The California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP), a leading consortium joining fuel cell makers, car companies, energy companies and government, has rolled out their vision plan for the growth of fuel cell vehicles (FCV) and refueling stations in the state. The plan titled, “Vision for Rollout of Fuel Cell Vehicles and Hydrogen Fuel Stations” is a roadmap outlining what steps need to be taken and when to insure the California hydrogen highway system proceeds as planned.
Through 2007 the member companies of CaFCP have demonstrated and operated more than 200 FCVs and 25 hydrogen refueling stations. But, now that Honda and GM have been rolling out early production vehicles to real consumers, it is time for the entire industry to move on with a new plan for the future.
The CaFCP vision plan gets some of its estimates based upon the California Air Resources Board (CARB) recent requirements for zero emission vehicles. Based upon those requirements, the vision plan sees:
• 2,500 FCVs on the road 2009 – 2011
• 25,000 FCVs on the road 2012 – 2014
• 25, 000 – 50,000 FCVs on the road 2015 – 2017
But, the largest issue is not in the building of FCVs for California rather the building of the supporting hydrogen fueling stations to service these vehicles. One of the recommendations under the vision plan is to introduce a limited number of vehicles and fueling stations in close proximity to each other.
As an example, putting up 40 hydrogen refueling stations in the Los Angeles area would mean that 51-percent of the population would be within a 5 mile radius of a station at all times. San Francisco and Sacramento are population centers that would also need to receive a significant amount of H2 refueling stations as well.
The vision plan lists three methods in which these hydrogen fueling stations may be funded. First, there could be a cost-share program through one-time grants by the State to the builders of the stations. Second, there could be an incentive program based on a larger payout for those stations dispensing the most hydrogen. Third, the State could offer investment tax credits to station owners to offset capital equipment costs.
Another unique idea of the vision plan is for the State of California to establish a risk pool insurance program for hydrogen technologies. As it stands now, insurance companies are not jumping onboard to insure hydrogen cars or fueling stations because there is not a well-worn path in which to analyze risks. The State could alleviate this problem by starting a government-sponsored risk-pool of insurance.
These are but some of the highlights of the CaFCP vision plan for fuel cells and hydrogen refueling stations in California. The full text of the document may be found here. As with any new and emerging market, there needs to be a plan in place going forward and the CaFCP vision plan will act as a GPS device to help guide the state and its citizens in the right direction.