July 2018 Hydrogen Station Update 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 SOSS and the station map

How do you create an account and get text messages?

From any web browser, go to http://m.cafcp.org (not the CaFCP website.) Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Sign Up. You can then select which stations you want to be alerted about and how you want to be alerted (text or email.)
SOSS signup image - hydrogen station status updates






Word of caution: stations sometimes transmit data in the wee hours of the morning, which can send dozens of online/offline messages to SOSS and you will get a text message every time!

At times, the message about a station doesn’t match its status. Is there a lag between the two types of messaging?

The station status (online, offline, and limited) and capacity are automatically transmitted from the station to SOSS every few minutes. Station developers or CaFCP staff enter the text messages and sometimes might lag behind the status.

Questions about Station Technology

What is the status of the hydrogen supply shortage in Southern California?


"Air Products would like to provide an update to hydrogen fueling customers affected by an unexpected disruption to our hydrogen supply chain. We are actively working to resolve this unexpected disruption, which has been caused by a contemporaneous series of unrelated issues at several liquid hydrogen production and supply sites. We are addressing the matter as rapidly as we can and are hopeful to have the situation remedied and have restored regular hydrogen supply in the early days of August. We regret any inconvenience that may have resulted.

"We are also pleased to share with you and want to make you aware that we will be adding infrastructure in Southern California which will support and increase our hydrogen filling capabilities. We are targeting this new investment in fueling infrastructure and capability to be operational by the end of August.

"Again, we regret any inconvenience fueling customers may be currently experiencing and reassure you we are focused on resolving the issue as soon as possible, and with the near-term outlook even stronger with the added fueling infrastructure to be put in place. Please be assured that Air Products remains committed to providing a safe and highly reliable hydrogen supply to the local FCEV market."

How do stations store hydrogen? What about metal hydrides?

Hydrogen is dispensed as a gas, and stations store either gaseous hydrogen or liquid hydrogen that’s converted to a gas before dispensing.

Metal hydrides are storage containers are filled with metal powders that absorb and release hydrogen. Think of the metal as a sponge; hydrogen atoms are stored in the empty spaces between the atoms of the metal. When the metal is treated with pressure or temperature, it releases the hydrogen.  Metal hydrides can store significant amounts of hydrogen and are used in some applications, but currently hydride tanks are too heavy and too expensive to store hydrogen at a station.  Additionally, MH tanks need significant energy to release the hydrogen fast enough to fill a vehicle. Visit the Department of Energy’s Metal Hydride Center of Excellence for technical information and H2Tools for information for about handling hydrides.

What is the different between H35 and H70? Why would you use H35 in a car?

The numbers refer to the pressure of the fuel, measured in megapascals. Existing stations were designed to fill at both pressures because—at the time—some of the cars used only H35 and we assumed that the stations would also fill trucks and buses, which use H35. Now all the cars use H70 and additional market research indicates that trucks and buses will likely use a separate station or a separate dispenser. Newer stations, like Anaheim and those under construction, have only H70.

At times, when a station has limited pressure and can’t dispense H70, you can get ½ tank (or less) from the H35 side. Several CaFCP staff have FCEVs and we see drivers who fill with H35 and then “top off” with H70 because they think they’re getting more fuel. Nothing supports that theory, including personal experimentation

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

Generally, no. Cars and heavy-duty vehicles use different fueling protocols. In rare cases, vehicles of different categories use the same station. For example, the UC Irvine station fuels the UCI Anteater Express bus and has sometimes fueled an OCTA bus, in addition to passenger vehicles. OCTA is in the process of building its own hydrogen station to accommodate its bus and 10 more that are coming.

In the Medium- and Heavy-Duty Fuel Cell Track Action Plan summary, 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. 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 will fuel at the same site, but not the same pump, like truck stops do today.

Why do some stations make you watch a video and enter a code? Are we going to get away from this requirement?

If you are swiping a credit card for the first time at some stations, you’ll be prompted to watch the training video. Just push the No key to skip the video. (Pushing the Cancel key does not skip the video.)

The training video/PIN is a legacy from when AHJs needed confidence that consumers knew what they were doing. CNG fueling went through the same process. With a few years of operation under our belts and many safety codes and standards in place, training isn’t necessary. New stations don’t require watching a video and as familiarity with dispensing gaseous fuel grows, the video will disappear altogether.

Does the station handle two-way fuel systems? Can the car send its fuel to the station?

All valves on the car and at the station are one-way; fuel will not flow from the car back into the dispenser. We think this question might be asking about vehicle-to-grid capabilities of a fuel cell car, which is possible. The fuel cell creates electricity, which could power a house or a building. Honda has shown the Power Exporter 9000 that, when connected to a fuel cell Clarity with a full tank, could power a Japanese home for seven days. Toyota has noted that the Mirai can, too, power a Japanese home for the same amount of time.

Southern California had some days when the temperature reached 120 F and some of the stations went offline. Is this the case with all stations or with certain station configurations?

For those that don’t live in California, 120 is an unusually high temperature, even in our deserts.

The SAE standard for fueling light-duty vehicles with gaseous hydrogen, J2601, has a temperature limit of 50 C (approximately 120F). In addition, many pieces of equipment operate within temperature limits. For example, my Samsung TV is manufactured to be operated in temperatures between 50 and 104 (10 to 40 C) and can be stored between -4 to 113 (-20 to 45 C).

CaFCP technical staff don’t know the specific operating temperature limits for individual pieces of equipment, but believe the shut downs were likely a combination of equipment and the fueling protocol. This unusual situation will likely be a topic at a CaFCP working group meeting.

Has an analysis been done on the hydrogen supply network? Do we need to increase supply?

CaFCP members are keenly aware of the need to increase and diversify hydrogen production and distribution. For example, 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.

Questions About Hydrogen

How much of the hydrogen dispensed is renewable?

SB 1505 (2006, Lowenthal) requires that 33% of hydrogen for transportation come from renewable sources. Page 15 (Finding 9) of the California Air Resources Board’s 2017 Annual Evaluation of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment and Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development (aka “the AB8 report”) states, “Currently, California’s open and funded fueling network is expected to dispense 37% of its hydrogen utilizing renewable resources, exceeding the 33% requirement of SB 1505.”

Is there a difference between renewable and non-renewable hydrogen?

Most stations have a mixture of renewable and non-renewable hydrogen. 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 by electrolysis? Why are only a few California stations producing hydrogen on site?

Electrolysis is one way to produce hydrogen from renewables; biogas and biomass can also make hydrogen. Toyota has a hydrogen station at the Port of Long Beach that uses agricultural waste in a tri-generation system.

Overall, CaFCP members see more renewable hydrogen production, although not necessarily onsite production. 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.

Questions about Cost and Price

How do stations determine the retail price of hydrogen?

Hydrogen stations estimate their operating costs—capital purchases, rent, utilities, insurance, maintenance, cost of goods sold—and amortize costs based on customers. Currently, the California Energy Commission also provides grants for operating costs.

To reduce the cost of hydrogen at the dispenser, two things need to happen:

1. Reduce the costs to build and operate a station
2. Increase the number of FCEV customers

Station developers continue to reduce costs, and Shell estimates that building 30 stations a year is enough to reduce component costs by half. FirstElement Fuels has stated that building stations with more storage capacity can reduce operating costs.

Increasing the number of FCEV customers is mostly achieved through the strategic deployment of refueling stations. Early customers need to see enough stations to have confidence that they can get fuel, and stations need to have a base load of customers.

Do you expect the retail price of hydrogen to be less in the future?

Yes. CaFCP members are collaborating on strategies that can bring hydrogen toward cost parity with gasoline. Some reduction will come from scale (more stations, more cars) and others may come from scope, like integration with the grid. Our vision for 2030, which we expect to publish in August, explores strategies for cost reduction.

In California, do you pay for the hydrogen or is that included in a car lease?

The automakers include the cost of fuel in the lease or payment price of the car. Honda and Toyota provide customers with debit cards to purchase $15,000 worth of hydrogen. Please check with the automakers or dealership for more information about the fueling card and other incentives.

Questions about Cars

Why aren’t American automakers making FCEVs?

GM is a CaFCP member and is active in our boards and committees. Currently, GM has a demonstration project with the U.S. Army on the ZH2, a concept vehicle, and a fuel cell-powered Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) that the U.S. Navy is testing. GM also collaborates with Honda on fuel cell R&D, and they will build a joint fuel cell system manufacturing operation in Michigan.

In a statement last year, GM stated, “Given customers' various needs, getting to a zero emissions future will require more than just battery electric technology. It will require a two-pronged approach to electrification — battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric depending on the unique requirements.”

Until recently, Ford and Mercedes had a joint venture to develop fuel cell technology. Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation Corp closed on July 1. In a press release, Ford stated it “will take fuel cell stack development in-house, as well as leverage the supply base. Both companies will continue to explore ways to cooperate on developing fuel cell stack modules.”

Fiat Chrysler hasn’t made recent statements about fuel cells.

Where can I find information about the Hyundai NEXO and Audi A7 Htron? The links on the CaFCP website don’t have much information.

Immediately after the webinar, Hyundai launched the NEXO page and it’s now linked on our website.

The Audi Htron is a demonstration vehicle and we linked to the information that Audi provided. In June, Hyundai and Audi agreed to collaborate on fuel cell technology, including increasing the supply chain for components.

Questions about the Station Development Process

Are any bills in progress to remove approval authority from local governments and centralize the authority with the state?

California creates statewide codes and standards that are enforced at the local level. Each jurisdiction can adopt local ordinances that are more stringent than the statewide standards. For example, the California building code says that exterior signs must have controls to turn off the lighting during the day. A jurisdiction, however, could forbid exterior signs with lighting. It’s highly unlikely that the state would override local control.

GO-Biz, the Energy Commission, and South Coast AQMD have been diligent in working with jurisdictions to help the permitting and approval process go as quickly as possible, and they’ve made great strides. In addition, CaFCP’s Jennifer Hamilton leads and supports national and international committees that create codes and standards that California references in statewide codes.

When it comes to jurisdictional enforcement for set-back distances, noise, signage, landscaping, curb improvements, energy upgrades, ADA accessibility, and other local ordinances, the station developers work cooperatively with the AHJs to comply.

Does California encourage other companies to enter California? If so, how do they do this?

The Governor’s Office of Business Development (GO-Biz) is the single point of contact for statewide economic development. GO-Biz’s Zero Emission Vehicles team works to accelerate the deployment of ZEV infrastructure in pursuit of Governor Brown’s goal of 200 hydrogen fueling stations and 250,000 plug-in electric chargers. They coordinate state efforts to track and accelerate ZEV infrastructure and identify areas for business engagement and growth in California.

If you know a ZEV-related business that is considering a facility in California, please let us know!

Questions about the Station Development Dates

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.

How do you track station development?

The Joint Agency Staff Report on Assembly Bill 8 defines four stages of station development. Of the stations awarded funding last year, only two are still in the first phase “grant award to permit application filing.” 14 stations are in the second phase, having filed for permits, and five stations are in the third phase, “construction.” Figure 8 on page 26 provides development timelines for the last three station awards, but the current stations are developing much faster. Our goal is to reach parity with other construction projects—about a year from design to open.

Would a standard station configuration speed up development?

Each station developer has a design and equipment specification to speed construction, reduce costs, and operate more efficiently. The stations in planning and construction now are different than the stations we’re using today; they have more storage and multiple fueling positions. Station design also must fit the space available and follow local ordinances often related to traffic, noise, accessibility, and esthetics.

Questions about Future Locations and Stations in Other States

Are stations opening or planned for downtown LA, Temecula, San Diego, Highway 99 corridor, Santa Cruz, Redding, 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, but we also need to ensure that the early stations have enough customers to ensure high utilization. The California Air Resources Board created a GIS planning tool, CHIT, to help the state determine station coverage gaps. 

CaFCP’s automaker members provided input to ARB and published a list of recommended priority areas for future hydrogen stations that has been incorporated into ARB’s recommended priority areas for future state funding.

The automakers and CEC do listen to the requests you send through these webinars, Facebook posts, and what you tell CaFCP staff.

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. The first retail station in Vancouver, BC recently opened, and a city-wide network is under development. 

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

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.

Do you have details about the station in Oahu?

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.

Any chance Mexico might build hydrogen stations?

Although Mexico has significant hydrogen production for their oil refineries, we’ve had limited contact with hydrogen and fuel cell stakeholders there.

Questions about Specific Stations

What about the Cal State Los Angeles station?

Check with your automaker for access. The automakers and government agencies continue to work with CalState LA to upgrade the station to full retail status so that everyone can access the station.

Why are some stations closed at night?

Some cities placed operational restrictions on stations before they open due to concerns about increased noise, increased traffic, etc. We hope that cities will lift these restrictions when they have experience with how the station operates.

When will Emeryville be open? Will it be available to the public?

Emeryville was originally built as a demonstration station and had only H35. It’s located on AC Transit’s property and the dispenser is behind a locked fence that requires an RFID card to access. Upgrading this station to retail required quite a bit of new equipment and changes in processes. Construction started in May 2018 and the station is expected to be open by the end of this year. It will be a retail station that all FCEV customers can use.

When will Berkeley or Oakland be open?

Both are new stations that received funding in October 2017. The stations are in the planning process and have filed for building permits. Berkeley is expected to be open in mid-2019 and Oakland at the end of 2019.

When will the three San Francisco stations be open?

All three are new stations that received funding in October 2017. The stations received their building permits and are in the very early stages of construction. (When we last drove by, none had broken ground.) All three stations are expected to be open in mid-2019.

Was the proposed H2 station in Orange permanently cancelled or is it on hold?

It was cancelled and the funding added to the October 2017 award.