California To Have Up To 70 Hydrogen Fueling Stations By 2016?

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Honda Solar Hydrogen Station prototype with 2010 Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle

Honda Solar Hydrogen Station prototype with 2010 Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle

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Our planet may have only gained 27 hydrogen filling stations in 2012, but California is hoping to have nearly 70 of its own in total by 2016.

So says the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which provides a list of government-funded hydrogen stations in California on its website.

Around third of that number are already either in operation or set for use shortly, while the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) sets out two main statistics for future filling stations in the state.

By 2015, the state expects to have a solid 37 public stations up and running, from currently available funding.

The group also says around 68 stations, a little under double the planned 37 by 2015, should provide enough coverage for around 10,000-30,000 early fuel cell vehicles in 2016.

The CaFCP recognizes the delicate balance that must be met by both providers and customers in order for suitable coverage--customers require as much coverage as possible, while providers must see suitable utilization for it to be commercially viable. These too must be balanced with manufacturers' willingness to provide vehicles (and this includes heavy and commercial vehicles, not just private cars), dependent on both other factors.

CaFCP has identified several "clusters" within the state where stations are currently operating, and has drawn up comparisons with gasoline stations as to how easy these stations are to access for consumers living within each cluster.

Santa Monica/West Los Angeles, Torrance and nearby coastal cities, Irvine and southern coastal Orange County, Berkeley and San Francisco South Bay Area have all been identified as cluster regions, and many future stations will be based around these areas--albeit more spread out from existing locations.

Given the extra range of hydrogen vehicles compared to say, battery electric vehicles, a truly diffuse coverage isn't as important and most H2 stations are likely to share space with regular gas stations.

Much of CaFCP and CARB's plans require suitable funding, and this is where the plans still hang--to reach 2016's target of 68 stations, CaFCP estimates extra funding of $67 million is required.

Hydrogen has a way to go yet, but if it's to take off anywhere in the next few years, California seems to at least have a proper plan in place. Whether the cars will be there for consumers to utilize it remains to be seen.

Full details of the CaFCP's plans can be found in this pdf document.

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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