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Hydrogen Car Infrastructure Can Simulate CNG Car Infrastructure

U. S. Gas Pipelines
U. S. Gas Pipelines

Yesterday I had talked about how Daimler and Linde were putting up 20 hydrogen fueling stations in Germany to create an initial skeletal hydrogen refueling infrastructure for when H2 cars hit the showrooms within the next few years. I had also talked about how the U. S. could also put up a skeletal hydrogen refueling infrastructure based upon the current compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling infrastructure.

The current CNG refueling infrastructure includes 885 CNG stations nationwide. Out of the 50 U. S. states, Alaska and Vermont are the only two states that don’t have a single CNG refueling station. A map of the stations can be found here.

Besides there being a skeletal CNG refueling infrastructure in place in the U. S. one of the best kept secrets is that Honda has already introduced a commercial production compressed natural gas vehicle called the Honda Civic GX CNG and for the past 8 years this car has been voted “Greenest Vehicle of the Year”. Where I live in Southern California there are 5 local dealerships offering this car for sale.

Honda also offers a home CNG refueling station that taps into a home’s natural gas supply. The home CNG refueler pumps natural gas into the car’s 3,600 psi fuel tank.

Now, what does this all have to do with hydrogen cars and infrastructure? A lot. I’ve found an older document online that from 2004 that talks about the critics estimating a hydrogen refueling infrastructure based upon replacing gasoline refueling stations would cost around $600 billion. At the time this was written there were between 115,000 and 120,000 gasoline stations in the U. S.

Now here’s a counterpoint from the same document that states the above figures are way off-base, “Byron McCormick of GM estimated in September 2003 that 11,700 hydrogen fueling stations could provide hydrogen to 70% of the US population in the 100 largest cities, within less than 2 miles of their homes, plus stations every 25 miles on the interstates connecting those 100 cities. They estimate a total cost per station of $1 million to provide 100 kg/day , enough to support 1 million vehicles nationwide. The total infrastructure cost to get started is therefore only $11.7 billion (GM states the cost as $10 to $15 billion). Additional stations would be added later, and the capacity of these early stations would need to be increased over time, but GM points out that those additions would be profitable and investments would be made on the economic basis of return on capital.”

Now in my estimation this is also an over-estimation in order to “get started”. If we refer back to the Honda Civic GX CNG for instance, less than 1,000 of these vehicles per year are currently being built. Honda has indicated, however that in 2012 this number will go up significantly since right now this car is being sold in only 4 of the 50 states and as fleet vehicles in the other states. Next year, this CNG car is supposed to go national for consumers. And right now there are 885 CNG stations nationwide plus home CNG refueling stations to support this.

On May 11, I had talked about how an existing Shell station had tapped into an existing hydrogen pipeline to supply compressed H2 gas to consumers. As I’ve stated before there are extensive hydrogen pipelines especially around the Gulf Coast Region to tap into for hydrogen fueling stations or pumps. But, it’s not just the Gulf Coast Region.

Here is a nifty list of the top 141 oil refineries in the U. S. and why this is important is that oil refineries are the major users of hydrogen gas for refining crude oil into gasoline and diesel fuel. So, tapping into this “local hydrogen” is another option in building out the U. S. H2 refueling infrastructure.

Another option is tapping into the U. S. natural gas pipeline infrastructure. Here’s a map of this vast natural gas pipeline system (also pictured above) throughout the U. S. Over 90-percent of hydrogen manufactured today is from the reforming of natural gas. The CO2 in the natural gas is sequestered in the purification process.

So, what I’m saying is that in order to put up a basic, skeletal hydrogen refueling station infrastructure across the U. S. we don’t have to reinvent the wheel or spend an obscene amount of money doing it. If we use the hydrogen pipeline system, local production and transportation of hydrogen already in place and if we use the natural gas pipeline and transportation system already in place, we can at least mimic and most likely surpass the current CNG refueling infrastructure very quickly.

Now, some people will ask, why not just go with CNG cars since they are cleaner that other current vehicles? Yes, this is an option. CNG cars like the Honda Civic GX CNG, however, are not a zero emissions vehicles. In addition the Honda Civic GX CNG gets about 24 miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) city and 36 mpge highway, whereas with hydrogen fuel cell cars you’re looking in the range of 68 mpge to around 85 mpge, which means less fuel consumed and less infrastructure will have to be built to support hydrogen cars.

So, there you have it. This is an alternative to building a nationwide hydrogen refueling infrastructure that does not mimic the current gasoline station infrastructure. Add home hydrogen refueling stations to this discussion and the parallel is more closely aligned to the current CNG infrastructure than anything else. What are your ideas?

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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  1. Yes, CNG is very economical as most of the cars in Pakistan are running on CNG. Now, you think it’s a Joke but it’s true that so many cars have been converted on CNG that we don’t have enough gas for home consumers. We have loadshedding on CNG stations for three days a week and still we don’t have gas to fuel our kitchen. Once, you will introduce CNG in your country then it will grow like a fire due to difference in price. Problem with CNG is that with 55 kg cylinder you have to refill the car after every 150 km so since distances in USA are far more so its not a very feasible option for many Americans so they would not like to spend a lot of time on refueling their cars. Hydrogen might be a different scenario. Can someone kindly comment if we can use the CNG kit to run our cars on hydrogen. Emulators and Advancers can be changed as per requirement.

  2. admin

    CNG is also available in the U. S. somewhat. In California where I’m at many buses run on CNG. In the U. S. there are just under 1,000 CNG fueling stations.

  3. In the USA we need to take advantage of our low priced captive natural gas to pay for trading into gaseous fuel based transport. Entrepreneurial individuals will increase demand for natural gas through LNG export.

    If any politician finds a way to encourage this transport trade-out, the policy should include hydrogen compatibility. Then anyone could set up a self sourced fuel station using wind or solar to split water and compress the hydrogen.

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