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

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV)

Fuel Cell Benefits

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) run on hydrogen gas and depending upon how the hydrogen is produced, few or no harmful – emissions occur on a life cycle basis. FCV tailpipe emissions are zero; they emit water vapor. While these vehicles are still in the early stage of commercial 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 FCVs 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 FCV is approximately 3-5 minutes.
  • The typical FCV range is 240-350 miles.

Fuel Cell Challenges

  • The hydrogen fueling infrastructure typically has a high equipment and operational cost and the amount of available hydrogen fueling stations needs to be increased.
  • The FCVs tend to be expensive; so far, without economy of scale. Notably, some firms offer less expensive FCV leases.
  • Hydrogen transportation fuel quality and metering standards for commercial dispensing and for retail sale are in development in California. The California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) is working to address these technical issues under a contract with the California Energy Commission.)
  • Competition from improved and more efficient gasoline and diesel-powered engines and the growing popularity of hybrids and electric vehicles make hydrogen vehicles less attractive in the near term.

How is the Energy Commission Helping?

Because Federal and local air board incentives have primarily focused on the development and deployment of FCVs, the Energy Commission is investing funds in a network of strategically located fueling stations and infrastructure. More than $36 million has already been awarded for the construction of hydrogen fueling stations throughout the state. In the proposed Investment Plan for 2013-2014, the Energy Commission will continue to support hydrogen infrastructure projects which expand the network of publicly accessible hydrogen fueling stations to serve the current population of FCVs and to accommodate the planned early commercial large-scale roll-out of FCVs commencing in approximately 2015/2016. Additionally, the Energy Commission has provided $4 million to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s DMS to develop standards for the quality of hydrogen fuel, in addition to the metering, dispensing, and sale of hydrogen.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Projects

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