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Houston start-up proposes different approach to hydrogen refueling: thousands of small networked outlets and smart app

A Houston, Texas start-up is proposing a different approach to building out a hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Instead of relying on a series of heavily-subsidized “mega-stations”, Hydrogen-XT is proposing combining many small, inexpensive fueling outlets that reform hydrogen from natural gas with intelligent software that locates the stations and displays fuel availability, reserves the amount a customer wants, routes the customer to the selected station, and then completes the transaction, all on a smartphone or infotainment system.

Hydrogen-XT said its station is designed to be extremely cost-effective, estimated to be 100-times less expensive than conventional H2 stations available today. The station is also easily upgraded due to its modular design.

Hydrogen-XT is the product of 12 years’ worth of research and development by energy industry software engineer Robert Wise and energy industry procurement specialist Kenneth Templeton.

Their patent application on the basics of the Fuel Distribution Network is available here.



In other words, FCVs are just going to be NGVs.

Nick Lyons

Works for Exxon, BP, Shell, etc.


Could this be one of the lower cost solution for future H2 stations?

The same could probably be done using clean electricity/H2 converter stations?


Think of it as NG without the combustion but the convenience of Starbucks.

Rob Wise

Engineer Poet, FCV will still be FCV, the challenge of a Hydrogen Infrastructure has never been technical, but rather, Economic, the stations but be small enough and inexpensive enough to be easily distributable, to grow an infrastructure at a pace and cost that works for all. Nick, yes the energy companies will benefit, it would be almost impossible to move forward with a bridge technology without them. Harvey a great deal of progress has been done in electric from H2, Clear Edge Power has some great solutions for many applications. SJC, i think of it as the bridge to a cleaner version ahead of us.


Rob, what is the likely cost of a kg of hydrogen to the consumer at current NG prices using your fueling station? (a range would be a useful answer).


Rob, in the long run, when clean electricity (Hydro, Solar, Wind, Nuke) will be plentiful and low cost, conversion to and from H2 will become very competitive and common place.

H2 may become a valuable widely used energy storage medium. Large FCs may be used to meet peak electricity demands. Small FCs will become common power units for Extended range EVs.

Future H2 stations may be much cheaper (and cleaner) than many expect.


Here are the DOE figures for hydrogen production costs as at 2011 for a variety of sources and both distributed and central production.

11-6 shows the bottom line, for production but not including distribution and compression and so on.

In view of the ~twice the mileage from fuel cell vehicles compared to the petrol equivalent hydrogen from natural gas on a per mile basis is competitive right now, for a range of NG prices up to around $8 MMBTU.

Hydrogen from electrolysis both grid and renewables are projected to bee competitive by 2020.


I meant to say this is for a volume of 1500kg/dy.

Roger Pham

>>>>"In other words, FCVs are just going to be NGVs."

Not just NGV's. In California, H2 stations provide H2 from a variety of sources such as solar, biogas, and methane reformation. In other words, FCV's are really FFV's (Flexible-Fuel Vehiles) and is great for energy security and petroleum independency. People from different regions of the world with different energy sources can all use FCV's efficiently and economically.

Please note that in Houston, solar and wind energies are not economical in comparison to NG, hence the use of NG reformation there. However, in California, Hawaii, Europe, etc., things are different, and H2 will be produced from diverse renewable sources.

The fact that most major auto mfg's are going to offer commercially-available FCV's means that FCV's can be mass produced at affordable prices.


But we hear that proton exchange membranes are the best type of fuel cell, but are expensive, degraded by the inevitable heat of combustion, and have about 2000 hours of performance. So what progress has been made? And how many types of alternatives to the ICE can an auto market support?


It is not the heat of combustion in a fuel cell, it is the heat of reaction. Fuel cells give off heat, electrolyzers take in heat.

Davemart, the link pasted in your reply is the link to this page. Perhaps you meant to past the one to the 2011 DOE study?

Rob Wise, your "different approach" seems to be a PlugShare style app for finding fueling stations that are operated by small independents. Presumably these independents would be capitalizing the station and hoping to recoup the cost over time by fuel and related sales. What are you estimating the cost of fuel and the margin for these independent operators?

Here are the references I am working from:

Projected costs of hydrogen (assuming high-volume production and widespread deployment) have been reduced to approximately <$2.00/gallon gasoline equivalent (gge) produced (<~$4.00/gge produced, delivered and dispensed), for a wide range of natural gas prices—a cost that is competitive with gasoline.




Who is going to buy this $4gge H2 fuel when the EV fuel equivalent is $1gge, the cost of the vehicle is lower, and most people have EV fueling options at home and/or work?

Better, more recent figures:

Hydrogen produced and dispensed in distributed facilities at high-volume refueling stations using current technology and DOE’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2009 projected prices for industrial natural gas result in a hydrogen levelized cost of $4.49 per gallon-gasoline-equivalent (gge) (untaxed) including compression, storage and dispensing costs.

"As a point of reference, hydrogen (likely from natural gas) sold for $8.18 per kilogram at the Washington, D.C. Benning Road Shell fueling station in September 2008. Moreover, hydrogen produced from hydroelectric power sold for $6.28 per kilogram in Norway back in May."

Roger Pham


Your quote for H2 is analogous to quoting the price of flat-panel TV 10-15 years ago (or PC or memory chips etc) and expect it to stay the same today. Long-term stabilized prices will likely be many folds lower than initial pricing.

The retail price of electricity is a very stable commodity for over many decades. The initial prices of H2 cannot be compared to the stabilized retail pricing of electricity.

For H2 produced from NG, the price of NG is now around $5-8 per MMBtu (293 kWh). Let's pick the $8/293 kWh. Using steam methane reformation at 70% efficiency, this will jack up the energy cost of the H2 to $8/ 0.70 = $11.42/293 kWh, then compressing this H2 to 700 bar will take away 10% of the energy, so $11.42/.9 = $12.7/293kWh. So, each kWh of H2 will have an energy cost of 0.043/kWh...Adding profit and amortization cost of equipments and the number will get higher, perhaps to
$0.06/kWh...for H2-FCV
This, in comparison to average retail electricity in the USA to be $0.12/kWh. With loss in the charger and rectifier, the energy cost of charging BEV may be around
$0.14/kWh...for BEV

Who will pay more for energy cost?
And who can say that the purchasing cost of FCV's will be higher than the purchasing cost of BEV's?


Clean energy is getting cheaper every year and so will H2 from clean energy sources, specially stored H2 for intermittent clean e-energy sources.

Solar light (energy) is and will always be free and plentiful 6 to 10 hours/day in many places. Why not use it to make clean H2, store it and use it for clean transportation (FCEVs) and clean electricity for BEVs and for the grid to meet peak demands?

Soon, transparent flexible solar cells, integrated into vehicle's hood, roof, booth, front and rear windows will capture enough solar energy to run accessories and help to extend the range of BEVs and FCEVs. Less heavy EV batteries may be required.

Roger Pham

Use solar energy to make H2 where solar energy is economical and use wind where wind is economical, and NG where NG is available at low cost, and nuclear energy where nuclear is available in excess of baseload. Houston is not known for reliable sunlight nor reliable wind energy.

The main message is whatever the primary source of energy, H2 will be the most efficient and least expensive chemical fuel that can be made. Synthetic hydrocarbon fuels are more costly to make and less efficient, but can use existing infrastructure and can be stored and transported easier than H2. Still, people who prefer to drive ICEV will continue to be able to do so with synthetic hydrocarbon fuels in the future at no higher cost than they are paying for petroleum today.


RP...clean electricity can very easily be transported long distances by high voltage lines, so places without good winds and/or good sun shine can also benefit.

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