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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fuel Cell Future Unlikely or Inevitable? Part 4 - Hydrogen Infrastructure

Hydrogen Infrastructure 

There are over 150,000 gas stations currently in the US. These stations have an average of 6 to 8 pumps each. That is about 1 million gas pumps currently operating in the US. If we are to have a viable H2 fueling infrastructure, for an (eventually) complete hydrogen economy, a similar number of hydrogen filling stations and pumps would be needed.

The equipment required for this is, of course, not cheap. It costs between $500,000 and $5,000,000 per installation of an H2 filling station. The price depends on factors such as the number units, pressure, security measures, and the types of vehicles the facility intends to serve (i.e., passenger vehicles or commercial vehicles).

One million pumps at the low-end price tag of $500,000 each is a $500 billion dollar expense. Clearly, advances in H2 pumps are needed to reduce the installed cost.

Selective installation at fleet accessible areas would be a good way to use H2 without a complete infrastructure.

Electric vehicles did not have this same fueling chicken and egg problem that fuel cell vehicles (FCV) and H2 refueling infrastructure face, because, albeit slow, a modern EV can plug into any standard household outlet to recharge. The installation of public charging stations increases the utility of EVs, but it was not a must-have before they were usable.

Today, if you want to drive a FCV in a region of the US with H2 infrastructure, then you are driving in Southern California and nowhere else.

Perhaps it is "island thinking" that makes Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai think that an H2 infrastructure could easily be deployed (I know South Korea is a peninsula, but it is a political island). South Korea could be completely served by a single H2 filling station, it wouldn't be convenient, but it is possible. Similarly, Japan would only need five or six H2 stations to service the entire country. The US, on the other hand, is a very different story.

Part 5 - H2 Storage

Fuel Cells: More than you ever wanted to know in 11 parts:
Part 1 - Intro
Part 2 - H2 From Natural Gas
Part 3 - H2 from Water
Part 4 - Hydrogen Infrastructure
Part 5 - Storage
Part 6 - Fuel Cells
Part 7 - How Soon?
Part 8 - A Foot in the Door for H2
Part 9 - So Why the Hate?
Part 10 - Tin Foil Hats
Part 11 - Conclusion

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