Toyota FCV-R hydrogen fuel-cell concept car, 2012 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
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...