The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has released the 2023 issue of its Annual Evaluation of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Deployment and Hydrogen Fuel Station Network Development, pursuant to the requirements of Assembly Bill 8 (2013). This report is the tenth annual publication.
The Annual Evaluations provide CARB’s latest assessment of California’s on-road fuel cell electric vehicle fleet, auto manufacturer projections for future deployment volumes in California, and progress in development of California’s hydrogen fueling station network.
CARB noted that there are many challenges and vulnerabilities in the industry, particularly evident in the past year. Some progress has slipped in the past year, especially station economics, prices paid by consumers at the pump, the pace of new station development, and the rate of procuring renewable and low-carbon hydrogen for sale at retail stations.
Developments in the last half of 2023 have significantly altered the outlook for future progress, CARB said. Co-funding for 100 hydrogen fueling stations was met well before the Clean Transportation Program’s previous sunset date of January 1, 2024. Station developers previously expected 100 or more stations open by the end of 2023; now all signals show that 2025 is the earliest that can be achieved.
Some station developers have cited economic and political uncertainty, which may have contributed to the recent cancellation of nearly one-third (51) of the tracked station development projects. These developments currently leave California without a clear pathway to 200 hydrogen fueling stations by 2025, though there is potential for future progress through extended funding provided by AB 126 (Reyes, Chapter 319, Statutes of 2023) and the newly awarded ARCHES hydrogen hub in California.
The main findings of the report include:
California’s hydrogen fueling network has grown to 65 stations, with 59 Open-Retail stations available for customer fueling as of August 10, 2023. Open-Retail stations have the ability to provide a fueling experience similar to conventional fuels, where drivers can pull up next to a hydrogen fuel dispenser at a retail fueling station, pay with their preferred method of payment, and fuel their vehicle. The remaining six stations are considered Temporarily Non-Operational5 since they have been unavailable for an extended period and may eventually return to Open-Retail status.
Hydrogen station development timelines remain a significant barrier to network growth rate and contribute to a delay in network growth projections of one to two years.
2025 is the earliest that California’s 100th hydrogen fueling station will open and there is currently no definitive, established path to a 200-station goal
New hydrogen station locations proposed in the past year will enhance network coverage in and near disadvantaged communities.
Needs for expanded network coverage continue to span regions and communities across the state.
Auto manufacturer projections for future FCEV sales reflect the recent shifts in station development timelines. projections for on-road FCEVs informed by the CARB annual survey process show that auto manufacturers anticipate a one-year delay in near- and long-term FCEV sales compared to prior projections. The updated projection for on-road FCEVs in 2029 is 62,600 vehicles, which is nearly the same as the previously reported estimate of 65,500 on-road FCEVs in 2028. The current projection of 34,900 on-road FCEVs in 2026 is similarly nearly the same as the previously reported estimate of 34,500 on-road FCEVs in 2025. The average rate of future FCEV sales reported in the 2023 annual survey is also lower than the prior two annual surveys (but still higher than any survey prior to 2021).
Projected total statewide network capacity will outpace hydrogen fueling demand through the end of the decade, though station reliability plays a significant role in assessing sufficient fueling capacity relative to demand.
Hydrogen production continues to leverage renewable assets at rates higher than required by SB 1505 but may be challenged by recent economic factors.