According to recent studies by Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), more existing gas stations could be utilized to store and deliver hydrogen fuel for upcoming hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but only if the restrictions were more scientifically-based.
One only has to mention “Hindenburg” to recall infamous images of flaming death and the cry, “Oh, the humanity!” The accident is typically blamed on the Hindenburg’s buoyant hydrogen gas, the same as the gaseous hydrogen fuel that the Toyota FCV and other hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will use. Hydrogen is, indeed, flammable, but also invisible, so if it was hydrogen burning, it would have been unseen, however still disastrous. Today, we no longer use hydrogen-buoyant airships, but what of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?
The tanks themselves are bulletproof, so safety in an accident between say, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and that idiot who ran the red light because he was talking on his mobile phone, would be serious, but not a Hindenburg-like disaster. On the other hand, where would you fuel your Toyota FCV? According to research of seventy gasoline stations in California, exactly zero of them would be suitable for hydrogen fuel storage and delivery, at least under the 2005 NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) code.
Considering there are somewhere around 120,000 gasoline stations in the United States, extrapolating the number of suitable stations under the 2005 NFPA code would necessitate trillions of dollars to site and build dedicated hydrogen fueling stations. If gas stations adopted the NPFA 2 code, released in 2011, covering the safe storage and delivery of liquid hydrogen fuel, 20% of the stations in the study could easily integrate hydrogen storage on site, as could an additional 24% with available site extensions.
Extrapolating Sandia National Laboratories’ numbers from the study, this means a potential of nearly 54,000 current gasoline stations could easily adopt hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Still, small city-based operations might be left out, but there should still be enough to fuel an expected small population of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.