California business, air quality and energy officials will be in Coalinga on Wednesday afternoon to cut the ribbon on a new location in the state’s nascent system of fueling stations for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
The True Zero hydrogen station at the Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant is one of only 15 retail stations open for business in the state, and the only one in the San Joaquin Valley. The station has been operating for several months.
The ribbon-cutting event is part of a statewide caravan from Los Angeles to Sacramento by California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols, California Energy Commission member Janea Scott and Tyson Eckerle, deputy director of GO-Biz, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, to promote the zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
The station location, on Dorris Avenue just off Interstate 5, was planned so drivers of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles could make a trip from the Bay Area or Sacramento to Los Angeles, or vice versa, with only one fuel stop. According to Eckerle, there are about 314 fuel-cell vehicles on the road in California, with some models offering a travel range of up to 312 miles on a fill-up. The state estimates that the number of vehicles will grow to more than 34,000 by 2021.
Hydrogen technology is considered a zero-emission fuel because the only tailpipe emission is water. Within a vehicle, hydrogen flows from a fuel tank to a fuel cell stack, where a chemical reaction creates electricity that powers the motor.
Eckerle said efforts are underway to expand the number of available hydrogen fueling stations to 51 statewide by 2017 and 100 by 2023.
But in the early going, the fueling infrastructure has been plagued by problems. “Current (fuel-cell vehicle) customers too often experience stations being unavailable due to equipment malfunction or other issues, and clear communication of station status remains a challenge,” the Air Resources Board stated in a report issued last summer.
“Improved status reporting, more reliable backup fueling capability … and full-time dedicated personnel to react to station malfunctions are needed to improve the convenience and (fuel-cell vehicle) driver satisfaction with the hydrogen fueling station network.”
The state also projects that the number of stations may not be able to keep up with the anticipated growth of fuel-cell vehicles in California.
“After 2018, the number of vehicles expected to be on the road may need more fuel than can be provided by the number of hydrogen stations that can be built with currently available public funding,” the ARB report noted.
A state law, Assembly Bill 8, calls for the California Energy Commission to pony up $20 million per year to spur the development of hydrogen fueling stations until at least 100 stations have been developed in the state.