Hydrogen stations are now canvassing the State of California and beyond. Government and business have teamed up to provide a hydrogen roadmap that is reliable, and convenient for drivers. More stations will continue to be added to the California Hydrogen Roadmap over the next five years.
You can go a long way on a small amount of hydrogen. Fuel cells are 2-3 times more efficient than combustion engines, and making hydrogen is an energy efficient chemical process. You'll drive as far as you drive today on about 1/3 as much fuel. It's better living through chemistry.
California’s hydrogen fueling network has grown to 20 open stations providing a full retail experience to FCEV drivers and an additional six legacy stations that continue supporting FCEVs. So far in 2016, the pace of development in the hydrogen fueling network has added two to three stations every month. By the end of 2016, ARB projects 38 stations will be open and all 50 currently funded stations, including upgrades for many non-retail stations, are projected to be complete by the end of 2017. This is in keeping with the strategy to ensure hydrogen fueling stations are in place and open in advance of broader FCEV rollout.
Storing and dispensing hydrogen fuel is more similar to natural gas than gasoline or diesel. Like CNG, hydrogen is a compressed gas that is stored above ground at the station. Separating the hydrogen molecule from something else, like natural gas, water, algae, etc produces hydrogen. There are two primary methods for producing hydrogen fuel: Steam Methane Reformation, and Electrolysis. Most hydrogen stations have fuel delivered by a tanker truck, although some stations make their fuel onsite. Different designs and technology give stations the flexibility to use locally produced hydrogen.
Steam Methane Reformation
Most hydrogen is made by steam reforming natural gas. Its an efficient and cost-effective process process where CH4 reacts with high-temperature steam (H2O) in the presence of a catalyst to separate the hydrogen from other molecules.
Tube Trailer Delivery
Delivery hydrogen in either compressed or liquid form to stations when needed.
A new frontier is in using methane from plant and animal waste. Using steam reforming or gasification, what was garbage can become fuel.
Fuel cell electric vehicles are electric vehicles powered by hydrogen. FCEVs offer performance, range and refill time similar to combustion vehicles, except with quiet operation, zero emissions, and a power characteristic similar to battery electric vehicles. In other words, FCEVs are the best of both worlds.
Fuel cells create electricity from reactants stored externally. A proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell uses hydrogen and oxygen as the reactants. In its simplest form, a PEM fuel cell is two electrodes—the anode and the cathode—separated by a catalyst-coated membrane.
Hydrogen from the vehicle’s storage tank enters one side of the fuel cell stack and air on the other side. The hydrogen is naturally attracted to the oxygen in the air. As the hydrogen molecule moves through the stack to get to the oxygen, the catalyst forces the hydrogen to separate into electron and proton.
The proton moves through the membrane and the electron moves to the anode. The electricity flows into a power module, which distributes electricity to the electric motor that turns the wheels of the car. The power module also distributes electricity to the air conditioning, sound system and other on-board devices.
At the cathode, the electron recombines with the proton, and the hydrogen joins with the oxygen to create the vehicle’s only tailpipe emission—water. Fuel cells produce electricity as long as fuel is supplied.
Range is between 260-312 miles.
Fill time is between 3-5 minutes.
Many safety protocols in place to ensure proper mobility.
For more information please visit the California Fuel Cell Partnership website.
What to Expect
Hydrogen stations can fuel your car in just minutes with high-pressure gas that comes from a dispenser similar to gasoline, but only cleaner. When you arrive at you fueling point you will be greeted with a short tutorial. Some stations have videos, others have pictures. Retail hydrogen stations use traditional fueling methods, such as credit and debit cards. Modern hydrogen fueling stations are so similar to what most people are use to filling up with that their transition into an FCV will be easy.
Fueling with Zero
Fueling your hydrogen car is as easy as pumping gas. Most hydrogen stations have the same function and feel as gasoline stations, but contain a much cleaner product. You will often find hydrogen stations located at existing gasoline stations, so you don’t have to worry bout giving up convenience in order to go green.
A hydrogen station has several different safety systems that work together. If flame dectectors or gas sensors detect a fire or leak, then safety measures turn on automatically. The measures will seal the storage tanks, stop hydrogen flow or—in the case of an extreme fire—safely vent the hydrogen. Strategically placed emergency stops will manually shut down hydrogen equipment. Retaining walls, equipment setbacks and bolsters are designed into the site plan to maximize safety.