At a cost of up to $2 million to install a station and barely any hydrogen vehicles on the roads, it might seem like the payback time on a hydrogen refueling setup would be quite long. However, First Element Fuel (FEF) thinks that it will only take five years to make a profit selling H2 to paying customers.

Before it can open any stations, FEF has to build them. To do that, it is getting help from California, which is rolling out the red carpet for hydrogen vehicles, and financial assistance from Toyota. The Japanese automaker and FEF have announced a plan to build 19 H2 stations with the help of a $27.6-million grant from the California Energy Commission. The stations will be engineered and built by Black And Veatch, which has also installed many EV charging stations (see press release below). FEF has plans to install another 21 stations, for a total of 40, within five years.

The co-president of FEF, Shane Stephens, recently told Wards Auto that "pretty soon" after the 40 stations are built, "we can demonstrate they'll be profitable." He admitted that not every station will turn a profit. The ones built in more remote areas (like one planned for Lake Tahoe), will likely lose money, Stephens said. One reason these faraway stations will lose more than other stations is because First Element is going to deliver the hydrogen to the stations by truck. The transportation costs outweigh safety concerns with hydrogen pipelines, Stephens told Wards Auto.
Show full PR text
FirstElement Fuel Finalizes California Grant and Recruits Builder of Battery EV Chargers Black & Veatch for Hydrogen Network

August 05, 2014 02:42 PM Eastern Daylight Time

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today FirstElement Fuel Inc., a California-based company dedicated to providing fuel cell vehicle customers with retail hydrogen fuel, finalized an agreement with Black & Veatch to serve as the company's primary engineering and construction provider. This came just one week after the California Energy Commission gave final approval for a $27.6 Million grant to FirstElement to help develop the first phase of a California hydrogen network that will support zero-emission fuel cell vehicles in the state. In addition to the California Grants, FirstElement is receiving financial support from Toyota who will begin selling fuel cell vehicles next year.

"The electrification of the automobile made great strides at the end of July," said Joel Ewanick, CEO of FirstElement Fuel. "With the stroke of a pen the Energy Commission took the hydrogen infrastructure argument off the table with their final approval of our $27.6 Million grant. The very next week we completed our first order of business by signing Black & Veatch as our primary engineering and construction provider for the 19 hydrogen charging locations in our network."

The Energy Commission grant to FirstElement for 19 hydrogen stations will more than triple the current number of stations in the state. The stations, scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2015, represent the initial phase of FirstElement's plan to construct a state-wide hydrogen network as fuel cell vehicles hit show rooms in California starting this year and next.

"Black & Veatch is uniquely qualified having just built a national EV charging network," Ewanick said. "This experience makes them an ideal provider. We are not wasting any time - we started Monday."

The hydrogen network is planned as an add-on to existing gasoline stations to assure easy, retail access for fuel cell vehicle customers. Vehicles that use hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity through a chemical reaction to power an electric motor. Clean water vapor is the only exhaust from the vehicle.

"Black & Veatch is a leader in delivering distributed infrastructure solutions and we are excited to be part of the evolution in transportation fuels," said Rick Azer, Director of Development for Black & Veatch's Smart Integrated Infrastructure services. "This network is an essential component to widespread use of zero emission, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 99 Comments
      PeterScott
      • 4 Months Ago
      So if someone else pays for them (taxpayers) H2 fueling stations selling H2 for some uknown price can eventually turn a profit?
        GoodCheer
        • 1 Day Ago
        @PeterScott
        That's what I was thinking: Is that profit in 5 years still paying off capital costs of those stations, or are those all written off as acts of god.
      goodoldgorr
      • 4 Months Ago
      Delivering hydrogen by truck seam a very bad idea. In the past I taught that the best method would be to do water electrolysis at the point of sale but as I can see it they won't do that so the best green car seam to be the volt from Chevrolet. If they cannot build cheap hydrogen stations with cheaper hydrogen price then I think it will not catch on.
        kmiller22kathy
        • 1 Day Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        The Emeryville CA hydrogen station is powered by renewable energy, the first of many. And Honda is working on a home solar hydrogen station (google for proof)
          skierpage
          • 1 Day Ago
          @kmiller22kathy
          Yes Honda's been trotting out "Energy Station" demos for over a decade ( http://world.honda.com/FuelCell/SolarHydrogenStation/ ) ,dressing up the simple science experiment of electrolysis of water in whatever will distract the public from the essential inefficiency. NOBODY puts up 3x the solar cells to generate hydrogen when they could make electricity to directly power their home, sell back to the grid, or recharge their plug-in car instead.
        DarylMc
        • 1 Day Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        For some strange reason I was just thinking what would be a good low emission vehicle for goodoldgorr to replace the Neon. Volt did come to mind.
      Marco Polo
      • 1 Day Ago
      @ skierpage Yes, I speak English as my first language, and unfortunately your assumption that corporations only make a profit by selling goods at a profit, is about 80 years out of date ! In the modern world, a multi-national, diversified, corporation has many other ways to generate profits, than simply making a profit of selling goods. Large corporations are very complex financial structures, not all of which relate to the corporations original product. A pretty simple scenario of how a giant corporation like Shell, can generate a profit, without selling a single kilo of H2, ( I'm not privy to Shell's inner finances), could work something like this :- Shell financial creditability is very well accepted by the vast majority of the public, especially the global financial sector. If Shell announced a $ 20 bil investment in an H2 network, (in conjunction with US state and federal governments, and the world most respected Auto-makers), Shell would be able to split the investment across a number of divisions and subsidiaries. Each of those subsidiaries would relieve substantial Tax benefits. The subsidiaries, would become more valuable, increasing the groups asset value, and lowering the cost of borrowing, etc. The subsidiaries would repatriate funds back to the parent. "(profits)". The group could now sell asset backed equity bonds in the new subsidiaries, allowing Shell to release compulsory cash reserves, which in turn would increase group profitability. Shell's divisions, could also place potential contracts with manufacturing, financial, construction, planning, and other corporations, in which other Shell entities have financial interests ,(or shareholdings). The result of an expected large long term order from Shell would increase the share price (bond issue etc) of these corporations, producing substantial profits for Shells financial subsidiaries. Shell's potential investment should increase the real estate value of the service station sites and the immediate surrounding properties. Shell may choose to hive off the real estate, as a separate division, with a public offering of shares based on projected rentals earnings from 10, 000, franchisees. ( even more 'profit' from franchise fees). So far, not one kilo of H2 has been sold, and we haven't even got to the real pot of gold, from the myriad of Tax benefits, grants, credits, that always accompanies such a massive investment. Skierpage, that's just a very simplistic, and hypothetical example of how corporations like Shell can exploit such circumstances to advantage. I'm not advocating the morality, or even desirability, my example is just intended to show the complexity of financial and commercial management in large corporations. . Oh, and I forgot stuff like, since governments class H2 fuel as zero emissions, Shell could avoid the ban some 'ethical investment funds" have against oil producers ! So, yeah I speak English, but maybe you don't speak "corporate" :) r
      purrpullberra
      • 4 Months Ago
      "...safety concerns with hydrogen pipelines..." is the reason these a$$hats are going to TRUCK hydrogen around!?!? How frickin safe is a dangerous roadway that now has a Hindenburg monologue moving slowly up the mountains?!?! These hydrogen proponents are out to lunch crazy! Predicting a profit now is so disingenuous and such terrible biz I want them all to fail even more.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Day Ago
        @purrpullberra
        Imagine how spectacular the explosion would be if one of those trucks crashed and the tank ruptured. I wonder how many square miles out they'd find human and car parts...
          purrpullberra
          • 1 Day Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          DaveMart: are you taking the extreme pressure the hydrogen would be under into that calculation? Is it your calculation or did you read it somewhere? And if so where? AFAIK hydrogen under pressure is extraordinarily sensitive and it will find all potential ways to leak. But just the pressure explosion would be incredible. The burning explosiveness is another part of the factor. I'm not trying to be alarmist as much as point out that all of this hydrogen fuel cells for cars is nonsense. Too many problems with such expensive proposed solutions when right now the battery tech already does better than any fuel cell will ever do efficiency wise. Especially when taking into account the energy it takes to convert something into hydrogen in the first place. But don't let Tesla and what they do now get in the way of your hydrogen fuel cell boner! ;-)
          kmiller22kathy
          • 1 Day Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          apparently few here have heard of propane. It's mildly amusing, but troubling as well.
          DarylMc
          • 1 Day Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Hi Letstakeawalk Keep in mind I was talking about LPG more than hydrogen. I've got nothing to go on other than the things I read about the safety of hydrogen. What I have read so far leads me to think it should be safer than LPG.
          DarylMc
          • 1 Day Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Hi Letstakeawalk More so for my family than my own use I do have a fear of gaseous fuelled vehicles. No I am not afraid to refuel or drive a gasoline vehicle. I do consider diesel fuelled vehicles and refuelling a bit safer again. My fear or reluctance to use a gaseous fuelled vehicle is not due to any studies or facts. It's due to some accidents I saw on the news decades ago. That is what I was trying to point out. I am not an expert on the safety of LPG fuelled vehicles. Everything I have heard in the past suggests they are safe but I don't recall the reasons. I perform many written risk assessments in the course of my job. I'm sure many people are familiar with using likelihood and consequence to determine risk. Also control measures to reduce risk. I will state this to the best of my ability. The risks of a fire in various fuelled vehicles can be reduced by using control measures to reduce the likelihood of it occurring. Consequence of a fire might involve things like fire, rapid spread of the fire or explosion. So the risk can be reduced for all fuels by reducing the likelihood but the consequences are somewhat related to the fuel. Rightly or wrongly I see the consequences of a gas fuelled fire worse than a liquid fuelled or battery fire.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Day Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          The lower energy density of hydrogen than petrol makes it less explosive, not more, but don't let physics spoil your prejudices.
          DarylMc
          • 1 Day Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          kmiller22kathy Interesting that you mention that. I have some fears of LPG/ Propane fuelled vehicles after seeing some stories on the news probably decades ago now. The very few electric car fires to date probably does affect peoples choice of fuels even though the relative risk is low compared to gasoline vehicles. Aside from other reasons I would rather not drive a vehicle with gaseous hydrogen fuel for fear of fire or explosion. Just like my fear of LPG it doesn't mean that it is based on the probability of catastrophe.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Day Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          @ DaarylMC Based on your comments, I am supposed to believe that you personally are afraid of travelling in a hydrogen or LPG fueled vehicle? Are you similarly afraid of gasoline powered vehicles?
      kent
      • 1 Day Ago
      No doubt those rosey projections are based on imaginary production figures for fuel cells released by the automakers. These are also not the faster fueling stations that fill up in 5 minutes - those cost $4 million in Japan and can only service a couple dozen cars per day. So people are going to hang around a pump for extended periods. That makes it worse than even gas cars. At least with EVs you can plug in and go about your business. http://green.autoblog.com/2013/10/14/a-visit-to-a-hydrogen-refueling-station-at-ecoful-town-in-toyota/
      PeterScott
      • 1 Day Ago
      I would LOVE to see the actual numbers on this one. Naturally if they are claiming it will profitable, they must have the numbers. Right? So how much: Capital investment in stations? Running costs of stations(staffing+maintenance+feedstocks)? Expected quantity of H2 sales? Retail price of H2 sold?
      jimmy_james44
      • 1 Day Ago
      America leads in the Best Hybrid Technology with the Chevy Volt. America leads in the Best Electric vehicle for sale: Tesla S. Why would America Blow it's lead with the Loser Technology that gives the public No Benefit, and they can't even sell to the Japanese? Zero uptake on the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle. They'll have to give it away.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 1 Day Ago
        @jimmy_james44
        "Zero uptake on the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle." That's a pretty pessimistic projection.
          kmiller22kathy
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Most hydrogen bashers are emotional about their love of batteries- to the point that they are living in a fantasy world devoid of any facts whatsoever. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
          Marco Polo
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          @ kmiller22kathy Those who have doubts about the viability of HFCV technology as opposed to BEV technology, are not "living in a fantasy world ". HFCV/H2 technology certainly has some potentially interesting aspects, not the least of which is the resources of it's three major stakeholders. But BEV fans have every reason to believe that the ESD capacity of EV's will not only improve over the next 10 years, but improve enormously. If that occurs, HFCV technology will be relegated to a niche industrial market.
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 1 Day Ago
        @jimmy_james44
        Yo, superH2proponents! Riddle me this... Why no plugs on HFCV's???
      Tweaker
      • 1 Day Ago
      Cool, I'll get to be dependent on another monopoly.
        kmiller22kathy
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Tweaker
        Anyone with sun and water can make hydrogen for free (after the solar panels are paid for). Anyone can make hydrogen with water and windmills. This talk of "monopoly" is ignorance on display. Don't people do any research at all anymore before they jump into a catatonic emotional blather?
          jimmy_james44
          • 1 Day Ago
          @kmiller22kathy
          You're lack of understanding of the losses in energy conversion, is the "ignorance on display".
          Aaron
          • 1 Day Ago
          @kmiller22kathy
          Currently, less than 1/3rd of the hydrogen is produced from renewable resources. This will get worse as the demand for hydrogen increases without major infrastructure investments. Don't white-wash the current technology for commercial-scale hydrogen extraction. It's not clean and not renewable.
      DarylMc
      • 1 Day Ago
      Marco Polo Very true.
      DaveMart
      • 4 Months Ago
      According to this the production of ammonia can be done with sunlight and water, instead of natural gas: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2014/08/20140808-licht.html The by-product is hydrogen. I don't have the math to work out how much hydrogen would be produced as a by-product, but it would be substantial and of the order in the US to power several million fuel cell cars. In the comments below I calculate that the displaced natural gas production would be enough to power around 14 million fuel cell cars in the US, and around 140 million world wide without burning any extra NG at all. If you follow the links to the STEP process for fuels from solar you will see that they are developing solar technology which overcomes its number one problem, storage. There is not a one size fits all solution, and fortunately a lot of possibilities are opening up to us.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Day Ago
        @DaveMart
        I suppose I ought to know by now that serious comment here is not acceptable, or real world calculation. I didn't have all the data needed to calculate the by-product hydrogen, or rather I would prefer it were done by someone with more knowledge of chemistry. I should have known that dealing with the real world, or attempting to make energy calculations would be well outside of the capacity of most of the people here. Fortunately a real engineer, ie someone who can add up and so doesn't believe in the tooth fairy, or solar without massive quantities of storage which is simply ignored by most of the innumerates here, came to my aid, and for every ton of ammonia produced by this method you would get around 300kg of hydrogen as a by-product, or enough for around 1.5 cars to run for a year. So if all ammonia for the US were produced in this way, the by-product hydrogen would be enough to power on the order of 20 million fuel cell cars, so my WAG was not too bad as the numerate would already have realised was likely. When you can plug your BEV in at your house in Chicago in the middle of winter at night and get the juice to run it from your solar panel on the roof come back. Until then you are fantasists.
          Snowdog
          • 1 Day Ago
          @DaveMart
          "So if all ammonia for the US were produced in this way..." Speaking of the tooth fairy. We don't know if this a practical solution that will ever be used to produce any ammonia. It's essentially a lab experiment at this point, and you leap right to a mythical future where we get copious hydrogen because all ammonia will be produced like this.
          purrpullberra
          • 1 Day Ago
          @DaveMart
          Sir: you claim you make "real world" calculation. But it is NOT real world to extrapolate from one small experiment in a lab!! You need to cite WAY more than just some 2 step elementary math problem for you to be talking sensibly. We'd love to discuss "real world" but you are not making any sense. There is NO WAY to know if all that ammonia can be used on the scale necessary and you are not capable of speaking to that. Plus how much electricity does it take to make that hydrogen and ammonia that way? Do you know how far a Tesla could drive on that electricity? Why waste it making hydrogen? And btw, even in Seattle, in the midst of the doldrums and clouds, there is plenty of solar energy to power a home or biz and do solar hot water. So the childish line about Chicago winters rings very hollow. See, anyone with facts can tear your comments to shreds.
        Marus
        • 1 Day Ago
        @DaveMart
        Gas stations or Hydrogen Stations are finished. EV will rule. Easy charging everywhere will break the station oligopoly or whatever.
        PeterScott
        • 1 Day Ago
        @DaveMart
        "... done with sunlight and water" Mainly they seem to be talking about an Electro-chemical process. Where they electrolyze steam in the presence of a variety of chemicals. No real indication this is remotely practical/economic.
        archos
        • 1 Day Ago
        @DaveMart
        You don't have any idea how hydrogen would be produced, you just know its enough for "several million fuel cell cars". You're talking out your behind. Its also disingenuous to say they are overcoming the storage problem with solar. Its extremely inefficient to use solar for hydrogen, its more expensive than with natural gas, and its a time consuming process. Even if it can be done, it won't be, because of all the factors I just said.
        purrpullberra
        • 1 Day Ago
        @DaveMart
        One other thing I wanted to mention is that there are lots of legitimate uses and needs for hydrogen. All of those uses are stationary in order to fit a separate heat exchanger setup to bump efficiency up to a respectable level. Taking a lot of it for vehicle mass consumption could threaten the supply to those use cases. Yes, 'they' could make more. But see what happens when refineries shift to making new fuel twice a year. There is a shortfall, prices go up and consumers end up paying MORE. Giving oil companies any room in your life allows them to ultimately RAPE you in the end (pun intended).
        Snowdog
        • 1 Day Ago
        @DaveMart
        It's nothing but a lab experiment at this point, of unknown practicality, and unknown economics, but you are ready to claim it will power millions of FCVs?? That's a stretch even for you.
        DarylMc
        • 1 Day Ago
        @DaveMart
        Hi DaveMart On the topic of energy storage have a look at this link to a hydro electric storage scheme near my hometown. http://www.csenergy.com.au/content-(168)-wivenhoe.htm I toured this facility in 1984 and they claim power output can be brought from 0 to 500MW in 14 seconds. For scale consider 500 Bugatti Veyron engines at full power. Not huge but nothing to scoff at. As far as I know it has not been highly utilised over the decades but an increasing solar contribution to the grid may see this type of storage become valuable for night time use.
          DarylMc
          • 1 Day Ago
          @DarylMc
          I just checked the current demand for the region. A larger area than the whole UK is running at 2000MW at 6pm on a Sunday night. That's mid winter too, it's dropped down to 17 degrees already:)
          DarylMc
          • 1 Day Ago
          @DarylMc
          17 degrees C in case anyone is too horrified by the hardship for the souls who live here:)
      Thereminator
      • 4 Months Ago
      We feel that it will take approximately five years to Con the public into Paying for the fueling infrastructure...and Then it will be profitable...for Us....that is....
      Neil Blanchard
      • 1 Day Ago
      ... and I have some land in Florida, and a bridge in New York City for sale ...
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