Cost to refill
The average price of hydrogen for a light-duty fuel cell electric vehicle (passenger car) in California is $16.51 per kilogram, according to the 2019 Joint Agency Report (p17). As more retail stations open and have higher utilization, the price per kilogram of hydrogen is projected to drop to ranges more competitive with the prices of gasoline. For example, in late 2019, the True Zero Oakland hydrogen station opened with three times the capacity of previous stations. It offers hydrogen at $13.11 per kilogram (tax included) due, in part, to the larger volume and other factors.
In addition, drivers of fuel cell electric cars are offered free fuel by automakers for three years, to bridge the time it takes the market to become more competitive with other fuel options.
Reports, studies, and white papers from the Hydrogen Council, NREL and Shell, among others, all point to reductions in the price of fuel and fueling infrastructure for various reasons (scaling up, standardization, etc.).
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
Please note: The information above pertains to hydrogen stations serving light-duty fuel cell electric vehicles (passenger cars) and, therefore, does not reflect the cost or price of hydrogen for buses, trucks or any other fuel cell electric vehicle category.
Cost to refill
Automakers include three years of hydrogen fuel with the sale or lease of a vehicle
Durability is a key performance factor and the U.S. Department of Energy durability target for transportation fuel cells is 5,000 hours under realistic operating conditions—meaning impurities in the fuel and air, starting and stopping, freezing and thawing, and humidity and load cycles that result in stresses on the chemical and mechanical stability of the fuel cell system materials and components. AC Transit already pounded this target by operating a fuel cell for over 25,000* hours in a transit bus.
*Originally 20,000 hours in 2015.
Fuel cells are designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle
How are a battery and a fuel cell different? A fuel cell has an anode, a cathode and a membrane coated with a catalyst. The membrane is the electrolyte. The reactants (hydrogen and oxygen) are stored externally. Hydrogen enters the anode side of the fuel cell and oxygen enters from the cathode side. When the hydrogen molecules come into contact with the catalyst, a chemical reaction converts the energy stored in the hydrogen into an electric current. A fuel cell will create a current as long as it has fuel. When the fuel supply is shut off, the reaction stops and therefore, so does the current.
A battery has an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte that allows a chemical reaction to occur. The reactants are inside the battery. When the battery operates, a chemical reaction releases electrons through an external circuit, providing a current. Some types of batteries can be recharged, which reverses the chemical reaction and allows energy to be stored again in the battery.
Electric motor and drive train—quiet, smooth and powerful
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are zero-emission vehicles and every method of producing hydrogen results in almost no air pollutants. On California’s Smog Scorecard for new vehicles, FCEVs rate a 10—the cleanest.
Zero tailpipe emissions—just a little water vapor
Extreme heat and cold
Fuel cells stay damp, like a sponge, and could become damaged if the water turned to ice. In the early 2000s—during CaFCP's early years—automakers addressed the issue of "starting a very cold car not once or twice, but 2,000 times." At the same time, SunLine Transit and automakers were testing fuel cells in the extreme heat of California and Arizona deserts. But can a FCEV help its passengers survive the desert?
Extreme heat and cold
Vehicle can operate in sub-zero temperatures and desert conditions…and everywhere in between
FCEVs qualify for the red or purple Clean Air Vehicle decal that allows use of the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes (carpool or diamond lanes) with a single occupant in the vehicle. Apply for the decal through the California DMV website after you've registered your new FCEV.
Travel single in the carpool lane
Similar to a gasoline car—250+ miles per fill
Administered by the Center for Sustainable Energy for the California Air Resources Board, the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) offers $4,500 (up to $7,000 based on income) in electric vehicle rebates for the purchase or lease of new FCEVs.
*As of December 3, 2019, individual and business applicants are eligible to receive one CVRP rebate for the life of the program either via direct purchase and/or lease.
$4,500 California rebate*
The National Renewable Energy Lab has been collecting data about FCEV fueling since 2011. Of nearly 20,000 fueling events, 50% have taken less than five minutes, and 20% have taken less than three minutes. Impressive numbers considering that many of these fills were on early "demonstration" stations.
About 3-to-5 minutes to fill the tank
As safe as any other vehicle on the road—some say even safer