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

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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.

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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2 COMMENTS

  1. 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 “filling stations”http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/07/14/linde-autos-hydrogen-idINL6N0PP4EK20140714(Reuters) – German industrial gases maker Linde opened what it said was the world’s first production line for hydrogen fuelling stations on Monday, in a bid to boost support networks for eco-friendly cars.Fuel-cell cars, which compete with electric and hybrid vehicles in a race to capture environmentally conscious drivers, use a stack of cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen in the air to generate electricity.Their only emissions are water vapour and heat, but the technology has been held back by high costs and lack of infrastructure. Fuel-cell cars will go on sale starting at $70,000, and filling stations cost over $1 million to build.On the back of commercial launch announcements by Toyota and Hyundai and demand in Japan, Linde started up a production facility with an initial annual capacity of 50 stations a year. Until now, it has built them one by one.The company announced an order for 28 stations from Japanese gas trading company Iwatani, which put the first of its Linde stations into operation near Osaka on Monday, the first commercial hydrogen fuelling station in Japan. “It’s a chicken-and-egg situation,” Linde executive board member Aldo Belloni told Reuters on the sidelines of the opening ceremony in Vienna.Belloni declined to say how much Linde had invested since starting its fuel-cell research and development in 1988, centred in Vienna, but said it was “very much”.Fuel-cell cars can run five times longer than electric cars and fill a tank 10 times as fast.

  2. 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.

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Does-Using-Excess-Renewable-Electricity-to-Create-Hydrogen-Make-Sense

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