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Hydrogen Fuel Station Problems

I just read an online article on venturebeat.com/2015/07/25/california-fuel-cell-car... It seems that a lot of the early hydrogen fuel car drivers are having considerable difficulties refueling their cars as many stations are either malfunctioning, shut down, and sometimes low on fuel. The car makers have no control over them as they are independently owned and operated. Credit Musk for having the genius to conceive of and establish the Supercharger network. Whatever deficiencies it has pale in comparison to ones the hydrogen fuel network is experiencing.
 
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wdolson

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Jul 24, 2015
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Clark Co, WA
Before Tesla came along people were saying a lot of the things Tesla did were impossible. I won't rule out the ability of the car companies to turn around the hydrogen fuel problems. However, I think the hidden costs with hydrogen fuel will remain and I think the overall costs will still be higher than for BEVs.

If the costs are hidden well enough, the public can still be conned into it. The US is still making ethanol from corn, even though it costs more per gallon than fossil fuel gasoline. Most people don't realize the ethanol blends are more expensive than straight up gasoline because non-blended fuel is impossible to find in most places now.

I was skeptical about BEVs a couple of years ago. If someone back then had told me I would be saving up for a Tesla in 2015, I would have told them they were nuts. The Supercharger network is the innovation I didn't see. It still takes longer to "refuel" a Tesla than an ICE car, but the tradeoff is the "fuel" is free! It's probably better for me to have a half hour stretching my legs on a long trip anyway. My natural inclination is to keep going and I pay for it the next day more and more as time goes on.
 

nwdiver

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Feb 17, 2013
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"They were also using thermal imaging cameras from different vantage points to make sure that the hydrogen wasn't burning even after it appeared that it was shut down," said Miller

That's terrifying... can you imaging unknowingly walking into a H2 flame? Why am I suddenly on fire....
 

wdolson

Well-Known Member
Jul 24, 2015
8,855
17,087
Clark Co, WA
"They were also using thermal imaging cameras from different vantage points to make sure that the hydrogen wasn't burning even after it appeared that it was shut down," said Miller

That's terrifying... can you imaging unknowingly walking into a H2 flame? Why am I suddenly on fire....

High pressure steam can be equally dangerous. In the past when they need to inspect a high pressure steam system (like on a ship) when leaks are suspected, they walk around with a broomstick in front of them. If the broomstick is suddenly cut in half, they found a leak. With thermal imaging the way it is now, they probably use some sort of FLIR system these days. But the broomstick method was the detection system of choice in the WW II era.

Hydrogen can be dangerous stuff. It's also very difficult to contain even when it's not burning. Basically any hydrogen container's job is to just slow down the leakage enough so you can use up the hydrogen before it all escapes.
 
It seems like only 30% of "open" retail stations in California are online. Apparently, there are long lines at the few working pumps.

Station Status | Station Status
This is normal for most stations. Now that Toyota is siding with Trumps EPA, I would expect them to drastically cut their fuel cell work in the US (not like they were actually doing anything anyway)
 
This isn’t just limited to hydrogen. I’ve found a high percentage of issues with 3rd party EV chargers. Maybe in dense cities or SoCal/other CARB states they are maintained much better, but outside of those areas I’ve experienced enough issues that if it was my primary vehicle I would SERIOUSLY think about going for a plug in hybrid instead.

I don’t have too many interactions with 3rd party locations, but I’ve found them very slow (3kW), portions not working (6 plug location with only 2 working), seemingly working but impossible to actually activate, and a single plug location that was in use with the owner nowhere to be seen, etc.

That step of removal really does a lot. The car companies (so far) haven’t had much part in management of the charging networks. The charging networks are interested in making money, not building the safety net for drivers. A lone highway station that only gets seasonal use or very low use isn’t subsidized by selling cars, so they don’t build it. This leads to gaps where it may be stressful to pass through or impossible. Or it leads to smaller tourist destinations being reachable, but without charging options to make a return feasible (or at least without a lot of planing & maybe tens of hours on a L1).

Tesla on the other hand can build out more remote stations and subsidize the cost of that from the sale of cars and “good will” word of mouth from existing owners to potential new owners that now see a more local charging option. If a location goes down, Tesla also knows right away and has a lot more reason and responsibility to get it working again before bad PR slumps sales of their cars.

Maybe the other guys could get away with leaning on the 3rd parties for most of the charging in densely populated areas, but they should build out their own network to extend routes and electrified sphere. Maybe that would be in house or partner with the 3rd party guys and fully subsidize the stations and up front 5 years of maintenance or something.
 
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