Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV)
Fuel Cell Benefits
Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles run on hydrogen gas and depending upon how it is produced, they emit few or no harmful tailpipe emissions. While these vehicles are still in the early stage of commercial development, the potential benefits are impressive:
- The only byproducts are heat and water
- Hydrogen is produced from natural gas and in some cases water, which are available domestically so the use of these vehicles can substantially reduce our dependence on petroleum
- The potential reduction in greenhouse gases, particularly when the hydrogen is produced from renewable sources like biomass, biomethane or wind power
- Refueling time is about 5 minutes
- Vehicle range is 240-400 miles
Fuel Cell Challenges
- Onboard fuel storage system limits vehicle range
- High cost fueling infrastructure
- High cost of vehicles, so far, no economy of scale.
- Currently, standards for dispensing and selling hydrogen in the commercial or retail market do not exist in California (Although, the Energy Commission and Department of Food and Agriculture are working to address this market barrier.)
The absence of adequate fueling infrastructure combined with high vehicle costs pose barriers to near-term commercialization. Currently, stiff competition from improved gasoline and diesel-powered engines and the growing popularity of hybrids and electric vehicles make hydrogen vehicles less attractive in the near term. However, the industry continues to develop and there is much interest worldwide to overcome these challenges.
How is the Energy Commission Helping?
Because federal and local air board incentives have been available only for development and deployment of FCVs, the Energy Commission is filling the gap by investing Program funds in strategically located fueling infrastructure. More than $18 million has been awarded for the construction of hydrogen fueling stations throughout the state. In the proposed Investment Plan for 2011-2012, the Energy Commission will continue to support transit and light-duty vehicle demonstration projects. Additionally, the Energy Commission has provided $4 million to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) to develop national and statewide standards for the dispensing and sale of hydrogen fuel.