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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Bridging the Gap Between Transportation and Stationary Power: Hydrogen Energy Stations and their Implications for the Transportation Sector


In the past two years, the Federal and California State governments have announced initiatives to invest in the development of hydrogen fueling infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles. Industry and government are now working together to determine cost-effective strategies for accomplishing this task. Key concerns are 1) high hydrogen cost, 2) equipment under-utilization while vehicle demand is low, and 3) high fuel cell costs when production volumes are low. A new infrastructure option is emerging (in the RD&D phase) that addresses these concerns by combining stationary power production with vehicle fueling. This new option of "energy stations" (E-Stations) could have significant implications for traditional fueling paradigms since these stations link vehicle-fueling facilities to stationary power production sites.

This paper explores the potential use of E-Stations for hydrogen infrastructure development and potential implications for the transportation sector. It characterizes the range of E-Station design configurations and identifies promising applications for each configuration. The applications are matched with E-Station attributes to assess the market potential of the stations. Estimated hydrogen costs for these stations are presented and compared to fueling-only hydrogen stations. The paper explores the implications that this new fueling paradigm may have on key stakeholders in the transportation sector. It concludes by identifying issues and areas of uncertainty critical to E-Station success. Though further analysis is needed to assess the economics of various station designs and settings, we find that the emerging trend in small-scale distributed power generation may increase hydrogen's probability of success as a transportation fuel.

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