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FirstElement Fuel’s California hydrogen network receives $24M from Mitsui and Air Liquide; quadrupling its retail capacity

FirstElement Fuel has secured $24 million to help fund the growth of its True Zero Hydrogen Network of retail stations in California, and thereby quadruple the company’s capacity to dispense retail hydrogen to customers of fuel cell electric vehicles. FirstElement Fuel’s retail hydrogen network is the largest in the world today.

The growth funding from Mitsui Group’s U.S. based subsidiary Hy Solution, Inc. and Air Liquide, with each company providing $12 million, will expand its capacity from the ability to serve 7,000 fuel cell electric vehicles to more than 28,000 vehicles.


True Zero station in Mill Valley.

American, Japanese, and French companies are coming together to invest in a retail hydrogen network that is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. This shows the critical role that California is playing in a global energy transformation, and it’s based on a business case that allows us to expand and drive down the price of hydrogen fuel, all with a road to profitability and sustainability.

—Joel Ewanick, Founder & CEO of FirstElement Fuel Inc.

As a result of policies and investments from the Energy Commission and Air Resources Board, the State of California has helped zero-emission hydrogen vehicles get an early boost. Now California’s position as a global leader in fuel cell electric vehicle deployment is unlocking private investment dollars from multi-national companies such as Mitsui Group and Air Liquide as the hydrogen vehicle market positions itself for more aggressive growth.

Leading up to this round of funding, FirstElement Fuel has grown its True Zero Network in California, today the largest retail hydrogen network in the world, with financial assistance from the California Energy Commission, Toyota, Honda, the South Coast AQMD, and the Bay Area AQMD.

California is committed to developing a robust hydrogen refueling network that will support the deployment of zero-emission fuel cell electric vehicles. Private investments such as those announced today, represent a tremendous opportunity to accelerate California’s transition to a zero-emission transportation market, which in turn helps the state meet its air quality standards and achieve its climate change goals.

—California Energy Commission Vice Chair, Janea A. Scott

Further bolstering the growth of California’s fuel cell electric vehicle market, FirstElement Fuel entered into a long-term supply agreement for liquid hydrogen with Air Liquide, which last November committed $150 million of investment to build a hydrogen production facility for the zero-emission hydrogen vehicle market.

The use of liquid hydrogen for distribution and on-site storage significantly enhances the efficiency of FirstElement Fuel’s operations and puts the company on a path to significantly scale up the performance of its stations while reducing the price of retail hydrogen to the customer.

Currently FirstElement Fuel operates 19 of its True Zero retail hydrogen stations with 12 more under development. The True Zero Network of stations spans from San Diego, throughout Orange County, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, and out to Santa Barbara and Lake Tahoe.

Since the opening of its first station in January 2016, the True Zero Network has completed more than 300,000 successful fills, replaced more than 65 million gasoline miles with zero emission fuel cell miles, and avoided more than 41 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions (in CO2 equivalence).



This is part of the network detractors claimed would never be built, and that the hydrogen thing was merely a diversion by big oil.

Note that if you want true zero emissions, this provides it, whereas you can't get that by plugging in, just offsets,

Also of note is that this co-ordinates well with the investments being made by Toyota and Hyundai to lift production of FCEVs by an order of magnitude by the early 2020's

So hydrogen and fuel cells are happening, when numerous bloggers claimed they knew better as a result of their back of the envelope calculations and consequent musings.


Good news for near future FCEVs, lower cost clean H2 production and distribution, future H2 economy, California, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Mitsui, Air Liquid and First-Element Fuel.

The accelerated growth of the True Zero H2 station Network is very encouraging. Anti-H2 prophets may have to take notice?


Davemart, I'm curious about your definition of "success" here.  So far the on-road HFCV fleet in the USA has gotten up to a whole 6500 or so over 6 years, and the Hyundai Tucson appears to be out of production.

Boost that by an order of magnitude and you get 65000 in the next 6 years, or about 11,000 a year.  The PEV market in the USA is already almost 2 orders of magnitude bigger than THAT.

That said, I'm wondering about the financial numbers for this expansion.  $24 million to serve an additional 21,000 vehicles is about $1140 per vehicle.  This is considerably lower than previous figures.  What's different?

Account Deleted

It is difficult to estimate the construction and operating costs of FirstElement Fuel H2 stations. FirstElement Fuel acknowledges support from the State of California and the automakers committed to fuel-cell vehicles. For example, in 2014 Honda contributed $13.8 million and the California Energy Commission gave a grant of $27 million.
Here is one example, the Coalinga FirstElement Fuel station cost $2,158,999.82 and the California Energy Commission Grant was $1,451,000.00 (reference: https://www.energy.ca.gov/2016publications/CEC-600-2016-001/CEC-600-2016-001.pdf). FirstElement also receives grants to cover operation and maintenance costs for the hydrogen refueling station (https://www.energy.ca.gov/business_meetings/2016_minutes/2016-01-13_minutes.pdf)
This is a great business model!


I’m sure those 6,500 H2 drivers will appreciate 12 new stations online statewide. San Diego currently has one H2 station for a 100x100 mile area. Maybe we’ll get two or three.


The $24 million does not seem to be the whole cost.

That said, as volumes increase and experience, the costs of hydrogen infrastructure is falling rapidly.

For instance a hydrogen station factory is being built in Europe with a capacity to turn out 300 stations a year.

At that scale costs drop.

They are never going to be at the level of the old petrol station builds, which were done without regard for leakage etc, but the relatively clean nature of hydrogen means that costs should come down to around the price of a modern petrol station, which needs proper environmental safeguards against leaks etc.


Hydrogen needs environmental safeguards too.  Low ignition energy aside, the molecule is fairly stable until it gets into a region of shortwave UV, meaning the stratosphere.  Widespread use of hydrogen means a lot more getting into the stratosphere, where it will react to make water and produce clouds.  High-altitude clouds are cold and radiate poorly to space, and the net effect is climate warming.



Where does this comment come from?

Note that if you want true zero emissions, this provides it, whereas you can't get that by plugging in, just offsets.

Even if you use zero emission power to create the hydrogen you are just displacing the dirty power that will be used for other purposes and almost all hydrogen is made with steam reforming of methane anyway. One of the problems with hydrogen fuel cells vehicles is that the overall efficiency is about half that of a comparable battery electric vehicle. And while California may have closed all of their coal fired electric generation, they are still buying coal fired electricity from Utah and Nevada and I am one of the down-winders.


“while California may have closed all of their coal fired electric generation, they are still buying coal fired electricity from Utah and Nevada and I am one of the down-winders.”

....and New Mexico but don’t blame CA. Each of these refused lucrative early buyouts. It is the locals that are resisting. Regardless.

More than half of our imported coal power will cease in a few months when NGS shuts down in December.

Coal electricity imports will drop more than half again in 2021 when SJGS shutters in New Mexico. Utah’s Intermountain plant will stop burning coal in 2024 and that will be the last of the coal sourced electricity for CA.

Actually we don’t get electricity generated in Nevada. I think you mean Arizona from NGS.



I was thinking of the 2-unit coal-fired plant in North Valmy, NV but maybe most of the power goes to Nevada and Idaho but of course it is feeding the grid. Apparently Unit 1 is supposed to close this year But Unit 2 is not scheduled to close until 2025. Also, it is apparently used mostly in the summer to meet peak loads.



Still trying to figure out the true zero emissions comment.

I knew that the IPP near Delta, UT was mostly shipping power to CA.


H2 being a clean storable energy, production during surplus/excess clean energy periods from REs, i.e. during low consumption periods, will not tax the grid and/or demand on fossil fuel power generation plants. All CPPs will eventually be phase out.

Basically, H2 adjustable production facilities will become great storage facilities for various lower cost clean REs?

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