California is Filling Up the Hydrogen Station Map

May 2, 2014 | 3:25 pm
David Reichmuth
Senior Engineer, Clean Transportation Program

The California Energy Commission just announced it is funding 28 new hydrogen refueling stations. These new stations, combined with the nine existing stations and 17 stations already under construction, will give California 54 hydrogen stations open to the public by the end of next year. Building a system of hydrogen filling stations is vital to bringing hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles to California drivers, as you can’t use the vehicles without places to refuel. This expanding network of refueling stations will allow the first large-scale introduction of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in the United States.

Learn About Tableau

Data adapted from California Energy Commission and California Fuel Cell Partnership.

Hydrogen stations will bring more clean electric vehicles to the state

Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, along with plug-in electric vehicles, are an important part of California’s strategy to reduce global warming and smog-forming pollution from vehicles. Both fuel cell and plug-in vehicles produce zero harmful emissions from the vehicle itself. Making electricity or hydrogen can produce emissions; however using either type of electric vehicle is much cleaner than a gasoline vehicle. This is true even if the electricity or hydrogen is made from natural gas.

We also have the ability to make both hydrogen and electricity from clean renewable sources, and California is already moving in that direction. In fact, the new stations announced include 6 stations that will produce all of their hydrogen from renewable sources. The other stations will likely use natural gas to produce some of the hydrogen, but California requires refueling companies receiving state funding meet a renewable hydrogen standard. At least 33% of the hydrogen provided at a company’s California filling stations must come from renewable sources to meet the standard.

Both fuel cell electric and plug-in electric vehicles are needed

This commitment from California to invest in hydrogen filling stations while also supporting plug-in electric vehicles is an important signal that both types of electric vehicles will play key roles in reducing oil use and emissions. Hydrogen vehicles require a new refueling infrastructure, but they have the advantages in quick refueling and the potential for larger vehicles like SUVs. They also mean that drivers who don’t have convenient access to an electric outlet to plug in a battery electric car can still use a clean electric motor to get around.

The announcement of new fueling stations might not be as cool as seeing slick new fuel cell electric cars at an auto show. However, the CEC’s announcement is more exciting for me since it means that drivers like you or me will soon have the option to use a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.