100% Renewable Energy: Hydrogen Refueling -vs- Superchargers

hydrogen

Hydrogen pairs well economically with 100% renewable energy like wind, solar, and biogas for fast recharging of zero emission vehicles like cars, trucks, busses, trains, & boats.  Wind & solar can have large footprints that make them hard to site near areas where there are large populations of people or where large scale refueling/recharging must take place.  RMP has written many times about how solar arrays & wind farms can often produce terawatts of energy each year that go wasted because the electricity produced couldn’t be used when it was made.  Wasted energy stranded like this is called curtailed energy. Modern grids have to balance electricity production to usage and must choose to dump electricity if it can’t be used.  More and more projects around the world are demonstrating power to gas is an economical way to store that otherwise wasted energy as hydrogen so we can get it back whenever we need it.

One of the knocks against hydrogen refueling anti-hydrogen folks continue to use against hydrogen is to say there are only 95 hydrogen refueling stations across America compared to thousands of locations where a BEV can be fast charged.  Given we are early in the transition to electrified propulsion, it’s important to think about the overarching goal of zero emission vehicles: to use clean renewable energy to power our transportation sector & reduce harmful emissions.  Even though there are more fast charging stations than the 95 hydrogen fueling stations right now in the USA, there are already 13 hydrogen stations that use 100% renewable energy.  Contrast that to the 908 Tesla Supercharger locations across the USA open today and note that not a single one of those 908 Supercharger locations is 100% off-grid solar, wind, or biogas.  Not one.  0%.  As we kick off this article, let’s put this important statistic up on the scoreboard when it comes to the number of 100% renewable refueling/recharging locations in the USA:   Hydrogen 13 – Tesla Superchargers 0.

This important point of delivering 100% clean energy for our transportation sector is becoming increasingly more relevant as time goes by.  Advocates of zero emission vehicles have a stated goal to move away from fossil fuels and reduce emissions to zero across the board. Without a single demonstration of fast charging paired with 100% renewable solar or wind to see how it works, we are left for years now to guess how it will ever get done.  If all fast charging stations eventually need to get to 100% clean energy shouldn’t anti hydrogen folks show us the cost & footprint & specs of one station so we can see how it works?

The Shell Sacramento hydrogen refueling station is one of 13 stations in the USA that uses 100% renewable hydrogen.  Every hydrogen refueling station in California is required to use at least 33% renewable hydrogen but several across the state, including 3 stations in San Francisco are 100% renewable.  While Tesla might put a solar array on top of a Supercharger to show some electricity comes from renewable energy, don’t be fooled.  Not a single Tesla Supercharger is 100% renewable.

According to Modernize, less than a handful of states have produced better than 20% of their energy from renewable energy sources.   Many states, like New Mexico, Kansas, Utah, Indiana, Ohio, and more get over 90% of their energy from dirty fossil fuel sources like coal, oil, & natural gas.  Manufacturing & charging electric vehicles off a dirty grid isn’t making a dent in CO2 emission reductions.   When can we fast charge BEVs with clean off-grid renewable energy?  Does the possibility even exist?  Or is it still a fantasy?

Unfortunately, hydrogen & batteries get looked at as some sort of death match of competitive technologies that leave us with an either/or decision of what technology to use, but it really shouldn’t be that way.  RMP has written for years about how it’s a red herring argument to say we have to choose only one technology.  Hydrogen & batteries work very well together; we really need both technologies to phase out crude oil, coal, and natural gas.  Even though hydrogen & batteries should be thought of technologies that cooperate, it’s human nature for people to have some fun with friendly competition.  In the spirit of friendly competition, let’s look at why hydrogen refueling has a big advantage over battery charging alone when it comes to renewable energy for fast recharging. If our goal is 100% renewable energy it’s important to keep this score in mind:  Hydrogen 13 – Tesla Superchargers 0.

While there is a lot of promise for BEV vehicles for good reason, there is also an elephant in the room:  fast charging throughput is about 20:1 slower than refueling with gasoline.  Because hydrogen refueling is on par with gasoline, it means hydrogen fueling is also about 20:1 faster than the fastest Tesla Supercharging.  According to a quick Google search, it takes about 75 minutes to charge a Tesla to 100% state of charge with a 150 kW Supercharger.  It takes between 3 to 4 minutes to fill up a gasoline or hydrogen car.  75 divided by 3 = 25:1 and 75 divided by 4 = 18.75:1.  Hydrogen’s throughput capability is a big deal when scaling to millions of vehicles because it stands to reason capital allocation of renewable energy tax subsidy dollars would also be leveraged 20:1 if spent on hydrogen infrastructure.  If the goal is to refuel as many vehicles in the shortest amount of time possible on busy travel routes, hydrogen is the clear winner.  We’ve all seen the videos & read the stories about Teslas backing up at Superchargers during Thanksgiving.  So called fast charging is already showing failure with less than 1% of vehicles on the road using it; this is very bad for scaling up.

Even if we do decide to spend our tax subsidy dollars on battery recharging infrastructure at a 20:1 disadvantage vs hydrogen, we still don’t get fast charging from renewable energy because it doesn’t exist.  We don’t even know the cost of off-grid 100% renewable fast charging.  All we can say with utter certainty is that hydrogen refueling is way faster than battery charging.

Thanksgiving 2019 Supercharger backup at Kettleman City Supercharger with 40 stalls.  At times the backup was 50 cars long or a quarter mile long.  Teslas only make up a tiny fraction of cars (less than 1%) on the road and we are already seeing major fails in how they scale to handle heavy travel.  What if BEVs made up 5% or even 10% of vehicles?  Think about it.

For three years (since 6/9/2017) we’ve been waiting for the very first example of off-grid 100% renewable Supercharging.  Its starting to appear, however, that battery fast-charging just isn’t compatible with 100% renewable off-grid energy.  The best way to charge a battery with 100% renewable off-grid energy will probably be to use a fuel cell system.  The two technologies are truly meant for each other and bound to each other’s service.  Fuel cells & their battery cousins shouldn’t even be thought of in competition, but rather technologies that compliment each other.

June 9, 2020 marks the three year anniversary of Elon Musk tweeting that “All Superchargers are being converted to solar/battery power.  Over time, almost all will disconnect from the electricity grid”.   Elon Musk likes to use ambiguous words like “all” and “soon” so often that a pattern has emerged.  A growing chorus of people has started showing & tweeting examples of how Elon Musk is not much different than the Wizard of Oz: just a man shining people on with false promises from behind the curtain.  We get promises & rhetoric of all these great things coming in order to win tax subsidies & venture capital funding from Wall Street billionaires, but the promises never materialize for working class people on main street.  The mansions and private jet are real, but off-grid renewable Superchargers…  well, not so much…

Elon’s false promises are becoming so obvious websites have emerged to demonstrate how Elon Musk is shining people on in order to raise money for his billionaire lifestyle.  It’s important to stay vigilant in making sure our tax dollars are being used responsibly to further our migration from fossil fuels to renewable zero emission technology.   If our tax subsidy money is going toward a company like Tesla & the goods are not getting delivered, we need to hold that company accountable to their promises made for our tax dollars.  We need to see results.  We cannot continue to be fed constant promises that are always years away and never materialize.  We need to see real growth in the demonstration of true zero emissions or we gotta call BS.  It’s been 3 years since Elon said Superchargers were in the process of being converted to off-grid solar but still when we look up a the scoreboard it’s:  Hydrogen 13  vs Tesla Superchargers 0.

There are three major types of air pollution caused by our transportation sector:  1) Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2) NOx Emissions & 3) Sulphur Dioxide Emissions.   Further, most people want to focus on what’s called the well-to-wheel emissions meaning that we have to account for all emissions including manufacture & distribution of the energy to make the vehicle as well as the energy we use on a daily basis like coal & natural gas power plants.  For a great example of why hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are better than battery electric vehicles at overall well-to-wheel emissions, the best comparison is the new Toyota RAV4 Prime.  The RAV4 Prime in this post’s feature image is a gasoline plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).  The RAV4 Prime is a good example that demonstrates why Toyota, Honda, & Hyundai are so confident about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles working along side batteries in the future as a range extender.  While the “range extender” of the battery in the RAV4 Prime is an internal combustion engine, that “range extender” will easily be replaced by a Toyota fuel cell in markets developing hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

According to a quick Google search, the Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV going on sale in a couple months will average about 29g of CO2 per kilometer.   The Tesla Model 3 averages about 170g of CO2 per kilometer.  This stark difference goes unnoticed by many Tesla cheerleaders in the anti-hydrogen crowd.   Let’s think about that for minute:  a full size gasoline plug-in electric hybrid SUV with off-road ruggedness & three to four minute refueling will produce nearly 6 times less CO2 than a Tesla Model 3 that takes hours to charge & can have its warranty voided if you drive down a dirt road. Furthermore, if CO2 emissions are lower in the PHEV by a factor of six, it stands to reason SOx & NOx (smog) are also reduced by a similar multiple.  The RAV4 Prime seems like a no brainer to an average consumer that wants lower emissions from overnight charging.  The RAV4 Prime also comes with no long waits at the fast charger on road trips.  The PHEV is comparable in price, has more convenience & utility, and is also the best for overall air quality.

You’d think that with such a large emissions advantage over the Tesla Model 3 that you’d have to pay an arm & a leg to buy the bigger & more functional Toyota RAV4 Prime over the smaller Tesla sedan, but you’d be wrong again.  The Toyota RAV4 Prime base model is loaded with features like All Wheel Drive, 8-way power seats, power back door, & Apple Carplay and will sticker at about $38,100.  The Tesla Model 3 standard range car stickers at $39,990 and only has a range of 250 miles.  The Toyota is also getting a tax subsidy of $7,500 off the sticker price so it’s more like $30,600 for the Toyota RAV4 Prime -vs- $39,990 for the standard Model 3.

Most drivers will drive 95% of their average miles without using gasoline using the Toyota RAV4 Prime, but they will have the gasoline “range extender” for cross country trips without any slowdown to what they’re already used to with a gasoline vehicle.  This is how Toyota gets such a large clean air emissions advantage per kilometer over the Tesla.  It’s because the Toyota only has a 17.8 kWh battery while the standard range Tesla Model 3 has a 54 kWh battery.  The larger extra kilowatt hour battery penalizes the Tesla on manufacturing emissions while the under 20 kWh battery in the Toyota is enough for 95% of people’s average daily driving.  Lithium, cobalt and manganese for making batteries are mined and processed with high-energy input. A battery for a Tesla Model 3, for example, pollutes the climate with about 11 to 15 tons of CO2. With a battery life of ten years and a mileage of 15,000 kilometres per year, that alone would mean 73 to 98 grams of CO2 per kilometer, according to Autovista Group.

But wait a minute, this article is about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and RMP is comparing a gasoline PHEV to BEV.  Hydrogen refueling is not as prevalent or available as gasoline refueling or battery charging, this is true.  It’s also true that we are in the very early innings of both technologies.  There was also a time in America’s relatively short history when there were no gasoline stations, no airports, and no train stations.  Hydrogen refueling stations can be built and are being built around the world right now and they’re proliferating rapidly.  Toyota knows the switch to electric powertrains is a long term game and they also know how to pair a battery with a hydrogen fuel cell.   Toyota can very easily swap the gasoline fueled internal combustion engine in a vehicle like the Toyota RAV4 Prime with a hydrogen fuel cell system as hydrogen stations build out in markets around the world.   And that’s the end game:  smaller batteries coupled with hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems.  Honda already has a platform called the Clarity that’s compatible with all three propulsion systems:  plug-in hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell, and battery electric.

Because we are in the early innings of building new energy infrastructure it’s important to look at how things are going to scale up to meet our energy hungry needs.  We know hydrogen refueling works with 100% renewable energy for refueling but we have no examples of how battery electric fast charging can do the same.  How can we calculate the cost of all the 100% renewable fast charging locations without knowing the cost of one?  At its core, this is the whole concept of scaling energy: make something once & repeat ad infinitum.  It’s like aiming for the moon from the earth, if your calculation is wrong as you set out on your trip, by the time you’ve travelled all the way to the moon you’ll have missed by several miles.

Car & Driver reports their long term Tesla Model 3 only charged two minutes faster at a 250kW charger in Michigan City, Indiana than it would at a regular 150kW charger.  It also says 250kW chargers are rare & majority are 150kW so let’s use a 150 kW rate Supercharger to keep our comparisons realistic.  Only the Model 3 & Model Y can charge at the 250kW rate while the Model S & X are limited at 150kW.  Whether charging from the 250kW or 150kW Supercharger, the average kW rate was under 75kW.  Car & Driver Source. 

Let’s go through some quick number comparisons using time, kilowatt hours, and kilograms of hydrogen to try to draw some comparisons mathematically.   First off, let’s note that there are 33.33 kWh of energy in 1 kilogram of hydrogen.  Several new hydrogen refueling stations in California slated to open later this year will have a  capacity of 1,200 kg of hydrogen.  1,200 x 33.33 = about 40 megawatt hours.  A regular hydrogen passenger vehicle will hold about 5 kg of hydrogen.  Therefore, the station’s nameplate capacity will fill about 240 cars.  The 1,200 kg capacity hydrogen station can be refilled and just keep on refueling cars, so it’s really not limited to 240 cars.  The larger capacity just makes refueling the station itself less cumbersome.  Let’s look at our hydrogen station differently.  Let’s say it has dual dispensers & the station was open during the travel hours of 6AM to 12AM or 18 hours per day.  If there are dual dispensers & 2 cars can refuel every 4 minutes, then about 30 cars can be filled each hour.  If there are 18 hours of operation in a travel day, the hydrogen station could theoretically fill 540 cars per day.  540 cars @ 5kg each is 90 megawatt hours of 100% renewable energy!!!  In a day!

Now let’s contrast to the Tesla Supercharger.  According to Car & Driver who is chronicling their long term ownership of their Tesla Model 3, they’re stating that recharging at a 150kW Supercharger delivers an average charge rate of just under 75kW.  Car & Driver said it was roughly the same kW average charge rate whether they used one of the more rare 250kW Superchargers like the one in Michigan City, Indiana or a regular 150kW Supercharger.  Superchargers are known to reduce the flow rate of electricity to each vehicle if more than one vehicle is charging simultaneously in rural areas, this is what is says on Tesla’s own website.  Charge rates drop as you add on more cars in rural areas because they just don’t have the kW capacity to charge multiple cars at high kW charge rates.  But even if we pretend charging rate is not diminished, the math is really staggeringly bad when comparing Supercharging speed to hydrogen refueling.  It gets even worse when you consider the footprint required for charging -vs- hydrogen refueling to keep throughput parity.

The data table above does some simple calculations to show that you would have to take up 64 parking spots to charge Teslas as fast as one dual nozzle H2 refueling station.   Keep in mind this is only theoretical math, the Supercharger really couldn’t even do this kind of charging unless a coal, nuclear, or natural gas plant was close by.  So, it really gets a lot worse for the Supercharger in the real world especially as it regards 100% renewable energy.

Final Conclusion

Modern chemistry batteries are an incredible technology RMP supports whole heartedly.   There are vast applications that are enhanced by using batteries, including hydrogen fuel cells.  Hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems are a good example of a technology that just doesn’t work without batteries.  Hydrogen fuel cell systems have a battery as a key component regardless of whether the fuel cell system is in a car, truck, bus, train, or marine vessel.   There is also no rule that says we can only use choose fuel cells or batteries.  We can and must use both technologies to move the ball down the field.  What’s so important right now is to stay focused on is how to eliminate toxic hydrocarbons like gasoline, diesel, & coal from our energy feedstocks.  We need domestically produced clean renewable energy that can create good paying American jobs.

Grid energy comes primarily from coal, natural gas, and nuclear.  If zero Superchargers are off-grid renewable, it means Tesla cars are powered by coal, natural gas, and nuclear.  Often people say that most hydrogen comes from steam reformed natural gas which is a true statement but no one ever had a reason to make green or gray hydrogen for the consumer market until now.  The percentage of hydrogen coming from natural gas will only decline over time.  What is conveniently always left out by those same people who paint hydrogen as dirtier than batteries is that BEVs also get the majority of their energy from fossil fuels; that’s the pot calling the kettle black.  Here’s the big difference:  green hydrogen is proven to work and is scaling up.  Green hydrogen is already demonstrating it can scale up to replace gray hydrogen.  As they say, even the longest journey begins with a single step and hydrogen has already proven that it is moving down the path toward 100% renewable refueling.  100% Green Superchargers, however, continue to be a unicorn, a mermaid, bigfoot, the lochness monster or whatever other fairy tale you can think of because they just don’t exist.  If “almost all” Superchargers “are being converted to” off-grid renewable energy, why has it been three years and we have yet to see a single example of how one works?

RMP supports BEVs and the companies working honestly to produce them for so many zero emission applications, but RMP is also calling BS on Elon Musk’s false promises and believe it’s high time he honors his commitment from 3 years ago.  For all those keeping score out there:  Hydrogen 13 vs Superchargers 0.

RMP’s Map of Hydrogen Stations in USA & Canada Upgraded

Since taking a new job in 2017 that didn’t work out super great which led to taking a new job again 2019, I haven’t had too much time to work on JavaScript & PHP & MySQL which is my favorite pass-time.  Finally in 2020, especially with the cancellation of sports for the kids, I have been knocking the rust off of my coding skills.  So much fun to finally start updating RMP’s maps again.

CLICK HERE TO GO STRAIGHT TO THE MAP!

I will be doing more posts & videos on how to use RMP’s environmental maps.  RMP’s Hydrogen USA & Canada map and our Ann Arbor Dioxane Plume map will be the two “feature” maps as I rebuild the software throughout this year.  The concept is that many parts of the maps, using an MVC structure, form a standard mapping platform that allows me to exploit the heck out of the Google Maps API and do stuff you just can’t find in those cheesy newspaper maps which cost the papers a lot of money and still suck.  RMP will be able to show energy & contamination using a map platform that’s next level.

What’s New in RMP’s Hydrogen USA &Canada Map:

  • Canadian stations have been added to Vancouver.  There are two Shell stations that are public & a third station at Powertech Labs in Surrey.   I reached out to Powertech Labs and Giuseppe Stanciulescu, a project engineer in their business development department, responded that the station at Powertech Labs in Surrey is currently closed to the public for major upgrades which sounds positive for when it reopens.  Still working out a couple bugs on the coding to have the infowindows fire on these new locations, but I was excited so I moved them from my local computer the www.  Below are a couple pictures showing the West Coast Canadian stations. See image below.  Or check out RMP’s interactive Google Map by clicking here.

Continue reading “RMP’s Map of Hydrogen Stations in USA & Canada Upgraded”

USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2020-Q1

Welcome new readers of RMP’s quarterly H2 infrastructure report.  Each quarter we look back on the major stories related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements and we compare the current AFDC database to the AFDC database in the prior quarter to see what has changed.  The AFDC database is updated by the US Dept of Energy & can be found by clicking here.  Canada does not have a centralized database of alternative fuel vehicle information so we collect Canadian data by hand.  Ok, on with the report…

The opening quarter in 2020 has many important headlines but there are two major events for hydrogen infrastructure in North America that will be the focus of this article:  1) On March 5, 2020 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the Fuel Cell Energy & Toyota collaboration micro grid project that will use directed biogas from cow manure to produce 100% renewable #hydrogen for Class 8 trucks at the Port of Long Beach & the Port of Los Angeles. 2) On January 31, 2020 Air Products & the Orange County Transit Authority opened the largest fast fill hydrogen refueling station in America at OCTA’s Santa Ana Bus Base on the banks of the Santa Ana River in Southern Los Angeles.

The significance of the Project Portal approval is well conceptualized with a famous economic analogy.  One of my favorite authors, Reed Jacobson, once wrote something in a computer programming book that has stuck with me for over 20 years:  “Long before Henry Ford, and even before Marc Brunel, the economist Adam Smith reasoned that in a single day, a single worker could make only one straight pin, but ten people could subdivide the work and create 48,000 pins in the same day—an almost 5,000-fold increase in productivity.”   The concept Reed was teaching in that one sentence was the concept of writing a ‘loop’ in a computer language.  A loop is a chunk of computer code called a subroutine that specializes in one purpose & therefore can execute its special purpose very fast.  If you spend the time to get that loop set up correctly, its payback to you in terms of run-time execution & lines of code reduced, is 5,000-fold.  That powerful concept has helped improve productivity in our economy for hundreds of years in many different industries as well as helped me write more effective code for over twenty years now. Continue reading “USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2020-Q1”

USA’s First Hydrogen Passenger Rail – San Bernadino California

America’s first hydrogen fuel cell train is expected to be operational in San Bernadino California in 2024 and there’s a cool connection back to Michigan State University. Hydrogen fuel cell powered trains are already in public service in both Germany & China. Hydrogen fuel cell trains create their own electricity onboard by running hydrogen from a tank & oxygen from the ambient air through a fuel cell. That electricity powers a motor that runs the wheels & on-board “right-sized” battery pack that buffers electricity flow and the only emission is potable water. Hydrogen fuel cell trains are being hash tagged on Twitter as #Hydrail.

The San Bernadino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) has begun mainline construction on the Redlands Passenger Rail Project, which is bringing the next generation of passenger rail service to the East Valley. To celebrate this momentous occasion, SBCTA had a Groundbreaking Event on July 19,2019 near the corner of Third Street and Stuart Avenue in Redlands.

california hydrogen train
The Redlands Rail project in San Bernadino California is already under construction & will be operational by 2021. A hydrogen fuel cell powered train is on order from Stadler that should be operational on the new route by 2024. If you want to see a real world Google map of the rail route, click here. (click image to enlarge)

The Redlands Passenger Rail Project will add a nine-mile rail connection between the University of Redlands and the San Bernadino Transit Center, a multi-modal transit hub that can provide access to all points west. When completed, the project will house the Arrow commuter line, featuring specially designed zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell powered trains. The zero-emission units will be the first of their kind in North America. The Arrow system is expected to be operational in 2021 & up to date information about construction on the project & road crossing closures as the construction plays out can be Continue reading “USA’s First Hydrogen Passenger Rail – San Bernadino California”

USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2019-Q4

Welcome new readers of RMP’s quarterly H2 infrastructure report. Each quarter RMP looks back on the major stories related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements and we compare the current AFDC database to the AFDC database in the prior quarter to see what has changed. The AFDC database is updated by the US Dept of Energy & can be found by clicking here.   AFDC stands for Alternative Fuels Data Center and it’s where the US government keeps stats on all alternative fuels’ infrastructure.  Canada does not have a centralized database of alternative fuel vehicle information so we collect Canadian data by hand in RMP’s own data tables. Ok, on with the report…

At the end of 2019-Q3, the 41st HRS had just come online in Oakland California on 9/20/2019. This Shell station remains unique in California because of its 800kg capacity of liquid H2 and dual dispensers.   In 2019-Q4 we had two more public stations come online in California that were also in the San Francisco area: the San Francisco 3rd street station came online 11/6/2019 and the San Francisco Harrison Street station came online 12/2/2019.   This brings the total number of public stations open in California up to 43 to end the decade.  A second public H2 refueling station came online in Vancouver British Columbia as well.

As we end of one decade & the start another, it’s exciting to look forward to the 2020s with so much ground work laid in the Hydrogen Economy through the 2010s. RMP has been following hydrogen infrastructure very closely through the 2010s & will continue to do so into the 2020s. At this decade milestone after so many steps forward in the Hydrogen Economy, it would seem appropriate to name past decade the “Hydrogen Economy Demonstration” decade and the upcoming decade the “Hydrogen Economy Scaling” decade. Really what we’ve seen over the past 10 years is that hydrogen just works & has great economic benefits. As the Hydrogen Economy scales up, cost costs go down & good paying jobs for Americans proliferate. Continue reading “USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2019-Q4”

USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2019-Q3

Welcome new readers of RMP’s quarterly H2 infrastructure report. Each quarter RMP looks back on the major stories related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements and we compare the current AFDC database to the AFDC database in the prior quarter to see what has changed. The AFDC database is updated by the US Dept of Energy & can be found by clicking here.   AFDC stands for Alternative Fuels Data Center and it’s where the US government keeps stats on all alternative fuels’ infrastructure.  Canada does not have a centralized database of alternative fuel vehicle information so we collect Canadian data by hand in RMP’s own data tables. Ok, on with the report…

Hoda Talebian is one of three authors at Canada’s University of British Columbia in Vancouver that recently published a paper in Science Direct that lays out an optimization framework for regions with low hydrogen demand.  The paper explains how hydrogen can be cost competitive with gasoline on Canada’s west coast.  Omar E. Herrera & Walter Mérida are also named as authors of this new study.

The third quarter of 2019 has for the most part been a disappointment for advocates of zero emission hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure developments. It was only in the last couple weeks that we received some good news to end the quarter on a high note to carry some momentum into 2019-Q4. While in general there seems to be an abundance of positive momentum for hydrogen advancements in the headlines, the simple truth is there is one metric that matters more than any other: the number of refueling stations open & their uptime. This key infrastructure metric has been flatly disappointing throughout 2019-Q3. Hydrogen refueling station openings & planned capital expenditure announcements to create more infrastructure have seemed to stagnate over the last two quarters as well. Let’s get this quarter’s disappointing news out of the way and then circle back to the positive developments that happened in just the last couple weeks.

This is the second quarter in a row that there are no new records showing new planned stations in the AFDC database. The only activity on the station update list is that the US government has removed military stations from the database. No new stations on the list 🙁 . This is a key metric that we all have to be real about, it’s the A#1 bottleneck holding back faster uptake of hydrogen fuel cells.   Automotive manufacturers have the capability to begin ramping up mass manufacturing production lines to start building fuel cell vehicles faster, but will not do so until the fueling infrastructure warrants the effort.

Fig1 – H2-CA.com is using a cool feature from CAFCP.org to pull in the station statuses in real time to show whether they’re online & how much H2 they have to dispense.  In this photo, we see the hard hit West Bay area of San Francisco suffering  from the “Santa Clara” incident.

Further exacerbating the slow increase in the number of stations on the list over the past two quarters are the number of stations listed as open but the tanks are empty. For all practical purposes to drivers, these stations do not exist. The problem has been worst in the San Francisco Bay area as indicated in Fig1 which shows 6 of the 7 stations in the West Bay area are off-line and the 1 and only station operating has 45kg on hand as of 9/18/18 6:45PM. These refueling locations cannot stay filled and therefore cannot stay open because of delivery issues. If you’re reading this you probably already know hydrogen’s abundance in our universe is not the problem, hydrogen production & delivery logistics are creating this problem. The hydrogen logistics issues through Q3 stem from one event in Santa Clara that halted most shipments.

The explosion at the Air Products hydrogen production facility on June 2, 2019 has impacted delivery to all stations in Northern California. Hydrogen distribution constraints & production locations need to ramp up to provide the redundancy needed to give consumers the confidence they will need for adoption to continue to increase. The Air Liquide project to invest $150 million USD to build a hydrogen liquefaction plant announced in November of 2018 is something RMP mentioned in our 2018-Q4 report. The new Air Liquide facility should be capable of producing 30 tons of hydrogen per day and that’s enough for about 35,000 vehicles.

Hydrogen advocates should not despair RMP’s lamenting of Q3 glum news as there is hope & progress ahead of us. We must remember hydrogen fuel cell adoption is a lot like the bunny hop. We take three jumps forward then we take a jump back. Then another three steps forward and then one back again. Let’s look at the bright side here before we get into the numbers by looking at some of the following “good” bullet points of how we can expect to take another few “bunny hop” leaps forward soon.  Below are few bullet points of how things look brighter looking forward.

  • 15 of California’s “open” stations are either empty or off-line because of the “Santa Clara” set back. When Air Products’ Santa Clara facility comes back online and normal deliveries resume, drivers in the San Francisco bay area will feel like multiple stations came back online all at once. It will be a big relief to get distribution back to normal for stations that are ready to receive & dispense hydrogen to consumers. And, as facilities like the Air Liquide liquefaction plant come online, the redundancy of having more production locations will help make situations like the “Santa Clara” incident less likely to occur in the future.
  • 7 stations are currently commissioning to come online in California soon. With the other 15 that should come back when distribution issues are resolved, the “real feel” of stations coming online in California could be more like 22 new stations coming online all at once. This could make a lot of drivers very happy.
  • The 41st Hydrogen Refueling Station (HRS) that just opened in Oakland California on 9/20/2019 is a giant leap forward in HRS capability. This station will have a capacity of 800kg making it more than three times larger than any of the previously opened First Element HRS stations under their True Zero brand. The station will also offer two fueling points so two cars can refuel simultaneously. 800kg of H2 can provide over 26,500 kWh of energy to about 160 cars per day. When the fuel tank is empty, just refill and keep going (see John Hunt’s tweet below). The Oakland station shows that by using liquid hydrogen technology, new stations can scale reliably as the number of drivers increase. The first 40 stations were/are what I would call “demonstration stations”. This new Oakland station is much bigger and more a “normal commercial use” station.  Hydrogen refueling stations can also be a much bigger too if necessary, hydrogen can scale to support everyone cost effectively relative to other zero emission technologies like battery electric vehicles.

  • Momentum with companies announcing hydrogen product developments and investments into hydrogen companies is at a fever pitch. If you follow HyTwit (hydrogen twitter) there are more hydrogen advocate twitter accounts & news articles being shared than ever before. I saw a recent tweet storm for a 100 bus order in Zhejiang Province in China for example which is the biggest single bus order I have ever seen in following hydrogen headlines for over 5 years now. New bus orders, advanced VTOL aircraft, storage applications, & stationary applications for hydrogen fuel cells are popping almost every day. RMP has included some of the highlight stories from this past quarter below in the Important Headline Links section.

Let’s look at the data updates from 2019 Q3:

Ok, let’s get into the numbers (or lack thereof) from the AFDC database and then after that, RMP will go over numbers of FCEVs on the road using IHS Markit data in the final remarks section to close out this article.

New H2 Stations That Opened To The Public 2019 Q3:

By the nick of Q3’s chinny chin chin, 1 HRS station opened on 9/20/19 just before the quarter ended on 9/30/2019. While it was only one and at the last minute, the Oakland station just described in the bullet point above is not just any station. The new Oakland California station has an 800kg capacity.  Liquid hydrogen stations like the new Oakland California station demonstrate how hydrogen scales to meet the needs of energy hungry consumers with the ability to refuel 160 cars per day from two pumps.

H2 Stations Removed from the AFDC Database 2019 Q3:

All of the US Military stations were removed from the AFDC database over the last quarter. RMP has doubts that these stations were closed per se but probably removed from the data set for other reasons. Luckily RMP has the locations of the military stations from previous downloads so RMP will keep them on RMP’s map of all hydrogen stations in the USA until it can be determined what their true status is. We know General Motors & Honda will begin mass manufacturing of gen2 fuel cell stacks in Brownstown Michigan next year. General Motors #1 customer for advanced hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems is the US Military. The US Military is focused on using JP8 to make hydrogen for their vehicles & reclaiming the water produced from the fuel cell for soldiers to drink.

H2 Stations Added to the AFDC Database 2019 Q3:

Unfortunately, there were zero new records for HRS added to the AFDC database in 2019-Q3. As stated in the opening remarks of this article, this is the most important statistic in hydrogen FCEV adoption. There is no more meaningful metric at this point than the number of stations on the list and open. The main point of this quarterly publication is to watch this important metric. It really is this simple: build the stations & the cars will sell. For point of reference, the Oakland station that just opened has been on the AFDC database for well over a year. It was on 12/31/2018 that RMP announced the Oakland station moved from a status of Planned to Under Construction. It’s important to see new records on the database for hydrogen stations as it takes time to get permitted, planned, built, commissioned, and then finally opened. We hope to see some new records on the database soon to keep the momentum going. One station RMP is very hopeful to see is the forthcoming Fuel Cell Energy & Toyota collaboration station at the Port of Los Angeles. The Port of Los Angeles station for Class 8 vehicles will be the most game changing refueling station in the world. Looking forward to reporting that station in this section soon.

Important Headlines Links from 2019 Q3:

July 30, 2019

Nel awarded $2M for heavy duty fueling compression tech from DOE. Nel shares award with Nikola. Link below is to Nel’s press release. Other link is listing of awards from DOE. Shows Nel at $2M and Nikola at $1.7M

https://news.cision.com/nel-asa/r/press-release–nel-proposed-for-a—2-million-award-on-project-regarding-fueling-of-heavy-duty-hydro,c2871480

https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2019/07/f65/FY19%20MD-HD%20Truck%20selections%20table_0.pdf


BIG NEWS w/ MICHIGAN TIES:
8/6/2019
GM Spring Hill Tennessee Plant converts to H2 fuel cells for material handling equipment.  GM is poised to enter the public fuel cell segment soon.

https://www.columbiadailyherald.com/news/20190806/spring-hill-pioneers-hydrogen-fuel-cell-technology-for-gm

Cool pictures in this article too.


8/9/2019
Ward’s writing about FCEVs.  Ward’s is a top notch site so when they write about hydrogen, we take notice.
https://www.wardsauto.com/10-best-engines/california-s-40-hydrogen-stations-push-toward-fuel-cell-viability


8/14/2019
ZeroAvia #h2 airplane 500 mile range.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90388931/this-plane-can-fly-500-miles-powered-entirely-by-hydrogen

https://www.zeroavia.com/


8/20/19
Hydrogen from Canadian bitumen by pumping oxygen into the oil reservoir:
https://phys.org/news/2019-08-scientists-hydrogen-gas-oil-bitumen.html


9/12/19

University of British Columbia in Vancouver Canada released a study explaining how Vancouver can launch hydrogen refueling infrastructure with a similar cost profile to the gasoline infrastructure currently in place.  Vancouver plans to launch six stations soon to cover the city and soon drivers could be able to drive from San Diego in the south all the way up the west coast to Vancouver in the north. Hoda Talebian, one of the authors of the study, is pictured above.

https://fuelcellsworks.com/news/canada-ubc-researchers-design-roadmap-for-hydrogen-supply-network-across-b-c/

Based off of this study
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360319919328617


9/18/2019
This is an article about Asia but I want to make the comparison that Asia is ten years ahead of the west. Good “explainer” article about hydrogen.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-hydrogen-explainer/explainer-why-asias-biggest-economies-are-backing-hydrogen-fuel-cell-cars-idUSKBN1W22VQ


9/18/19
Matthew Klippenstein (friend of RMP) said that BC government had published a paper (group of papers) on the hydrogen economy in BC. Very good stuff.

Listing of documents: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/organizational-structure/ministries-organizations/ministries/energy-mines-and-petroleum-resources/ministry-reports

Executive summary: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/government/ministries-organizations/ministries/zen-bcbn-hydrogen-study-final-v5_executivesummary.pdf


9/20/19
41st Station opens in San Francisco & it is a bad ass 800kg liquid h2 station that can service two vehicles simultaneously. Huge news for San Francisco zero emission drivers.
https://cafcp.org/blog/oakland-hydrogen-station-opens


Final Remarks for 2019 Q3

The story for infrastructure in 2019 Q3 has been told. To recap, it was very slow & frustrating for pioneer drivers demonstrating hydrogen fuel cell technology because of gas shortages caused by the “Santa Clara” incident. But, while the pendulum has swung to one direction for now, it should swing back with a strong momentum in the other direction soon for California drivers. There should be 15 HRS stations coming back online that are currently having distribution/delivery issues, 7 stations currently commissioning at the time of this article’s publication, and 1 new station in Oakland California that 3x larger than any previous First Element station. When regular distribution resumes from the Santa Clara production facility, it should feel like 23 stations opening over a short period of time to give drivers more coverage. There are  also an additional 15 California HRS stations in early to late stages of development in California. This strong momentum as we gear toward 2020 should restore comfort to drivers that their fuel cell vehicle is like any gasoline vehicle in terms of easy use. It will also allow manufacturers to sell more vehicles as infrastructure continues to grow. And what about those drivers? Where are they? How many of them are there?

RMP’s report focuses on hydrogen infrastructure because it’s very important, but that doesn’t mean RMP doesn’t love cars & driving. Let’s break from talking about infrastructure and talk car data to end this article. RMP has been lucky enough to get current IHS Markit data for fuel cell drivers in the USA & Canada. IHS Markit publishes vehicle registration data & offers an advanced data query service to find exactly what vehicle registration data you’re looking for. As you can imagine, it takes time to compile such a large data set so the data lags behind the current date. The two most recent quarters’ data in the database are March 31, 2019 & June 30, 2019. Did you know there are over 283 million registered vehicles in the USA and nearly 29 million registered vehicles in Canada of June 30, 2019?

There are 6,557 fuel cell vehicles registered in the USA and probably a couple in Canada but the database shows no reporting for Canada as of now. Of those, 6,557 fuel cell vehicles in the USA, 6,479 (or 98.8%) are registered in California with Texas in 2nd place with 30 fuel cell vehicles. Michigan falls to 5th place with the number of fuel cell passenger vehicles falling from 10 to 5. Fig2 belows shows the number of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by state across the USA.  The table below shows FCEV registrations by state in the USA & their increase or decrease from Q1 to Q2.

Fig2 – Listing of most current FCEVs registered by state ranked highest to lowest.  This table shows two most recent quarters and the increase/decrease from Q1 to Q2.  This data lags one quarter behind the current quarter. California has 98.8% of all registered FCEVs. This data comes from IHS Markit, the authority on vehicle registration data. Calculations by RMP.

Of the 6,479 fuel cell vehicles in California, most are in Los Angeles county which is poetic in a way. When it comes to air quality, Los Angeles has always been known for its famous smog, seen by the world in movies in surreal Hollywood sunsets since the dawn of the combustion engine. Just like an Aesop Fable, the people of Los Angeles were tired of being the butt of smog air quality jokes and started a ball in motion that will show the world how to purify earth’s air & water. It will be nice to look back on Los Angeles county as the global birthplace of hydrogen fuel cell mobility technology and have to explain to our grandchildren what smog used to be. The forthcoming station at the Port of Los Angeles will be a beacon for the rest of the world to see producing 1.2 metric tons of negative emission renewable hydrogen per day for Class 8 big rigs. In 3rd place on the California by county list you see Santa Clara county. The drivers in Santa Clara county and all around the Bay Area are feeling the pinch of the summer of 2019 but will hopefully be back to normal before too long. Not shown on the list below are 18 other counties in The Golden State with Santa Barbara county just missing the cut with 36 registered FCEVs. See Fig3 below for the number of FCEVs by county in California.

Fig3 – Listing of number of FCEVs registered in California by county. Table lists two most recent quarters of data (Q1-19 vs Q2-19) and calculates increase & decrease. Data source IHS Markit, calculations by RMP.

That’s it for 2019-Q3. We are looking forward to putting 2019-Q3 in the rearview mirror as we enter the final quarter before 2020. The year 2020 holds great significance for hydrogen fuel cell technology as RMP has been writing about the Summer Olympics in Tokyo as the premier of hydrogen fuel cell technology to the general public for over five years. Japan has been working to promote the Hydrogen Economy in Tokyo since the city was awarded the Olympics on September 7, 2013. The 2020 Summer Games will be the culmination of 6.5 years of hard work to showcase to the world what hydrogen fuel cell technology is all about.  2020 will be the first year the general public sees & gets introduced to how hydrogen fuel cells work.

Thanks for reading our quarterly report. Hope to see you back here at year end.

USA & CANADA Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2019-Q2

hydrogen infrastructure report

Each quarter RMP looks back on the stories & data related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements in the USA & Canada.  The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) database hosted by the US Dept of Energy is RMP’s source for quarter over quarter comparisons and can be found by clicking here.  Canada does not have a centralized database of alternative fuel vehicle information so we collect Canadian data by hand in RMP’s own data tables.  Read the 2019 Q2 update… Continue reading “USA & CANADA Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2019-Q2”

Cleantechnica Painted Into Corner with Years of Anti-Hydrogen Bias

CleanTechnica has been biased against hydrogen so long, they’re struggling to pivot back to common sense. Zachary Shahan, CleanTechnica’s Chief Editor, has spent his career slandering hydrogen fuel cells for one reason: to support Tesla. There is only one reason CleanTechnica & its fans bash hydrogen: because Elon Musk said fuel cell cars were foolish so many years ago. Because one of CleanTechnica’s primary purposes is to promote Tesla, they are running into the problem of how practical hydrogen is for industry and transportation. Continue reading “Cleantechnica Painted Into Corner with Years of Anti-Hydrogen Bias”

California Hydrogen Draft Solicitation CONCEPTS 2019

On January 23, 2019, the California Energy Commission released a draft document on solicitation concepts for funding of the next round of hydrogen fueling stations. California will be awarding match funding to build out more HRS to hit the magic number of 100 hydrogen refueling stations at which point construction should be self sufficient. In order to be approved for match funding, applicants must meet the criteria laid forth by the California Energy Commission. The document the CEC published on January 23, 2019 is 42 pages long. In this post, respectmyplanet.org will summarize the key points of the document into approximately 3 pages of highlights. Continue reading “California Hydrogen Draft Solicitation CONCEPTS 2019”

USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2018-Q4

hydrogen fuel cells

Welcome new readers of RMP’s quarterly H2 infrastructure report.  Each quarter RMP looks back on the major stories related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements in the USA & Canada.  RMP compares the current Alternative Fuels DataCenter database to the AFDC database in the prior quarter to see what has changed.  The AFDC database is updated by the US Department of Energy & can be found by clicking here.   RMP also follows the #hydrogen hashtag on Twitter to stay plugged into the latest develops around the world.  Clickthrough to read all the updates & news from the past three months. Continue reading “USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2018-Q4”