Air Products, one of the largest specialty gas companies in the world and one of the largest suppliers of hydrogen gas, has decided to reinvent the H2 gas pump for cars. In the past I’ve talked about how large industrial specialty gas companies could one day replace Big Oil.
One of the problems is that hydrogen fueling stations in the past have cost $2 – $3 million apiece to build. Like building a custom hydrogen car, building a custom hydrogen gas station is a costly affair. In 2006, when I drove an Audi A2H2 hydrogen car, the engineer with me quoted the price tag of $3 million for this custom built car.
In a recent article by the Washington Post, they quote the price tag for newer production model hydrogen cars at around $300,000 to build, a ten fold decrease over 4 years time. Now, Air Products intends to apply similar production cost saving techniques to bring down the price of hydrogen fueling stations.
By March 2010 in Hürth, Germany, Air Products will install the first ever 24-hour self service hydrogen fueling station. Drivers will be able to refuel their H2 vehicles around the clock. The intent is to normalize a hydrogen fueling station with other stations that sell gasoline or diesel fuel. By 2015, Germany intends to have 1,000 hydrogen fueling station spread throughout the country.
Air Products intends to use the hydrogen produced as a byproduct from several nearby chemical plants for their new fueling pump. According to Air Products, if just 8-percent of this hydrogen byproduct was used at fueling stations that would be enough to fill up 40,000 hydrogen cars.
In order to reduce costs in building the hydrogen pumps, Air Products is developing a modular series production system that will debut with the station in Hürth, Germany.
According to Air Products spokesman, Ian Williamson, “Until now hydrogen fuelling stations have been unique, custom-made installations which have a high price. We aim, where appropriate, to commence cost-effective series production across all our markets on the basis of the Hürth fuelling system and thereby eliminate one of the main obstacles to a universal roll out of hydrogen infrastructure.”
So, with series production of hydrogen fueling stations the cost will come down significantly and one more obstacle for a rollout of hydrogen infrastructure can be crossed off the list. The critics who say that hydrogen is too expensive and will remain too expensive are regrouping their arguments right now.
But let them. In the past few years, the price of hydrogen cars and fuel cells has fallen significantly and the price of hydrogen fueling stations is about ready to fall. These prices will continue to fall along with other parts of the hydrogen infrastructure that needs to drop into place.