Hydrogen Stations Soar: 27 New Ones In 2012--Worldwide

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Toyota FCV-R hydrogen fuel-cell concept car, 2012 Detroit Auto Show

Toyota FCV-R hydrogen fuel-cell concept car, 2012 Detroit Auto Show

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27 hydrogen refueling stations sounds like quite a healthy amount for such an expensive installation.

It's easy to put up a new electric car charging post, but a lot more effort and cost is required for a hydrogen filling station.

If you're thinking these have all sprung up in a state near you in the last month or so though, you're in for disappointment. In fact, that 27 station increase is worldwide. Throughout the whole of 2012.

Admittedly, that's probably more than one for every hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that hit the road during 2012, but to put some perspective on such a tiny number, it's a whole 15 percent increase on the previous total of 181 stations worldwide.

So where did these stations spring up? A full 29.6 percent of them--or eight, to put a less sensationalist spin on it--appeared in North America. Sixteen stations--that's 59.2 percent, math fans--were installed in Europe, five of which are in Germany.

The remaining three stations appeared in Asia, reports Fuel Cell Today. The assessment, carried out by Germany-based H2stations.org, doesn't record whether these stations (new or existing) are private or public, since most are being used in field tests rather than by members of the public.

More are expected to spring up throughout 2013, with several countries--including Germany, where much of the development work on hydrogen vehicles is currently taking place--set to expand their H2 networks.

If this all sounds a little cynical, it's with good reason. Despite recent partnerships between large automakers--BMW and Toyota, and a trio of Renault-Nissan, Daimler and Ford--hydrogen is still very much a technology in its infancy.

To the uninitiated, hydrogen is still a silver bullet technology, offering all the benefits of battery electric vehicles with none of the drawbacks.

In reality it's hideously expensive--both in terms of hardware and its distribution network--and currently of dubious benefit environmentally, thanks to the difficulty of gathering together large amounts of hydrogen. Volkswagen's CEO agrees, roundly dismissing the technology last month.

So while some carmakers split the cost of reluctant fuel cell development and a few meagre stations spring up across the globe, tens of thousands of battery electric car drivers will use tens of thousands of inexpensive charging stations to realize their own environmental benefits right here and now.

Hydrogen will no doubt be part of the future energy mix, but forgive us if we're not that impressed by 27 token refueling stations...


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Comments (25)
  1. Tehehe. It would be funny if it wasn't so crazy expensive.

  2. "Hydrogen is still a silver bullet technology, with all the benefits of battery electric vehicles and none of the drawbacks."
    OK, so when will owners of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles be able to refuel with hydrogen they made on their roof at no incremental cost and a storage/conversion efficiency approaching 90% and zero carbon dioxide? What about the much-hyped range anxiety of electric cars; will hydrogen fuel cells fix that too?

  3. Who is using these hydrogen fueling stations?

    Beyond the handful of Honda Clarity's in Southern California, I'm not aware of other fuel-cell vehicles in the wild. Buses, or other vehicle fleets? Perhaps hydrogen being used in other ways… eg: internal combustion fuel alternative to natural gas?

  4. I'm not really a fan of hydrogen, but I do like that people are still looking for alternatives to EVs, which, let's be honest, have a few issues as well. Maybe some good will come of it.

  5. The author of this piece is "hideously" biased. He would do well to keep the sarcasm and snarkiness under wraps if he wants to be taken seriously.

    Is an FCV expensive? Sure, because they are all essentially hand-built prototypes (the FCX Clarity included). Is an FCV of "dubious" environmental benefit? Not really, as many studies have shown hydrogen pathways that are quite clean, not to mention the novel ones currently in development.

    Basically, this animosity towards hydrogen-based vehicles is tiresome and a so-called journalist should apply at least a modicum of objectivity instead of an ill-informed rant.

  6. What, you didn't like the part about the "silver bullet" technology? Even burning coal has combustion pathways that are quite clean, if you are willing to pay for them. My personal animosity toward hydrogen fuel cells runs throught the natural gas "pathway" but your mileage may vary. You made me defend Antony on this one - quite an accomplishment.

  7. I think that a PV-powered electrolyzer is hardly in the same ballpark as CCS on a coal plant. Not only is the latter unproven at large scales--in fact, at anything other than a demo project, let alone the viability of keeping the CO2 underground indefinitely--but electrolyzers don't have the problem of mountaintop removal, etc.
    In any event, I am always struck at how many BEV enthusiasts (and I count myself as one and work for an EVSE company) take potshots at H2 at every opportunity. FCVs will need batteries (or ultracaps), as well as better and cheaper PE and EMs, so the two technologies are complementary rather than competing.
    Articles like this serve no purpose other than to stoke the fires of those that hate H2 no matter what.

  8. I think you may have missed my point about the coal pathway but we'll let that go. Actually we can all agree that fuel cell research should continue, but your comment about PV electrolysis illustrates my problem with fuel cells. The best ones push 60% efficiency and then the actual electrolysis process is not 100% efficient either. Why would anyone use fuel cells when they can store the PV electricity in a battery and use it with 90% efficiency? Much cheaper to use the natural gas pathway, hence my concern.

  9. I wondered if you would bring out the old efficiency chestnut. Nobody serious is suggesting the BEVs aren't more efficient than FCVs. Yes, you lose energy in the conversion process, in some cases twice. So BEVs will always be better urban commuter vehicles than FCVs. But the problem with BEVs is the trade-off between range and recharging time: a smaller battery gets you a smaller recharge time but a shorter range, and vice versa. FCVs have much shorter recharge times, and the range won't be the issue that it is for BEVs.

    This is what BEV enthusiasts with this bias miss: that BEVs and FCVs will fill different niches.

    To answer your question, the reason to use a fuel cell is that it can do what a battery can't.

  10. Hydrogen appears to stoke that fire quite well without any help from journalists. Seems like battalions of PV powered electrolyzers would use vast amounts more energy than an army of PV powered EV's.

  11. Jeff, see my comments throughout this section. Yes, more energy will be used as EVs are more efficient. But one could also imagine wind-powered electrolyzers, where H2 is produced from wind power that might otherwise go unused. And FCVs have that range and refueling advantage that EVs will never overcome due to laws of physics.

  12. John - If you'd like to provide any sources to back up those comments about clean hydrogen pathways then we'll gladly write an article examining them, but all current technologies able to generate hydrogen in the sort of quantities required for mass transit involve using huge amounts of energy in a very inefficient manner. To me, and anyone else who realises you can't just scoop hydrogen from the air in any useful quantity, that's environmentally dubious.

    If you want a puff piece on how brilliant hydrogen is, you've come to the wrong website. We've been covering it for years and have so far seen a) very little in the way of progress and b) no sign that it's as squeaky-clean as some media outlets, or yourself, like to make out.

  13. Antony,

    Easily done: http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/10001_well_to_wheels_gge_petroleum_use.pdf
    (and that too all of five seconds on Google)

    I feel as though someone writing a piece on H2 stations might do some background reading beforehand. Your comment about not being able to scoop H2 from the air is patently ridiculous--why do you not apply the same metric to electricity?

    I certainly don't expect a puff piece, but at the same time, a hit job on a website ostensibly devoted to cleaner cars is definitely inappropriate.

  14. John, you'll be aware (as an educated gentleman I'm sure) that the onus is on yourself to back up any claim you make - it may well take only five seconds on google to find the information, but it isn't up to me to back up your own wild claims.

    You'll note in the pdf you provided that those figures aren't *today's* numbers - it clearly states "for projected state of technologies in 2035-2045".

    So I'm sorry, but that doesn't back up your claims about that "studies" have shown hydrogen has clean pathways at all, since we don't live 20-30 years in the future.

    If you can provide some suitable statistics from the last few years then perhaps I'll think about writing that article. Until then, you've not really provided a convincing argument.

  15. Antony,

    Wild claims? You are aware that this is a DOE-based study to which I have linked. It's your statement that needs to be backed up: it's clear without the need for an in-depth study that H2 produced through electrolysis with renewable energy-based electricity is going to be clean. You dispute this?

    And the projections are for what the EIA predicts the grid will look like in 2035--electrolysis is already in use and it will only get more efficient...not less clean.

    The only thing you should be sorry about is that you have failed to understand the implications of the paper.

    If you are going to rely on my to provide you with material, then your professionalism as a journalist is even less apparent than I thought.

  16. You'll also note the last line - "hydrogen will no doubt be part of the future energy mix".

    We certainly aren't dismissing future hydrogen technology, but there's very little in the present that suggests it's appearing any time soon.

    That was the point of the article overall, which I fear you may have missed - 27 filling stations is hardly the unstoppable march of progress.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  17. I did not miss the sarcastic observation about the number of filling stations--you hit the reader over the head with the obviousness of your disdain.

    Suggesting that because there aren't many H2 stations at present that one can extrapolate what the future holds--when there aren't any cars ready for market introduction--is like the naysayers that said the same about the dearth of EVSE prior to 2011. Do you not see the double standard that you apply to your FCV "analysis"?

    If you actually believe that H2 will be part of the future energy mix and you don't want to dismiss it, you got off to a bad start with how dismissive you were of it in this article...

  18. Why would anyone want to put in these expensive stations when the tech is an ineff loser?

    H2 like electricity is an energy carrier, not a fuel and electricity is 50-75% more eff than H2. And in an increasingly high cost energy world, H2 would because of this be at least 2-4x's the cost/mile.

    If you want to pay more, be my guess by neither I or businesses are going to buy these with such bad, expensive economy.

  19. Jerry, see my comments above. FCVs are less efficient overall, but they present a number of advantages, namely longer range, shorter refueling times, and the ability to store H2 from renewables like wind that often produce power at night with nowhere to use it. Electricity is much more expensive to store.

    I continue to marvel at how anti-H2 that BEV enthusiasts are and how vocal they are about it. Your kind doesn't seem to get that all of the major OEMs have FCV programs, yet you somehow believe that you know better than them and they are throwing billions of dollars away in their naivete. Talk about hubris. I work in the industry, and I can honestly say that I don't know which technology will become dominant. Nobody knows for sure.

  20. "I work in the industry"

    Ah, there we go. Perhaps before accusing me of "hideous bias" John, you should step back and consider the angle you're approaching this topic from. I hear those working in the oil industry are rather keen on their product, too.

  21. Antony,

    Way to jump to conclusions. I actually work in the automotive industry, not the fuel cell industry. My company is heavily involved and invested in EVs, not FCEVs, so no, there is no bias related to my employment.

    What you have done is write an entirely one-sided article without really doing any work to understand the other side. It's fine, and I am sure you will continue to comport yourself like this as this site appears to allow you to do so. But if you wish to have any credibility as a journalist, you would do well to think about some balance. All of the major OEMs are pursuing FCEVs...but you somehow know better than all of them, enough to ridicule all efforts at commercializing them.

    Hubris, thy name is Antony.

  22. Hydrogen fuel cell cars are actually EV's with hydrogen powered range extenders. The Honda FCX Clarity has a shorter range than the Tesla Model S. Hydrogen is a future energy source - and it always will be...

    It takes 3.5X more electricity to make hydrogen than it does to just power an EV. Every house in the country has a way to charge and EV, and there are about 1,000X more EV charging stations that there are hydrogen filling stations.

    What is the *capacity* of these 27 hydrogen filling stations? Some of them are limited to filling about 15 CARS/DAY.

    Compressing hydrogen is a non-trivial task. Hydrogen filling stations cannot have ROOFS - a roof can trap leaked hydrogen and then they often explode. Good luck with that in snow.

  23. Neil, cherry-picking your vehicles and drawing over-arching conclusions seems reasonable to you? There aren't any production FCVs yet, wait for 2015 for that, but the Toyota FCHV-adv could go 430 mi on a tank back in 2009. So no, EVs do not have longer ranges than FCVs.

    Yes, there are more EVSE units than H2 stations. But there are far more gas stations than EVSE units...should we therefore dismiss EVs?

    The H2 stations will come and their capacity will increase when there are cars to use them, as is appropriate. Is it reasonable to expect H2 stations to be able to handle the entire vehicle fleet when none are yet for sale?

    H2 stations certainly can have roofs. H2 has a high escape velocity and disperses easily and harmlessly.

  24. The newest fuel cells only last about 75K miles, as I understand it, and they still cost a lot. The FCX Clarity has a ~4kWh battery as well.

    "I'd love to have an affordable, efficient hydrogen car. I'd park it next to my unicorn." KarenRei


  25. Neil, you are going to have to do better than posting a specific number like '75K' without a whiff of a reference. Durability is an on-going issue for FCs, but it's not 2015, and with several OEMs confident they will make this year for release, I think it's a bit premature to say what their expected lifetime will be a priori. Unless you can provide some evidence, your claim falls flat.

    Quoting another naysayer has what point exactly?

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