The world’s first hydrogen station supplied by an existing, industrial hydrogen pipeline opened earlier this week in Torrance, CA, bringing the total number of hydrogen re-fueling stations to seven in the state. The station is located close to the Los Angeles International Airport and major freeways. More notably, the hydrogen is being pulled from Air Products’ hydrogen production plants in nearby cities, rendering the hydrogen refueling infrastructure that much more convenient, practical, and reliable.
Other hydrogen fueling stations have their hydrogen trucked in and stored on site, which has created shortages and wait lists even for the handful of fuel-cell ev owners in the past. The Torrance fueling station features multiple fuel dispensers and can fuel up to four cars in less than five minutes, dispensing up to 100 kg of hydrogen over twelve hours.
The station is a joint project between Shell, Toyota, Air Projects, and received funding from South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Department of Energy. Shell is operating the refueling station on land leased from Toyota, and both will serve a large role in running the on-site learning center for school children and the general public.
Despite these partnerships, the station will be open to fuel-cell electric vehicles manufactured by other automakers, as well. In fact, the first retail fuel-cell electric vehicle to fill up at the station was Honda’s FCX Clarity, the world’s first production zero-emissions fuel-cell vehicle.
There are very few of these vehicles on the road, many of which have been used as demonstrations to introduce the public to the concept of hydrogen as a viable alternative to gasoline. Even production and leasing of Mercedes-Benz’s F-Cell is happening on a small scale, and is not cheap. Toyota plans to introduce their fuel-cell vehicles to market in 2015, with the hopes that the Torrance filling station and education garnered from it will pave the way for sales- which may or may not be the “right” way to go about deciding which alt-fuel to use. It’s not a stretch to say that all eyes will be on this fueling station as a model for how easy and practical- or how impractical, using hydrogen as an alternative fuel can be.