DRIVE: California's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV)

Fuel Cell Benefits

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) run on hydrogen gas and depending upon how the hydrogen is produced, few or no harmful – emissions occur on a life cycle basis. FCEV tailpipe emissions are zero; they emit water vapor. While these vehicles are still in the early stage of commercialization development, the potential benefits are impressive:

  • The only by-products are heat, some CO2 (hydrogen production, transport, storage, compression) and water vapor.
  • In some cases hydrogen is produced from water through electrolysis.
  • The feedstocks (natural gas and water), are readily available so the use of FCEVs can substantively reduce dependence on petroleum.
  • The potential reduction in greenhouse gases ranges from 40% to 50%, and can be higher when hydrogen is produced from renewable sources like biomethane from biomass and landfillsor from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power using water electrolysis.
  • Today’s typical refueling time for an FCEV is approximately 3-5 minutes.
  • The typical FCEV range is 240-350 miles.

See the video on California's Hydrogen Refueling Network

Fuel Cell Challenges

  • The hydrogen refueling infrastructure typically has a high capital equipment, operation, and maintenance costs and the quantity of available hydrogen refueling stations needs to be increased, state-wide.
  • The FCEVs tend to be expensive; so far, without economies of scale. Notably, some firms offer less expensive FCEV leases.
  • Hydrogen transportation fuel quality and metering standards for commercial dispensing and for retail sale are in deployment in California. The California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) addresses these technical issues under a contract with and working collaboratively with a number of organizations, including the California Energy Commission.
  • Competition from improved and more efficient gasoline and diesel-powered engines and the growing popularity of hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs) make hydrogen FCEVs less attractive in the near term, but over the long term, the combination of advancements in all of these vehicle technologies, including hydrogen FCEVs present opportunities for air pollution reduction.

How is the Energy Commission Helping?

Because Federal and local air board incentives have primarily focused on the development and deployment of FCEVs, the Energy Commission is investing funds in a network of strategically located refueling stations and infrastructure. More than $92 million has been awarded for the construction of hydrogen refueling stations throughout the state. In the Investment Plan for 2015-2016, the Energy Commission will continue to support hydrogen infrastructure projects which expand the network of publicly accessible hydrogen refueling stations to serve the current population of FCEVs and to accommodate the planned early commercial large-scale roll-out of FCVEs commencing in the 2015/2016 timeframe.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Projects

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