Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hydrogen Fuel Prices at the Pump and Costs to Consumers

Right now, consumers can convert their own cars, trucks and other vehicles to run on hydrogen. Or they can become a part of Project Driveway and test drive a vehicle for free for several months or they can become part of the Honda FCX Clarity program and lease a hydrogen fuel cell car for around $600 per month.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself driving a hydrogen car, the first question you may ask is about where you would go to find a hydrogen fueling station. This hydrogen fuel locator page lists several resources that will aid in this endeavor.
Another question frequently asked is how much does a person pay at the pump for compressed hydrogen fuel? Now, this has nothing to do with the costs to produce hydrogen as this is a whole different discussion, too lengthy to take on here.
But, since I was curious about the price at the pump charged for compressed hydrogen gas I made a few phone calls, sent a few emails and even Tweeted in order to take a survey.
According to the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) listed in Twitter, “In CA, you can’t sell hydrogen as a retail fuel. The regulations 2 allow retail sales are expected to be complete within the next 18 months.”
So I asked about the hydrogen fueling station in Irvine, California (which at least a couple of years ago when I was there) had a posted price of $4.99 per kilogram (equivalent to a gallon), and CaFCP replied, “The price is there as an educational tool to show what the cost of h2 can be and to give the station a realistic feel.”
So, I decided to call the West Los Angeles Shell Station, which is a regular gas station in Santa Monica, California that also has a hydrogen pump. I asked Nely Lopez, who works at the station what the price is at the pump and he told me that for now hydrogen is free, but he doesn’t know how long it will stay this way.
Since Shell has U. S. hydrogen fueling stations in California, New York and Washington, DC I decided to call their national headquarters in Houston, Texas to see if hydrogen fuel was free at all Shell stations nationwide.
I talked to Jerry Wilt who said he was in charge of the Shell Hydrogen program. He told me that hydrogen fuel was indeed free right now at all of the Shell hydrogen fueling stations and pumps while they were in the demo phase. He didn’t know how long this phase would last, however.
But, though I did find out that hydrogen fuel was free at these stations, I also found out that free hydrogen was not true for all stations in the U. S. When I contacted Tony Lindsay, R&D Manager, Hydrogen and Advanced Technology, he told me a different story for his hydrogen pump.
Mr. Lindsay told me about his hydrogen station in Des Plaines, Illinois just outside of Chicago, “We have set the price at $3.49 per kg because this was our calculated goal of production from our on-site small scale steam methane reformer (based on $0.60 per therm natural gas).”
Because hydrogen fuel cell cars and refueling stations are considered emerging technologies right now, there is no across the board standardization in the U. S. marketplace. Whereas hydrogen fuel prices at the pump in one location may be free, another one may charge. This will work itself in the months and years to come as hydrogen used as fuel becomes more standardized and more of a norm and less of a demonstration as it is right now. Read more.

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