November 5, 2010



The cost and logistics of building early hydrogen refueling infrastructure are key barriers to the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles. In this paper, we explore a “ cluster strategy” for introducing hydrogen vehicles and refueling infrastructure in Southern California over the next decade, to satisfy California’ s Zero Emission Vehicle regulation. Clustering refers to coordinated introduction of hydrogen vehicles and refueling infrastructure in a few focused geographic areas such as smaller cities (e.g. Santa Monica, Irvine) within a larger region (e.g. Los Angeles Basin). We analyze several transition scenarios for introducing hundreds to tens of thousands of vehicles and 8 to 40 stations, considering:

• Station placement
• Convenience of the refueling network
• Type of hydrogen supply
• Economics (capital and operating costs of stations, hydrogen cost).

A cluster strategy provides good convenience and reliability with a small number of strategically placed stations, reducing infrastructure costs. A cash flow analysis estimates infrastructure investments of $120-170 million might be needed to build a network of 42 stations serving the first 25,000 vehicles. As more vehicles are introduced, the network expands, larger stations are built and the cost of hydrogen becomes competitive on a cents per mile basis with gasoline.

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