Clean vehicles will not succeed in the marketplace without access to clean fueling infrastructure. The two most promising zero emission vehicle (ZEV) platforms; battery-electric (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), have significant infrastructure limitations to overcome before they can be adopted by the mass market. These limitations can, and will, be overcome, but we need creative solutions to get there.
To a point, BEVs and Plug-in Hybrids can take advantage of existing electric infrastructure. However, these vehicles place significant strain on the electric grid, especially in hours of peak demand: plugging in a BEV is the approximate equivalent of adding another house to the grid.*
Before BEVs can saturate neighborhoods, transformers need to be upgraded to handle the additional demand. In addition, apartment dwellers need access to charging locations, policies need to be developed to encourage drivers to charge their vehicles off-peak hours (i.e., at night), and we need to greatly increase renewable electricity generation to ensure the environmental benefits of BEVs from a Well-to-Wheels perspective.
Today, a hydrogen fill up operates like a traditional gasoline fill up: the customer drives to a refueling station, connects to the pump, and fills their tank in about 5-10 minutes. The problem? We need stations.
In the early market, the business case for building hydrogen infrastructure is difficult to justify. Government incentives and regulations are needed to spur infrastructure development until economies of scale are large enough to make the stations economical. Also, government needs to play a critical role in ensuring that hydrogen is produced in a manner that reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector (see SB 1505).
In addition to station fill-ups, in the future homes could have their own hydrogen home refueling station, powered by solar panels or natural gas. Whether we have a centralized or decentralized refueling focus will depend on the market. Regardless, infrastructure development remains critical to successful hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle deployment.
Energy Independence Now (EIN) dedicates substantial effort to ensure that infrastructure remains a key component of the alternative fuel vehicle conversation. In particular, EIN is intimately involved in the development and implementation of the following California policies:
The AB 118 Investment Plan is administered by the California Energy Commission to leverage public funds to encourage private development of alternative fuel infrastructure and vehicles.
The Clean Fuels Outlet is an existing California Air Resource Board (CARB) authority to require the installation of alternative fueling infrastructure. CARB is revising this regulation to leverage the private funds of oil companies to develop necessary infrastructure.
*According to US Energy Information Administration, in 2008, the average US household consumed 31 kWh of electricity per day. Using a 240V socket (i.e., a clothes dryer socket), and assuming an 8-hour recharge time, a 100-mile range electric car would consume between 30 and 60 kWh to fully charge (depending on amperage).