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Honda to provide $13.8M to FirstElement Fuel to support build out of California hydrogen refueling infrastructure

Seeking to expand California’s public hydrogen refueling station network as a means to support the wider introduction of fuel-cell vehicles, Honda will provide $13.8 million in financial assistance to FirstElement Fuel to build additional hydrogen refueling stations around the state. Additional state grants, combined with the Honda financing, could enable FirstElement to add at least 12 stations to its California hydrogen network.

FirstElement received grants totaling nearly $27 million from the California Energy Commission earlier this year to build a network of 19 stations around the state. The state of California has a plan to invest $200 million into hydrogen station development over the next several years. This financial support from Honda, along with anticipated future grants from the State of California, will allow FirstElement to expand its network of stations by more than 50%, to at least 31 stations.

(In May, Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) and its affiliate Toyota Motor Credit Corporation (TMCC) entered into a group of financial agreements with FirstElement Fuel Inc. (FE) to support the long-term operation and maintenance expenses of new hydrogen refueling stations in California. Earlier post.)

FirstElement Fuel is providing a vital piece of what is needed for a successful launch of fuel-cell vehicles. Through this collaboration, FirstElement will enable our customers to experience hydrogen refueling that is as reliable, convenient and consumer-friendly as the vehicles are.

—Steven Center, vice president of Honda’s Environmental Business Development Office

FirstElement Fuel is striving to create the first true retail hydrogen refueling network by developing and operating stations in California’s metro areas, as well as in connector and destination locations. The company’s goal is for drivers of fuel-cell vehicles to be able to travel seamlessly throughout the state, just as they are able a conventional gasoline vehicle today. As one of the leaders in the development of fuel cells, Honda has advocated for a robust and comprehensive network of hydrogen refueling stations to serve its customers.

Honda has worked for nearly two decades in the development and deployment of fuel-cell technology through extensive real world testing, including the first government fleet deployment and first retail customer lease programs in the United States. Honda has also made significant technological advancements in fuel cell operation in both hot and sub-freezing temperatures and in meeting safety regulations, since the introduction of its first generation fuel-cell vehicle, the FCX, in 2002. Honda launched its more recent fuel-cell vehicle, the FCX Clarity, in July 2008.

On 17 November 2014, Honda unveiled the FCV Concept in Japan, pointing the way to an all-new Honda fuel-cell vehicles slated for launch first in Japan by March 2016 followed by launches in the US and Europe.

Honda’s next-generation fuel-cell vehicle will feature a fuel-cell powertrain packaged completely in the engine room of the vehicle, allowing for efficiencies in cabin space as well as flexibility in the potential application of fuel-cell technology to multiple vehicle types in the future. The next-generation Honda FCV is anticipated to have a driving range of more than 300 miles.



At that rate, California may have up to 100 H2 stations by 2020.

If so, FCEVs could operate with easy throughout the State before 2020.


Some say oil companies are behind hydrogen, I don't think so. For the first time Honda, Hyundai, Daimler and others can get a piece of the fuel business. In 5-10 years the car owner can spend as much for fuel as for the car. If I were a car maker, I would want to sell the fuel as well.

Decades ago oil could have gotten into ethanol, whether grain, then cellulose or synthesizing from natural gas...but NO..they had to fight it with expensive lobbyists. Some times capitalist activity makes no sense, they work AGAINST their better interests in favor of short term dull so called "thinking".



The DOE states that approximately 95% of hydrogen is produced from conventional natural gas feedstocks (associated gas, now hydraulic fracturing, etc.). I would differ that oil companies hold considerable interest in expanding H2 production and in fact, expanding H2 production may help to increase the market prices of natural gas, in turn benefiting the oil companies.


Bob Wallace

If anyone is working behind the scenes to promote FCEVs it's most likely the natural gas industry.

Our H2 supply will come from methane. It won't be green energy, but another opportunity for the gas industry to sell product.

I'm not saying that I think anyone is necessarily pushing H2 FCEVs in secret. I think what has happened is that a few years back batteries didn't look promising and H2 looked like a reasonable way to replace petroleum.

Car companies set up divisions to develop FCEVs and these operations developed power and momentum. EVs have appeared to be viable only in the last 2 or 3 years. Nissan Leaf sales started in the last two weeks of 2010 and the first Tesla Model S deliveries were in June 2012.

Probably less than two years ago was it obvious that EVs were for real and coming on strong. FCEV programs were underway and probably operating with a certain amount of denial about what they were facing.

I think what we're seeing is the continued growth of an evolutionary branch that will, with a little more time, wither and die. But that's my opinion. I'm very happy to be proven wrong if FCEVs can prove to provide us a cheaper way off petroleum and high CO2 emissions. (Moving to methane does not count.)



FCEV's may indeed die off as an application for fuel cell technology. On the other hand, fuel cells will become an integral part for power/electricity generation across a variety of scales.

GE is incorporating fuel cells into it's next generation systems: http://www.gereports.com/post/92454271755/the-new-power-generation-this-fuel-cell-startup-could

-61% fuel to electricity (gas turbine w/ Rankine cycle + fuel cell).
-65% fuel to electricity (49% IC engine + 5% Rankine bottoming cycle + fuel cell).

It is nice to see this technology begin to improve our energy conversion efficiencies.



Oil companies used to scoff at NG, then they longed to get into NG. Car companies could have gotten into NG decades ago when the getting was good. Chevron and Exxon now have large positions in NG, but many producers are smaller companies who can be acquired.

Sure refineries make H2 to crack with, but they do not have H2 refueling stations, refineries are not in the business, but they could be. Petcoke can easily be reformed into fuels, H2 or both, but they would rather sell boat loads to India where it is thrown into furnaces to make electricity.

Bob Wallace

Whit, I don't know what the future will hold for fuel cells.

I'm not seeing a likely future for them with personal transportation. Or even large scale transportation for that matter. Battery swapping for large trucks would likely beat out fuel cells.

Where I can see a possible future for fuel cells is "the last 10%" - deep backup for the grid. As storage prices drop it will likely be most price efficient to run the grid with mostly wind, solar and storage. But storing out past a couple days of low wind and solar input gets expensive. We will probably need some sort of dispatchable generation that can be turned on a handful of times a year and run for a few days at most.

Whatever that generation is it needs to have the right combination of low capex and easy to store, not expensive fuel.

H2 is harder to store than, say, bio-oil. And harder to store than synthetic fuels. Oil and other liquid fuels can be stored in simple, non-pressurized tanks or even "holes in the ground".

Will fuel cells be cheaper than turbines that can burn oil? The overnight cost of a CCNG plant is pretty low, just over $1/watt. Capex is very important because these generators will be sitting idle most of the time, thus will have few hours per year to recapture fixed costs.

Will it be cheaper to produce H2 using renewable energy or to produce bio-oil or some sort of synthetic fuel? H2 back to electricity is very lossy. Is there a biofuel or synthetic fuel that can be used in fuel cells as efficiently as combined-cycle plants?

I'd say we're a few years away from understanding what sort of future fuel cells might have.


"FirstElement Fuel is providing a vital piece of what is needed for a successful launch of fuel-cell vehicles..."

It is good to see Honda, Toyota and others getting involved, the public sector can not do it all. That would be like everyone expecting Federal and State government to build all the fueling stations 100 years ago, not realistic.

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