February 2019 Hydrogen Station Update Webinar - Questions & Answers

You can find the video recording from the webinar here, presentation PDF here, and 2018 Joint Agency Staff Report on AB 8 presentation here.

Please note that similar questions have been combined and summarized.

Questions about SOSS

Can SOSS show the amount of hydrogen at the station?

On the details screen for each station, SOSS displays the capacity as reported by the station.

SOSS - hydrogen station capacity

Is the SOSS status real-time?

Stations report their status at least every 15 minutes—some stations report every few minutes and others take longer. CaFCP and the station developers are working together on standards for SOSS to help make reporting more uniform

Can you show EV charging stations on the map?

Our map only shows hydrogen stations. PlugShare is a good source of information about charging stations.

Questions about Station Technology and Fueling

Can the same station serve cars, trucks, and buses?

Generally, no. Cars and heavy-duty vehicles use different fueling protocols. Currently, the UC Irvine station fills the UCI fuel cell bus and has filled OCTA buses.

It is thought that some connector stations will serve several categories of vehicles, including heavy duty and light duty. Nikola Motors, for example, has indicated that it intends to fuel trucks and passenger vehicles at its stations. 

In most cases, hydrogen infrastructure for transit buses will likely not fuel other categories of vehicles, given issues related to the locations and footprints of transit operations, and the fact that fueling other categories of vehicles may not match a transit agency’s business case. 

In CaFCP’s Medium- & Heavy-Duty Fuel Cell Electric Truck Action Plan for California (page 11) the plan states, “A medium-duty parcel delivery truck will need approximately 10 kilograms of hydrogen; more than twice the capacity of a passenger vehicle. Fuel cell trucks will need high-capacity stations, meaning that they store 500/kg or more of hydrogen and can fill vehicles back-to-back in less than 10 minutes per vehicle.” It is possible that passenger fuel cell cars and fuel cell trucks may fuel at the same site, but not the same pump, like truck stops do today.

Can dispenser display the station’s capacity (the number of kilograms remaining)?

The display on the dispenser only shows purchase information, it doesn’t have any connection to the storage tanks. (Gasoline stations work the same way.) SOSS shows the amount of fuel in the storage tank at the station

Can the receipt show the percentage of fuel in the car’s tank so I can calculate my range?

During fueling, hydrogen moves from the storage tank through a meter and into the car’s tank. The point of sale (POS) system reports the total weight of hydrogen that moved through the meter. The POS has no way of calculating the amount of fuel that was in the car’s tank prior to fueling.

The Mirai and Clarity both estimate range and fuel economy over time, like a bowling average or golf handicap changes as you continue to play. You can reset the car immediately before fueling to always start with zero.

Is CaFCP working with equipment providers to develop a fuel cell nozzle that doesn't freeze up?

Hydrogen is cooled to -40°C so it can be quickly dispensed. Cold hydrogen turns moisture in the air into frost on the nozzle and receptacle. Sometimes the frost becomes ice—particularity after back-to-back fills—and the cold metal of the nozzle latching mechanism freezes.

WEH and Walther, the companies that manufacture most nozzles are working with automakers and station developers to find solutions.  Some stations have new nozzles and other stations have mechanisms to dislodge or dry water that might be between the “teeth” inside the nozzle.  Development continues.

If the nozzle does freeze to the car, don’t pour water on it or twist it back and forth to try to force it off the car. You may have to wait a minute or two for the temperature of the nozzle to warm up enough to remove it from the receptacle.

Can you drive away with the nozzle attached to the car?

The Mirai, Clarity, and NEXO have safety features to prevent driving while the fuel door is open. However, people can override the safety feature. Do not depress the safety latch on the car with the fuel door open.

Does the lack of new stations hold up the technology?

Hydrogen stations are new technology and some of the codes and standards are still in development. It’s true that building more stations at once will reduce the cost because station developers will achieve economies of scale. It is not, however, holding up technology development.

Stations are, of course, critical to the roll out of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). The more stations we can build, and the faster we can build them, contribute the continued growth of FCEVs on the road. Stakeholders, especially members of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, continue to work together and individually to achieve these goals. The annual reports produced by the California Energy Commission and the California Air Resources Board provide further understanding and context on this issue.

Questions about Hydrogen

How much of the hydrogen dispensed is renewable?

SB 1505 (2006, Lowenthal) requires that 33% of hydrogen used for transportation come from renewable sources. Page 15 (Finding 9) of the California Air Resources Board’s 2018 Annual Evaluation of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment and Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development (aka “the AB8 report”) states, “The currently-funded network, when completely constructed by the end of 2020, will dispense hydrogen with a 38% renewable content. Assuming any stations funded and built beyond this 64 station network meet the minimum requirements of SB 1505, the projected 2024 network will dispense hydrogen with a 34% renewable content.

As part of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits for ZEV infrastructure took effect in January 2019, qualifying stations must have a renewable content of 40% or higher. 

California is working to increase renewable hydrogen in state. The California Energy Commission funded three renewable hydrogen projects and a renewable hydrogen production road map in 2018.  A webinar regarding the renewable hydrogen road map took place on November 13, 2018.

What is the difference between renewable and non-renewable hydrogen?

Most hydrogen (non-renewable) is produced from natural gas. Renewable hydrogen is produced from solar or wind electrolysis of water, from biomass (like agricultural waste), or biogas (from landfills or wastewater treatment plants). No matter the feedstock used in production, the end product is exactly the same—99.999% pure hydrogen.

Are there plans to build more stations with on-site production?

Overall, CaFCP members envision more renewable hydrogen production, although not necessarily onsite production in the state. In the Renewable Hydrogen Roadmap, Energy Independence Now states that building centralized renewable hydrogen production plants that can supply hydrogen stations and provide gas-to-power for the electric grid is a better investment than small-scale, onsite production. In addition, few gas stations have enough space for equipment needed for on-site production.

CaFCP’s Revolution calls for policies coupled with industry commitment to incentivize the transition to 100 percent renewable hydrogen, and we expect most of that will initially come from excess renewables, including wind and solar.

As noted previously in this Q&A, the Energy Commission has awarded two renewable hydrogen projects in the Inland Empire and Central Valley. It also recently awarded the University of California, Irvine to produce a renewable hydrogen production roadmap.

Are any funding opportunities or grant solicitations coming up for renewable hydrogen production?

We are not aware of any current California funding opportunities specifically for renewable hydrogen production. You can track grant opportunities on the DOE website and CEC website.  

The U.S. Department of Energy announced up to $31 million in funding to advance the H2@Scale concept. The focus of H2@Scale is to enable affordable and reliable large-scale hydrogen generation, transport, storage, and utilization in the United States across multiple sectors.

How are renewable sources of hydrogen reducing cost?

Renewables alone will not reduce the cost of hydrogen. CaFCP members are collaborating on strategies that can bring hydrogen toward cost parity with gasoline. Some reductions will come from scale (more stations, more cars) and others may come from scope, like integration with the grid.

In the short term, reductions may come from policies that incentivize vehicle adoption or encourage market-based activity. For example, the recently approved amendments to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard allowing for the generation of credits from installed capacity of a hydrogen refueling station will help in reducing costs.

Our vision for 2030 discusses the opportunities for making hydrogen renewable and the role of hydrogen in the energy transition.

In a good sign for renewables, economists from the U.S. and Germany reported in Nature recently, “We apply our model to the current environment in both Germany and Texas and find that renewable hydrogen is already cost competitive in niche applications (€3.23 kg−1), although not yet for industrial-scale supply. This conclusion, however, is projected to change within a decade (€2.50 kg−1) provided recent market trends continue in the coming years.” More about this story can be found here.

Do the trucks that deliver hydrogen to the stations run on hydrogen?

Currently, diesel trucks deliver hydrogen to stations. Hydrogen powered heavy-duty trucks are currently in the demonstration phase.

What are the environmental justice issues of hydrogen?

No specific environmental justice issues are directly associated with hydrogen as a transportation fuel.

Questions about Cost and Funding

How do stations determine the retail price of hydrogen?

Several factors are considered in setting hydrogen prices. Hydrogen stations estimate their operating costs—capital purchases, rent, utilities, insurance, maintenance, cost of goods sold—and amortize costs based on customers.

Station developers continue to reduce costs, and Shell estimates that “50% of the current cost can be reduced in the next two years with small actions taken.” FirstElement Fuels has stated that building stations with more storage capacity can reduce operating costs.

How are hydrogen stations funded? When did funding start? How much funding remains?

The California Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) invests up to $100 million annually to support advancements in alternative and renewable fuels and advanced vehicle technologies…to help California reach its greenhouse gas emissions goals, improve air quality, reduce dependence on petroleum, and promote economic development. In 2013, Assembly Bill 8 (Perea, Chapter 401, Statutes of 2013) directed the California Energy Commission to allocate $20 million annually from ARFVTP to plan, develop, and deploy hydrogen stations until at least 100 publicly available stations are open in California. The 2018 Joint Agency Staff Report states “As of December 21, 2018, 38 ARFVTP-funded retail stations selling hydrogen as a transportation fuel to the public, and another 26 stations are in development to become open retail, in California. The ARFVTP funded these 64 stations, which meet nearly two-thirds of the 100-station AB 8 milestone.”

Chapter 6 of the reports states “The remaining estimated ARFVTP cost to establish a network of 100 publicly available hydrogen refueling stations is $110 million in addition to private funds. Thus far, reported private funds invested in the 64 ARFVTP-funded stations are between 30 and 70 percent of the total cost, which is significantly more than what was required in solicitations. The remaining time required to establish the network of 100 stations is nearly six years, or until 2024.” 

Can you explain how the Low Carbon Fuel Standard will help the deployment of HFS infrastructure?

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) was adopted in 2009 to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels. Fuel providers are “regulated parties” and can either add more low-carbon fuels or buy credits from low-carbon fuel producers. Hydrogen and renewable electricity have always been able to generate credits, but the credits are based on the amount of fuel dispensed.

The California Air Resources Board approved amendments to generate credits based on the capacity of hydrogen stations (and of Level 2 and DC Fast Charging). Station operators will generate LCFS credits equal to the difference between the station’s daily fueling capacity and actual hydrogen sales. The station owner must also maintain a companywide weighted average of at least 40 percent renewable hydrogen.

The additional credits are intended to serve as a supplementary revenue stream during the early FCEV deployment phase. Station operators will generate credits that could provide a more-certain stream of revenue and could be an influential factor in moving the industry toward the ability to develop a station network more quickly and at larger scale, with the potential to ultimately provide significant fuel savings to FCEV customers.

Chapter 6 of the Joint Report provides more information about how LCFS credits will work.

Will the existing stations be eligible for the LCFS infrastructure credits?

Yes. Hydrogen station owners will be able to apply to CARB through the LCFS Reporting Tool and Credit Bank & Transfer System (LRT-CBTS). Through December 31, 2025, station owners may apply for stations currently in operation and for future stations, if stations become operational within 24 months of the application approval date. The station can generate credits for 15 years.

If a station is not operational within 24 months of application approval, the station owner will need to reapply to the program and, if approved, will be eligible only for a 10-year crediting period.

How long until there is a business case for hydrogen?

California Fuel Cell Partnership members are exploring several pathways to reaching economies of scale for hydrogen stations, which will lead to a business case. Market mechanisms and government incentive programs, like LCFS and ARFVTP, help deploy hydrogen stations until costs are competitive with conventional fuels.

Have plans for hydrogen stations in Germany, Japan, and other countries had a measurable effect on hydrogen stations in the U.S.?

CaFCP’s 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.

Can you partner with companies like Shell to accelerate hydrogen station expansion?

Shell and Air Liquide are executive members of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, and many other companies involved with hydrogen and gasoline stations are active CaFCP members. See our member list here.

Questions about Station Development and Dates

How many privately funded stations are open or being developed?

In California, one privately funded station is in development.

Do you have definitions for the Development statuses? Some of the terms are vague?

The permitting process can be long and slow. It’s not unusual for any significant building project to spend a year in permitting and during that time it looks like nothing is happening. Cities and counties have online permit portals that let you follow a progress of a project.

“Permit in Progress” means that the developer filed all the paperwork with the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). The AHJ reviews the building plans to State of California building codes, local building codes, and zoning codes to ensure compliance. Cities may require multiple departments review the plans: building, fire, public works, transportation, environment, Cal OSHA, power. For any building project, this could take weeks or months. Because hydrogen stations are new, it tends to take months. (The first stations took more than a year.) The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is an excellent source of information for AHJs.

Some cities also require plans to go to the Planning Commission, which can add more time to the process. This often happens when a resident is concerned that the hydrogen station will increase traffic or noise.

Once the AHJ has approved the plans and issues the permit, we change the status to Approved to Build. The developer works with the construction company and site host on a construction schedule, which could be a few weeks or a few months. Once the contractor breaks ground at the station, we change the status to Under Construction.

How can a small to medium-sized business invest in hydrogen stations?

David Park, the CaFCP infrastructure lead will be happy to connect any business to CaFCP’s members that build and operate stations. Please contact him at info@cafcp.org.

How can a driver get more stations online faster?

Write to your state and local elected officials and tell them that you want to see investment in hydrogen stations. Emphasize that hydrogen and FCEVs are crucial to achieving California’s goals for putting 5 million ZEVs on the road. You can find your Assembly Member and State Senator by visiting http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/.

Do Toyota dealerships have fueling stations?

At this time, Toyota dealers do not have a hydrogen refueling station.

Could CaFCP arrange a meeting with the FCEV owners and organization members?

Thanks for the suggestion! We will definitely consider it.

Questions about Future Locations and Stations in Other States

Are stations opening or planned for Sherman Oaks, Palm Desert, Arcadia, Highway 101, San Diego County, Highway 99 corridor, King City. Santa Cruz, Redding, San Luis Obispo, Mammoth, Lone Pine, Lancaster, Mojave, or near the Nevada state line so I can drive to Vegas?

Station deployment planning is an important process that considers many factors. The goal is to ensure that people can drive their FCEV as they do a conventional vehicle,  balancing the need for urban stations in areas of many early adopters with the coverage provided by connector and destination stations.

The California Air Resources Board in its 2018 Annual Evaluation of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment & Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development (pp 24-27) identified Tier 1, 2 and 3 priority area recommendations as to where to place the next hydrogen stations to reach the 200 station goal set by Governor Brown in Executive Order B-48-18.    

The California Air Resources Board created a GIS planning tool, CHIT, to help the state determine station coverage gaps. 

In February 2019, CaFCP’s automaker members published a list of recommended priority areas for future hydrogen stations for CEC’s next grant funding opportunity.

The automakers and CEC listen to the requests that the public sends through the CaFCP webinars and Facebook posts, and the input given to CaFCP staff.

What are the plans for stations in states neighboring California?

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) is beginning to work with other states in addition to those in the Northeast, and we recently began preliminary conversations with stakeholders in Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Utah.

Stations are already being built in the Pacific Northwest in Vancouver, British Columbia, and stakeholders are beginning to organize in Oregon and Washington. Policy makers are beginning to take note and legislation is moving through OR and WA legislatures on bills that related directly or indirectly to hydrogen and fuel cell electric vehicles.

How soon will we able to use the stations in the Northeast?

Automakers are awaiting the opening of more stations before releasing vehicles. You can stay in touch with Toyota and Honda through their websites.

Questions about Specific Stations

When will CalState LA be open? Why isn’t it on SOSS?

CaFCP members are diligently working with CalState LA to get it retail ready. We don’t have an exact date but expect it to open this year. SOSS only shows open retail stations; however, CalState LA is on the CaFCP station map.

Why aren’t Berkeley and Oakland on the list of stations opening next?

Our intention for the presentation was to show stations that are in commissioning and appear to be nearly ready to open. While both Berkeley and Oakland are listed as anticipated to open in mid-2019, Oakland is under construction and Berkeley is approved to build but hasn’t broken ground yet

What is the status of the three San Francisco stations?

Third Street and Mission Street are under construction, Harrison Street has received approval to build.

What is the status of Sherman Oaks?

Sherman Oaks has received entitlements and is in the final stages of the building plan check process.

What happened to the Walnut Creek station?

The Walnut Creek station is no longer being built and was relocated to San Jose. Walnut Creek is a desired location and listed on the 2019 CaFCP OEM Priority Hydrogen Station Location Recommendation.

Questions about the Strategy

Do you know of recent studies that focus on hydrogen production forecasts?

The AB8 Report and the Joint Staff Report both look at future production needs for California, but we haven’t seen a recent report about U.S. production needs.

What are the strategies to reach 100 stations?

At the moment, 39 stations are open and another 25 are in development. For the next funding cycle that is likely to get us to 100 or more stations, the California Energy Commission has already begun offering concepts for consideration and stakeholders are commenting. A Grant Funding Opportunity (also known as a GFO), will likely emerge in the coming months from these stakeholder discussions to fund the next phase of stations. Generally speaking, the concept being discussed considers the possibility of funding groups of stations, rather than funding stations individually like previous funding cycles.

Looking forward, strategies are being discussed regarding how California moves forward and reaches the 200 and 1,000-station mark

CaFCP’s Fuel Cell Revolution explores a vision for California in 2030 that will require strategy and implementation in the coming years. For example, it 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.

How did you determine the difference initial markets and connector cities?

In 2010, CaFCP began planning the launch of the commercial market for FCEVs. Our 2012 Road Map called for 100 stations and in a collaborative process determined three types of markets: clusters, connectors, and destinations. The short 100 Hydrogen Stations white paper explains the thought process.

Will the recent national focus on increasing oil and coal production impact hydrogen?

California remains committed to a zero-emission transportation future, and we don’t expect any impact its support of hydrogen. In addition, the increase in the solar and wind power offers expanded opportunities for renewable hydrogen as a fuel, industrial input and grid balancer.