California Opens Its First Retail Hydrogen Station

California has certified its first hydrogen fueling retail station, giving a California State University test station the green light to sell hydrogen to the public.

“This is a milestone in the commercialization of hydrogen in preparation for the next generation of electric vehicles that will be powered by hydrogen,” said Michael Dray, technical operations manager at the fueling facility. “It’s equivalent to getting the first sticker from the state government to sell gasoline by the gallon.”

The Cal State L.A. Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility first opened on the campus last May. Since then, it has filled prototypes of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) built by Audi, Honda, Hyundai, General Motors, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen. Before the certification, refuels had been free, partially because of difficulties metering the amounst of hydrogen delivered.

Cal State L.A. Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility. Photo courtesy: Cal State L.A.

Cal State L.A. Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility. Photo courtesy: Cal State L.A.

The station is self-sustaining, using solar and wind power to produce hydrogen on location. In about six minutes, the specialized pump delivers 6 kg of hydrogen. Cal State estimates that an FCV can drive approximately 50 miles per kilogram of hydrogen.

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“Our hydrogen station is playing a crucial role in helping situate California as a national leader in zero emission vehicles,” University President William A. Covino said. “The station also provides an ideal opportunity for Cal State L.A. students, faculty and staff to collaborate on cutting-edge research and technology initiatives with government agencies that will contribute to improving air quality in Los Angeles and beyond.”

California plans to continue growing its network of hydrogen stations. Last year, the California Energy Commission allotted $50 million to build another 28 public stations and one mobile refueling station. The agency hopes to have all in place by the end of 2015.

According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, a dozen public hydrogen stations are currently operational in the U.S., including the Cal State facility. Columbia, S.C., and Wallingford, Conn., each have one station, while the rest are located in California.