Two years ago, the US Department of Energy and the Hydrogen Education Foundation launched the H2 Refuel H-Prize Competition to create the best onsite hydrogen generation and refueling system. In late 2015, competition organizers announced a number of finalists, and began evaluating their systems, each promising to help bring affordable hydrogen fueling to homes and businesses. Now, organizers have named SimpleFuel the winner of the competition's $1 million prize.

The SimpleFuel onsite hydrogen station is small enough that it could fit in a residential garage. It uses electrolysis to separate hydrogen and oxygen from water molecules. SimpleFuel stores up to five kilograms of hydrogen in its carbon fiber tank (which just happens to be the same fuel capacity of the Toyota Mirai), while the oxygen is released into the atmosphere. It is capable of 700-bar fueling, and can provide one kilogram of fuel in 15 minutes or less.

SimpleFuel is a bit bulky – certainly larger than a gas pump or an EV charger – but it's fairly compact considering its capabilities. It's easily deployed and has standard utility hookups for electricity and water. It could cost around $200,000 initially, which means we're more likely to see them installed at businesses and public places until they become more affordable for individual owners. Don't be surprised if utility companies become some of the first to install units like these, just as they did with EV charging infrastructure in many areas.

At a time when hydrogen fueling infrastructure is still sparsely developed in much of the country, a small unit like this offers convenience for fuel cell vehicle drivers, and could save money for businesses that operate fleets of hydrogen-powered vehicles and machines. While hydrogen for vehicles is still in relatively low demand, SimpleFuel units could be deployed in public spaces to help fill the gaps in fueling infrastructure until more widespread adoption merits the construction of larger hydrogen stations. SimpleFuel, and systems like it, could really help us move beyond this chicken-or-the-egg paradox that exists between H2 infrastructure and the FCEVs it's meant to serve.

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