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Here's why hydrogen-fueled cars aren't little Hindenburgs

Lucas Mearian | Nov. 27, 2014
Hydrogen is explosive, but supply is a bigger issue for the nascent industry.

The biggest challenge to hydrogen production today is cost. While hydrogen molecules may be virtually everywhere, separating them from other compounds can be more expensive than refining gasoline. For example, a kilogram of hydrogen gas contains roughly the same energy as a gallon of gasoline, but it costs more than twice as much to product, according to Kopasz.

A large part of the cost of hydrogen fuel, however, is the lack of existing infrastructure to produce it. That will change, as government programs, such as H2USA, push for the development of more hydrogen fuel resources.

H2USA is a new public-private partnership to address the key challenges of hydrogen infrastructure. Its mission is to promote the introduction and widespread adoption of fuel cell electric vehicles across the U.S.

By 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy believes the cost of hydrogen used in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) will be competitive on a cost-per-mile basis with the competing vehicles, such as gasoline in hybrid-electric vehicles.

But, the hydrogen fueling infrastructure is in its infancy. Refueling stations are few and far between. California is expected to build 28 stations by the end of 2016, bringing the state's total to 48 stations, according to Toyota spokeswoman Jana Hartline. Toyota has partnered with FirstElement Fuel to build refueling stations in California and with hydrogen fuel provider Air Liquide to build a network of 12 stations throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island next year.

"The advantage of hydrogen fueling stations is that there's really a global standard that doesn't require specific tooling. Cars will be able to refuel anywhere, all the nozzles will be the same," said IHS analyst Devin Lindsay.


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