The California Air Resources Board (CARB) predicts continued slow expansion of hydrogen infrastructure in the state. It recently issued a report projecting 100 retail hydrogen stations in operation in the state by the end of 2023.
That exceeds expectations, a CARB press release said, and anticipates that development of the California hydrogen network will soon bounce back from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Development slowed down significantly in 2020, the report noted.
By 2026, California will have more than 176 hydrogen stations, enough to support approximately 250,000 fuel-cell vehicles, according to the report.
California hydrogen station counts as of May 12, 2020 (via California Air Resources Board)
However, it's worth noting that projections for new hydrogen stations and vehicle sales have seldom been achieved. Both the number of stations built and the number of vehicles sold have consistently trended below projections, according to the report.
But California stakeholders have been failing to deliver to targets for hydrogen stations for decades, citing permitting and other hurdles. The 100-station goal was previously projected for 2020, after all.
Drivers of fuel-cell cars have also experienced station outages due to lack of locally-available hydrogen, indicating that existing infrastructure isn't exactly reliable.
Hydrogen vehicle and station trend line adjustments (via California Air Resources Board)
Nonetheless, a fuel-cell trade group has proposed building 200 stations in California by 2035, to support a fleet of 70,000 fuel-cell trucks. In addition, Hyundai plans to test a fleet of 30 trucks in California starting in 2023.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill also includes a proposal for so-called "hydrogen hubs" that potentially accelerate station installations. However, the carbon footprint of these hubs could still be substantial, as the legislative language doesn't require hydrogen to be produced with sustainable methods.