Fuel Cell Vehicle Myth Seven – Hydrogen Fuel Stations are Too Expensive!

Myth - Hydrogen Fuel Cell Refueling Stations are Too Expensive!
Myth – Hydrogen Fuel Cell Refueling Stations are Too Expensive!

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, just like hybrid electric vehicles and conventional vehicles, would require refueling stations, but aren’t they too expensive to build?

Like all vehicles on the road today, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles store their fuel onboard, but needs to get that fuel from somewhere else. Some have asked, much like the chicken-and-the-egg conundrum, whether the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles or hydrogen fueling stations would come first. Of course, then we wonder how much it costs to build a hydrogen fuel station. According to a September 2013 National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report on the subject, “Hydrogen Station Cost Estimates,” the costs are not at all prohibitive.

For example, a 2009 hydrogen fuel station installed in Newport Beach, with a capacity just 100 kg/d (kilograms per day) cost a little over $4 million to build, a little over $40,000/kg/d (dollar per kilograms per day capacity). Part of that major expense has to do with the fact that this station generates its own hydrogen fuel via onsite SMR (steam methane reforming). Just a few years later, the much-cheaper Linde station, whose hydrogen fuel is delivered by truck, was built for about $2.6 million, just $7,500/kg/d. In any case, servicing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles isn’t that much more expensive than conventional vehicles, new gasoline stations costing about $2 million, and those costs are dropping every year.

It all has to do with economies of scale, and we’d expect mass-production to bring costs down naturally, while being more profitable for the builder. Take, for example, the 1909 Ford Model T runabout, which started at $825 ($19,861 in 2014 dollars). In just a few years, the 1916 Model T was selling for just $345 ($8,305 today), which would be like buying a Tesla Roadster, originally priced at $109,000, for just $48,819, that is, if Tesla Motors produced millions of Tesla Roadsters.

Also read: How to Beat the Agony of a Dying Phone Battery

According to the NREL, hydrogen fuel cell vehicle infrastructure will progress in much the same way. Today, for example, total hydrogen fuel capacity is just barely over 4,000 kg/d, the average cost of which is around $15,700/kg/d. By the end of the decade, analysis suggests that hydrogen fueling capacity will top 100,000 kg/d and hydrogen fueling stations will probably dip to around $4,000/kg/d, or as little as $400,000 for some smaller stations.

Images © Olathe Toyota Parts Center

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Mick Segal
Mick Segal

Human waste turned to power, money at Inland Empire planthttp://www.dailybulletin.com/environment-and-nature/20140207/human-waste-turned-to-power-money-at-inland-empire-plant Video below of what is happening in California at municipal wastewater treatment plants using fuel cell technology to produce 3 value streams of electricity, hydrogen and heat all from a human waste! This is pretty impressive in my opinion for hydro-refueling infrastructure. “New fuel cell sewage gas station in Orange County, CA may be world’s first” http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/orange_county&id=8310315 “It is here today and it is deployable today,” said Tom Mutchler of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., a sponsor and developer of the project. Linde starts production line for fuel cell car… Read more »


A recent UC Irvine http://www.apep.uci.edu/3/Research/pdf/SustainableTransportation/WTW_vehicle_greenhouse_gases_Public.pdf found that using electricity in BEVs directly is 2.5 times more efficient than using that same electricity to create hydrogen for use in FCVs.  This is the glaring statistic that trumps all the arguments in this myth series of hydrogen PR.  It established the basic thesis that BEVs are the most efficient mode of practical automotive transportation.