Hydrogen, traditional gasoline refueling - not much difference

By Jodi Delapaz

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WASHINGTON, June 16, 2016 - Zero-emission fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV), now being driven in California and the Northeast, are powered by hydrogen, and like traditional gasoline vehicles, these vehicles must be refueled. Sunita Satyapal, director of the Energy Department's Fuel Cell Technologies Office, recently highlighted the differences between hydrogen and gasoline refueling dispensers. What's the difference? She says, “Not much.”

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FCEV refueling requires a few safety control enhancements, Satyapal says. Before refueling, the fuel dispenser must first “lock on” to the gas tank before any hydrogen can flow. Safety devices also include breakaway hoses, leak detection sensors and grounding mechanisms. These controls enhance “human error” safety, says Satyapal, preventing incidents such as someone trying to drive away while the dispenser is still connected to the vehicle.

Satyapal says that the governors of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont have committed to putting 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2025, and FCEVs will be a critical component to reaching this goal.

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Satyapal says there is funding in place for 100 hydrogen fueling stations, in addition to those already operating in California. New stations are also in development in the Northeast, and many states have started working on individual roadmaps for hydrogen station deployment, she says.

“Similar to today's gasoline vehicles, FCEVs can have a driving range of more than 300 miles on one tank of hydrogen and can refuel in less than five minutes. Because a fuel cell is more than twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine, an FCEV travels farther on that tank of hydrogen than a traditional car would on a tank of gasoline,” says Satyapal. “This means you only need about half the amount of hydrogen, with double the fuel economy. In addition, the cars are all electric but never need to be plugged in, and since the engine is a fuel cell that has no moving parts, you'll never need to change the oil.”

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