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Las Vegas Valley Water District Dedicates New Solar-Powered Hydrogen Station

The concept of the hydrogen station. Click to enlarge.

The Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD), in partnership with the UNLV Research Foundation, dedicated a pilot hydrogen refueling station that operates on solar power. 

Solar panels produce the electricity for a Proton Energy Systems electrolyzer that generates up to 12 kg of hydrogen per day, to be used to fuel two vehicles in the LVVWD fleet. The first is a Polaris Ranger internal combustion utility vehicle that has been converted to hydrogen fuel, and the second, a Taylor-Dunn converted electric truck that runs on a hydrogen fuel cell.

This project is just one example of the Water District’s commitment to becoming a leader in incorporating sustainable practices into all aspects of its operations. Our goal is to become a 100-percent alternative-fueled fleet by 2015.

—Richard Wimmer, LVVWD Deputy General Manager

Alternative-fuel vehicles, including gas/electric hybrids and those utilizing compressed natural gas (CNG) and biodiesel, currently constitute 77% of the LVVWD’s fleet.

Wimmer said the LVVWD is planning to add a hydrogen-powered pickup truck to its fleet by the end of 2007. Plans also call for the addition of a hydrogen-dedicated car the following year. The refueling facility also will function as a laboratory for the UNLV Center for Energy Research in order to further refine and enhance hydrogen fuel technology.

The DOE funded the bulk of the hydrogen station project’s research and development as well as the construction costs through a grant to the UNLV Research Foundation. Other partners include Nevada Power Company, which provided electrical upgrades for the station along with incentives that partially fund the solar array.

The project involves 13 public and private entities. Future collaborations will emerge with the LVVWD’s ability to provide an alternative fueling location for the City of Las Vegas to fuel its hydrogen vehicles.

The project is part of a multi-faceted research project that received $12 million in research and development funding from the Department of Energy. An additional $4 million was contributed in matching funds. Other components of the project include a hydrogen safety workshop; a hydrogen road-mapping exercise for Nevada; research into the production of hydrogen using photoelectric chemistry; and improvements on membrane and electrolyzer performance and efficiency. (Earlier post.)



Mike Weindl

How far can you drive with 12kg of hydrogen?


When you figure all the fossil fuel it took to make this thing, it had better be about a hundred times around the world.


PV panel life is maybe 30 years. I have no idea for the other components. Over the long haul, this might break even, given the rise in fuel prices. It is a project that captures the imagination of people, even though it does not make a lot of sense on a much larger scale right now.


just scale it up by hundred times

then we have it;

with hydrogen we have no need for seldom precious metals or high weight, high cost batteries;

just lets use light weight cars with hydrogen combustion engines and we will be free to move forever (at low cost)


If you're truck can get about 20mpg on gasoline then it should be able to get about 21 miles per kg (mpkg) on hydrogen.

So 13kg = about 274 miles.



scale: I agree completely with the idea of lower weight car but I think the flaw in you idea would be that hydrogen generation and the ICE engine are both very low efficiency solutions that combined together would give horrific results (50% hydrogen generation efficiency and 25% ICE efficiency leaves you with 12.5% overall) when compared to electricity generation and an electric vehicle (50% electicity generation in an 80% efficient electric motor gives you 40% overall). Please note that I was being generous for the hydrogen and conservative with my EV numbers.


The article mentions nothing about the cost of the system or the size of the solar array.

What do you want to bet that they're not being given, because they'd prove that Tesla Motors' CEO is right about hydrogen?


Actually now h2 generation israther efficient. As for the solar array it can be replaced with a few 5 mw wind turbines to scale up as neeeded.

In a fuel cell car 1 kg will get you 60 or more miles. in tha ranger.. prolly 15 to 18 miles.
The only important bit is thet gather more and more info on how the stations work so they can make better ones lomg before h2 goes mass market.
Dont forget oh tunnel visioned peeps that biodesel is STILL very messy to burn and still fills the air with jumk. We wont want a land of biofuled cars...not at least if we wish to breath.


H2 has a lot of problems - cost of fuel cells, storage, transmission, but if you want to generate it, as wintermans says, use wind, especially, use it when there is too much wind energy.

The trick is to get a way of storing wind energy as some portable fuel - it does not have to be H2, it could be anything that can be stored and transported to a place of use and the used without too much pollution.

There is lots of wind out there, it is just in the wrong place and at the wrong time - but if you could bottle it ... you would have something.

Warren Heath

Once again the DOE funding nutty schemes of no practical merit whatsoever, while ignoring enormously practical solutions, like how about methanol fueled high efficiency series hybrid EV's.

An excellent critique on H2 for vehicles from CARB of all people at:

H2 as a fuel is absurd to the point of insanity. Think of the nightmare, you want to go on a long trip, normally you would bring a jerry can of spare gas with you, forget it, fuel can only be obtained at an expensive high-tech custom oil company owned distribution station. Run out of gas - call the tow truck. Even with a BEV, if you run your battery dead, you can charge it up with a $100 portable generator or anywhere that there is 120vac power. If you live in the country where you would store 45 gal drums of diesel or gas, forget it, you're screwed. How about fuel for your boat, lawn mower, chain saw, 4 wheeler, snow machine or aircraft - what an expensive bulky Hydrogen tank you have to take to a service station to fill, nutso. And what about driving in the winter in the country, where you should bring extra fuel in case you get stuck in a snow storm? And battery EV’s already have up to 350 miles range, more than H2 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles would have, without the enormously expensive Hydrogen infrastructure cost.

Ever notice how heavy & bulky a standard 2300 psi O2 or N2 cylinder is, and all the safety precautions for use and storage that are required for their use, well it would hold a whopping 1.6 lbs of H2 in a 120 lb cylinder. H2 is the hardest gas to prevent from leaking, and can form explosive mixtures with air in any semi-enclosed space, which can be ignited by a lighting strike one mile away. It also causes metals to become brittle, so high tech materials are needed to use it. Insurance companies may refuse to insure people with H2 vehicles, as any leak in an enclosed parking lot or garage would easily be ignited causing a deadly, destructive explosion.

Besides, there is a far superior way to store H2, called Methanol, costs $1 per gallon, simple to produce by numerous methods including from H2 and waste CO2. Burns at 43% efficiency (H2 fuels cells are 50% efficient) in a simple Port Fuel Injection Turbocharged high Compression Spark Ignition engine and meets the tough Tier II New Low Emission Vehicle requirements. Easy to store & transport. Can be mixed in all proportions with ethanol & gasoline to facilitate a gradual change away from oil products. Six times the energy per liter of H2 compressed to 3000 psi. Whereas methanol is sold in grocery stores in flimsy plastic containers (they wouldn’t let you buy gasoline in those packages). People use it routinely in Northern Countries to add to their gas tanks to prevent gas line freeze-up. It would save many lives and the destruction of property in accidents, since it burns with a very cool flame. (that is why racing cars are required to burn it or a mix with ethanol). Also dissipates to atmosphere in a spill quickly, or can easily be washed down (mixes with water) no environmental damage, unlike petroleum. A far superior way to transport Natural Gas than LNG, safe and environmentally benign in a spill.


Once again the DOE funding nutty schemes of no practical merit whatsoever
But remember this is Las Vegas! Fortunately what happens here, stays here.


I love watching people get all fanboyishly frantic about something as dull and industrial as fuel.
h2 will do fine simply because alot of big rich powerful boring people are forcing it.
Fact is if enough rich boring people want it a car running on girraffe pee would SO,EHOW be made to work.

That is the true nature of mankind. We dont do what makes sense we make sense of what we do.

Because of the size of this market its obvious that many fuels will become multi billion even tri;;ion industries. IN such aplace even some rather odd fuels mihjt make millionaires.


Its one research project amongst a basket of other technologies being tested.Real world data is gathered.Aspects can be peeled away and used in electronics,stationary power and the like.The tech and data may sit until a future developement makes it practical.At least it is beginning to become one facet of the research instead of the whole enchilada as it became in the nineties and early twenty first century.
What if pv is greatly improved by 2020 and it can provide all your electric then switch to hydrogen generation to fuel your hydrogen fuel cell vehicle? Perhaps this would be practical in the southwest and ev powered by wind would work in the best wind corridors.I like the proliferation of research throughout all these universities and want many alernative arrows in the quiver.

DRD T-bone

Warren, ever been in the midst of a car running Methanol? Give that a shot, you may change your mind about that as an everyday fuel.


There is a way hydrogen could work as a transport fuel, but it would have to be part of a larger solution like (as someone mentioned) storing wind energy. Another idea is to use the cyrogenic temperatures of liquid hydrogen to keep a superconductor cool enough to transport electricity across the continent.
See here;


H2 generation already is saving some people alot of money in japan. This is because some sources of h2 are easy and cheap to convert and the result can replace some rather spendy energy soutces.
Also fot certain applications its realy the ONLY fuel.
If you want a no comptomises lux sports car or massive hummer by 2030 you will have to use h2. Cafe will strangle the entertainment car THE MONEY of carmaking.. but it wont strangle ev and h2 cars.
SO limted high milage not un to drive biofued cars for many of us.. ev xars for some of us and h2 cars for those with money and a passion for driving great cars.


If this is a 20kw PV system, just that might have cost $200k, with the other components maybe another $400k. Let's say you can go 300 miles per day from the H2 produced and we could do the functional equivalent with a 30 mpg vehicle using 10 gallons per day.

At $3 per gallon, that is a daily fuel cost of $30 times 250 work days for a fuel cost of $7500 per year. 30 years simple on $600k is $20k per year. So you would have to have quite a run up in gas prices to break even, but it is possible. This is why I say that you might want to wait a while to scale it up. PV and other component prices my drop and cross over the probable run up in oil prices.

What the price of oil will be in 30 years is anyones guess..and a pretty good reason for this web site :)


Thought some numbers might be relevant.

If you could make hydrogen from electrolysis at 100% efficiency then you'd need 37.4kWh per kg of hydrogen.

Lets, for arguments sake, assume an electrolysis efficiency of 75%

So now you need approx 50kWh per kg.

At, say, 7.5 cents per kWh you're looking at a cost of $3.75/kg.

Assume an electrolysis unit costs $300 per kW. A 2kW unit will produce about 0.88kg per day of H2.
Assume say, $1000 for a 2kWh unit plus storage tank and compressor. In reality you're likely to get economy of scale as you'd have a multi-megawatt unit at your average filling station.
So $1000 amortised over, say, 5 years, gives approx $280/year cost divided by about 280kg production, gives a cost of $1.14 per kg.

So the total cost will be $4.89 plus profit margin etc..

as 1 kg of h2 roughly = 4 litres of gasoline

equivelant cost = $1.22 litre.

Thats $4.64 per US gallon equivelant.

Expensive? Maybe, but its cheaper than European fuel is now.....

The big cost is the electrolysis unit. At the moment they're $thousands per kW capacity. That needs to fall to $hundreds per kW before we have a snowballs chance in hell of seeing H2 cars appearing.

I do think we'll see H2 cars. A few thousand extra dollars on a luxury car for a carbon fibre 200bar tank is nothing to the total purchase price, and it'll give the manufacturer a get-out-of-jail-free-card when it comes to CO2 emissions.

The H2 producers will strike deals with the utilities to purchase "nuclear" electricity in the same way that consumers can already choose "green" tariffs that guarantee a certain % of renewable kWh's in their power provision. This will sidestep the CO2 issue for the H2 producers.


Warren Heath

DRD T-bone, please don't hide behind vague innuendo's, if you have a point to make, just come out and say it. I assume you are talking about the aldehydes that are released in untreated exhaust from ethanol & methanol fuels. About 5 times that of diesel engines. Otherwise the exhaust is substantially less in CO, HC, SOx, NOx & PM. The aldehydes can be readily removed in a catalytic convertor, not-a-problem.

Warren Heath

Andy, your analysis has some difficulties. You are not counting compression losses. The actual power use of a solar hydrogen electrolysis is 65 kwh per kg.

Converted to electric power in a 50% efficient fuel cell (which ain’t cheap), that’s 16 kwh per kg.
i.e. 75% energy loss from electric energy to electric energy. That doesn’t include the inevitable losses due to H2 leakage and transportation (very difficult to transport). And then there is the ~8% loss in storing much of that energy in the H2 fuel cell vehicle battery. Thus we are at a maximum efficiency of 23% of input electric energy to vehicle electric energy.

Now taking that same solar power and sending it directly to a battery in a BEV or a PHEV, will result in 85% of input to output electric energy (i.e. the battery charging loss). So it takes at least 3.7 times the electric power to run the H2 vehicle as the BEV. In terms of range, the most optimistic DOE projections are a 300 mile range for the H2 vehicle. Battery vehicles are already being built with 350 mile range, and this with a trivial amount of real government funding (I’m not counting the USABC – US Anti-Battery Coalition funding), compared to the 10’s of billions that have been poured into H2 vehicle research. And we haven’t even begun the $1 trillion plus expenditure for H2 distribution & storage.

If you work the numbers with H2 ICE engine, you’ll be even worse off. So right off you are throwing out 4 times the CO2 emissions, then if you stuck with a BEV in the first place. And the BEV can easily be made as a PHEV, with a simple, cheap, efficient alcohol fueled generator as a range extender and get 800 miles range on a 15 gal cheapo plastic fuel tank. Maybe you’re in the bush, heck buy a tidy tank or a 45 gal plastic drum of alcohol just to be sure (you can always drink what you don’t use).

Also, I get a kick out of all these schemes for a carbon fibre 5,000 or 10,000 psi H2 tank when thousands of people are on workmen’s comp. from lugging 120 lb, 2300 psi gas cylinders around. Where are the lightweight gas cylinders to replace the awful, brute cylinders that are used by the millions in industry? And that with stiff safety regulations, you must not leave the regulators on the cylinders after use, you must keep the cylinders upright at all times, must be stored securely chained and the steel cap must be replaced after use. I would hate to see John Q Public using a 10,000 psi ultra-lightweight H2 (read high explosive) fuel tank. And you think Li-Ion batteries are a potential safety hazard?


PV-powered electrolysis, hmm ... where are they going to get the water?

Warren Heath

"I love watching people get all fanboyishly frantic about something as dull and industrial as fuel."

That dull & industrial fuel has caused how many oil wars? The latest oil company proxy war in Iraq will cost probably in excess of $1 trillion and maybe 5,000 American lives, not counting having giving Al Qaeda the greatest boost ever, and emboldened the Iran Wackos to be the regional power, soon to be nuclear armed. And that Iran problem, which may well lead to nuclear detonations in U.S. cities, was in itself caused by Oil Companies who had their U.S. & British government puppets, overthrow their legitimately elected government, replacing it with the much despised Shah, see Wikipedia "Operation Ajax".

That dull & industrial fuel has caused this most serious global warming problem, not to mention the millions who have died from the toxic exhaust fumes.

When you’re waiting in line at the gas pump for 10 hrs to get gasoline at $20 per gallon, that you can’t afford because your taxes (to pay for those oil wars & stupid pork barrel energy policies) have doubled, but that is the least of your worries with nuclear and radiological Islamic terrorism financed by your fuel purchases, putting your life in jeopardy.


The kwh needed to make h2 isnt static. It was near 100 back aways and now on many units its in the 50s. They even have a unit that is over 85 percent eff wich places it squarely in the 40s.
And for industrial users power isnt that spendy. We are talkimg 5 to 6 cents per kwh.

The goal they already laid out is h2 at the pup profitd and all for 3.5 bucks a kilo.
The same goal set has 75 percent eff electrolysis and fuel cells ad a compresser of a certain eff.

They alreadt surpassed all those goals.

So why isnt h2 here already? Simle the plan is long term and 2012-15 is innitial rollout date. They dont intend to fasttrack. They are in the cost reduction phase of the first phase of the plan. Thus fuel cells and elrctrolsys machines and storage systems ate a;; getting cheaper. What would have taken 10 million buck units now takes one 750k unit. By 2012 you can expect the units will output hundreds of kilos of h2 per day and cost under 2 mill and run at least 75 maybe even 85 eff to boot.

Now the likely outcome is gas goes to 4-5 bucks a gallon in next 7 years.. h2 crops up at 4-9 bucks a kilo dependng on sources.. And various cars and trucks will run on various fuels including h2 bio e85 e 100 b20-100 straight veg oil and various ev levels from mild to pure.
We will likely rnd u[ with h2 hummers and testarosas and various lux h2 cars,, plus many pure ev lux and sports cars and suvs.. and 0 gas or bio or disel suvs or lux or sports cars.


What a waste of hard won solar energy.

Make the engines out of platinum, and then throw away 80% of the energy before it even gets to the wheels. Yeah, that works out great. Not.


Warren, you managed to ignore one of the most important points of my post. H2 generation is likely to be carried out using nuclear generated electricity so that H2 vehicles can sidestep CO2 taxes/cap’n’trade.

Next point, cylinders. I’m not suggesting that these vehicles be hydrogen only. I’m also not proposing fuel cells. I put these in the same category as cheap everlasting batteries (ie, not here yet and not likely to either)

H2 vehicles will in be ICE and will in all likelihood have dual fuel capability so will be able to run on methanol/gasoline etc in the event of running out of H2. This is the same principle as CNG vehicles in Europe today. (Germany has 10’s of thousands of CNG light vehicles now).

So you’re point of lugging H2 cylinders about is largely moot. Plus in 10 years of driving I’ve never had to tank up a vehicle from a jerry can. This seems to be a peculiarly American problem.

Lastly, you’re point about batteries. This is my pet hate. Folk always bang on about battery efficiency and like to point out how expensive hydrogen is likely to be but then conveniently forget about the cost of batteries.

If you need a range of about 100 miles, you’re looking at a 25kWh battery. Assume that this will cost about $300 per kW. If your battery is being used as a BEV, then it’ll probably be shot inside 5 years. Even before finance costs your $7500 battery pack will cost you $1500 a year in depreciation. If hydrogen costs the same as $6 gallon gasoline then your $1500 would buy you 250 gallons equivalent. At 37 mpg equivalent that’s 9250 miles of driving to break even.

Sadly the $100 per kW, 10 year lifespan battery is not yet a reality. And I place it in the same category as fuel cells too. Highly qualified, experienced people have been working on batteries for quite some time. We’ve seen some phenomenal advances but yet, we’re still not there. We still need magnitude of order improvements in operational life and cost reductions. And I’m of the opinion that we’re already close to the edge of the envelope.

Tesla’s battery pack is reputed to cost $25,000 dollars and is predicted to last just 5 years. The cost will not fall as they’re already using mass produced cells. Anyone buying a Tesla, if they wish to sell it after 4-5 years then they’re going to have to replace the battery pack before resale, or accept that the next owner will expect a significant discount over and above the normal depreciation curve.

I would also argue that in the future, batteries are likely to be leased to consumers, therefore the total cost of battery ownership will be presented to them in the monthly lease cost. And I would wager that it will be a significant cost too.

hydrogen may not be efficient, but neither is crude oil, ICE and we run the whole damn world on them, so I guess it works.


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