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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Analysis of Near-Term Hydrogen Vehicle Rollout Scenarios for Southern California


There is rapid, ongoing progress in development of both fuel cell vehicle technology, and hydrogen refueling systems. Although hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles are not yet ready for full commercial deployment, they are ready to take the next step toward commercialization. This is widely seen as a “networked demonstration” in a localized region or “lighthouse city,” involving hundreds to thousands of vehicles and an early network of tens of refueling stations. Because of California’s ZEV regulation, Southern California has been proposed as an ideal site for this early introduction of hydrogen vehicles and is a major focus of interest worldwide.

Developing a successful early hydrogen refueling network in Southern California, even at the relatively small scale envisioned for 2009-2017, requires a coordinated strategy, where vehicles and stations are introduced together. A major question is how many stations to build, what type of stations, and where to locate them. Key concerns include fuel accessibility, customer convenience, quality of refueling experience, network reliability, cost, and technology choice.

In this paper, a strategy of “clustering” is explored. Clustering refers to the focused introduction of hydrogen vehicles in defined geographic areas such as smaller cities (e.g. Santa Monica, Irvine) within a larger region (e.g. LA Basin). By focusing initial customers in a few small areas, station infrastructure can be similarly focused, reducing the number of stations necessary to achieve a given level of convenience as measured by the travel time from home to the nearest station and “diversion time” explained later. We evaluate the potential for clustering to improve customer convenience, reduce refueling network costs, and enhance system reliability.

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