ARB report: 1,600 fuel cell vehicles in California, 29 stations active; need to accelerate station deployment
As of 5 April 2017, California has more than 1,600 fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) with active registrations with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), according to the 2017 issue of its Annual Evaluation of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment and Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development released by the California Air Resources Board (ARB). This represents a net addition of 1,300 FCEVs (1,600 currently registered vs. 331 at the same time last year.
The report also identified 29 currently Open-Retail hydrogen fueling stations from as far south as San Diego, to the coastline in Santa Barbara, and as far to the northeast as Truckee. This represents an increase of 9 fueling stations since June 2016.
In addition to pre-commercial FCEV models, there are now three commercial-era production models on California’s roads, with at least three more expected in the near future.
ARB projects that a total of 13,400 FCEVs will be driving in California by 2020, and 37,400 by 2023. These projections represent slower growth than in earlier estimates (37,400 FCEVs are now projected on-the-road in 2023, compared to the previous estimate of 34,300 by 2021), but it is ARB’s understanding and estimation that they are largely in reaction to missed projections for the pace of hydrogen fueling station development.
|Current and projected on-road FCEV populations and comparison to previously collected and reported projections. Source: ARB. Click to enlarge.
ARB expects continued expansion of the fueling market, and corresponding growth in deployed FCEVs, to continue throughout the rest of 2017 and beyond. The total number of Open-Retail stations may increase to 34 by the end of this year. The stations that may open between now and the close of the year will expand fueling coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area, communities surrounding Torrance, and within the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino.
In addition, the Energy Commission’s February 2017 announcement of proposed awards for 16 new stations will both expand coverage and build redundancy in many major first adopter markets across the state.
There is much to celebrate about these accomplishments, but there is also a renewed sense of urgency among stakeholders in the hydrogen and FCEV industries. Infrastructure development and FCEV deployment rates are mutually dependent on one another; slower-than-expected growth in the hydrogen fueling network may lead to delays in FCEV deployment. For this reason, although the last year has seen tremendous growth in the on-the-road FCEV population, auto manufacturer feedback to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) indicates more limited future FCEV deployment plans than previously reported, at least until hydrogen station network development can accelerate.
… Accelerated station development through the remainder of the AB 8 program may re-energize these vehicle deployment projections.—“Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment and Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development”
|Projected hydrogen demand and fueling capacity, given business as usual assumptions in state incentive programs. Source: ARB. Click to enlarge.
ARB further notes that the state’s hydrogen network may face a shortage in hydrogen production capacity, especially for hydrogen produced in-state and with large contributions from renewable resources. The report finds that industry stakeholders are increasingly sharing the expressed desires of their customers to make the greatest environmental impact possible by choosing to drive an FCEV. Continued adoption of the vehicles may rely critically on ensuring the availability of renewably-sourced hydrogen at a reasonable, competitive market-driven price.
Incentives such as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard may help build industry interest in establishing new hydrogen production facilities in California, especially for low-carbon production methods, ARB suggests.
Even with reduced vehicle projections, local and network-wide hydrogen fueling capacity are still expected to become a cause for concern around 2021 under business-as-usual station network growth assumptions. Additionally, the revised projection for network growth anticipates 94 stations by the end of 2023, if the State were to proceed at the current pace with the current station capabilities. The 100 stations referenced in AB 8 would be funded by this time, with some stations remaining in development at least through the bill’s expiration date of January 1, 2024. GFO 15-605 resulted in meaningful advances, with much larger stations than previously awarded becoming a new standard. GFO 15-605 also implemented enforcement of critical milestones for awarded stations (pre-application meetings with authorities having jurisdiction for permitting and appropriate entities for granting site control) to ensure faster and more successful station development than previously exhibited.
Additional methods to maintain momentum and further accelerate overall station network growth rate may still be necessary, possibly through implementation of new funding structure(s) as appropriate to match the fully commercial phase of today’s hydrogen fueling and FCEV markets. A new business-as-usual case, with more stations funded per year due to decreasing costs and build times, may become apparent through future analyses such as the upcoming 2017 Joint Agency Staff Report. ARB recommends that the State agencies currently working toward this goal work closely with station developers to identify an appropriate resolution.—“Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment and Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development”