicated truck stations. Page 11 states, “A medium-duty parcel delivery truck will need approximately 10 kilograms of hydrogen; more than twice the capacity of a passenger vehicle.” It is possible that fuel cell cars and fuel cell trucks will fuel at the same site, but not the same pump, like trucks do today.

Do you coordinate with Nikola Motor Company to share information about their planned stations?

We do coordinate with Nikola and their station developer, Nel Hydrogen, is an active CaFCP member. Our station map will reflect the Nikola stations when they are announced.

Are initiatives underway at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to use fuel cell trucks?

Yes, several port operators are launching pilot projects with fuel cell and battery electric trucks, and CaFCP is an important project partner. You can read an article about the Toyota/Shell project here

Questions about Other Topics

You mentioned State of California funding for hydrogen stations. Does the federal government fund hydrogen stations as well? Do you collaborate on H2@Scale?

The Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have all invested in hydrogen and fuel cells. DOE’s “Technology Validation Program” was the catalyst for the first development hydrogen stations. Currently, federal spending is restricted to early-market R&D, although DOE and EPA remain actively engaged with CaFCP.

We are very involved with H2@Scale, a concept that explores the potential for wide-scale hydrogen production and utilization in the United States to enable resiliency of the power generation and transmission sectors.

What are common themes in start-up companies involved in fuel cells and hydrogen? Where are the job opportunities?

MDOE’s Pathway to Commercial Success report is a good source of information about engineering startups. In California, we’ve seen several startup station developers and station operators, and new engineering companies. We expect to see additional startups for hydrogen production, construction, marketing, software design, and other ancillary products and services. The California Hydrogen Business Council is a great source of information about the business of hydrogen and fuel cells.

Do you have a list of companies that would be interested in contributing cost share for current R&D projects?

CaFCP doesn’t keep a list, but our members are listed on our website.

How will the proposed revision of CAFE and vehicle efficiency standards affect the advancement of ZEV and FCEVs?

Industry and government will discuss this topic at the Air Resources Board meeting on September 27 and 28.

Questions about Stations

What is happening to reduce the time it takes to entitle and build new stations?

The 2018 Annual Evaluation of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment & Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development states, “Hydrogen station development timelines for the newest stations continue to improve. Some stations funded under GFO 15-605 may reportedly achieve Open-Retail status by the end of the year (faster than the most-recently reported average of 18 months).” Time to build a hydrogens station is approaching the same time line as other construction projects.

Are station developers planning convert gaseous storage at existing stations to liquid storage to increase capacity?

We haven’t heard of plans to do so, but new stations under construction have more storage and dispensing positions than existing stations.

Do you have more specific opening dates for stations?

We update the Hydrogen Stations List monthly with information that the station developers provide. As a station nears the end of the process, we can target the opening date more closely.

Questions about Other States

What are the plans for stations in states neighboring California?

CaFCP and its members have been focused on getting the station network started in California first. GO-Biz is starting to work with other states in addition to those in the Northeast, and we recently began preliminary conversations with stakeholders in Washington and Oregon. 

A station network is also under development in the Northeast U.S. Four of the stations are built and awaiting vehicles. The automakers are preparing to lease and sell cars in the Northeast, but we don’t have the dates when that will start. You can stay in touch with Toyota and Honda through their websites.

On July 14, the first retail station in Hawaii opened. Developed by Servco, the station is adjacent to a Toyota dealership. The island of Oahu has hosted several hydrogen demonstration projects over the years, including buses, military equipment, shore power for ships, and blending hydrogen and natural gas. HCATT recently took delivery of a fuel cell truck.

Are other countries trying hydrogen? What are their experiences?

The first retail station in Vancouver, BC recently opened, and a city-wide network is under development. Germany, Japan, South Korea, Norway, China, and the UK also have hydrogen programs. France just announced a hydrogen initiative and has a fleet of FCEV taxies in Paris. We’re also seeing new programs in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Spain, and Scotland. The International Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy is a good place to stay connected with other activities.

CaFCP actively participates in international collaboration and information sharing.

Does the East Coast have an organization similar to CaFCP?

H2USA is helping deploy hydrogen stations in the Northeast.