Zero In on…Hydrogen Fueling

FirstElement Fuel recently opened the world’s first large scale hydrogen fueling station for commercial trucks. The station is located at the Port of Oakland and capable of filling 200 trucks a day. Shane Stephens, a founder of FirstElement explains why the station is significant for the uptake of hydrogen fuel trucks.

Shane Stephens: We are about to open the first commercial hydrogen truck stop in the world. So this will be the first hydrogen truck stop that can do multiple fills at the same time, it can fast fill trucks, so it can deliver a fill in less than 10 minutes. And it can support up to 200 trucks a day. So this is a major milestone in getting rid of the chicken or the egg hurdle for heavy-duty trucking with hydrogen powered trucks.

FirstElement sees the Port of Oakland station as a model that can easily be replicated in other regions, potentially, including Canada.

Shane Stephens: And in fact, we think that our technology platform could be shared with others that might want to come to market. So, we may not be the boots on the ground company developing and operating the infrastructure. We may partner with others, which would accelerate the rollout throughout the United States. If we could do that. We think a competitive environment is really good for the market, and good for driving the cost and the competition.

Ghassan Sleiman, chief technology officer, suggests that while this is the largest fueling station of its kind, it will likely be the smallest FirstElement builds going forward.

Ghassan Sleiman: This is the world’s largest station, but it’s going to be our smallest station going forward. We need stations with not two filling positions but maybe four or five or six. Where do you see a viable, heavy-duty filling station that only has two filling positions? We need to go much bigger.

Eugene Litvinov works for Hyundai, which has partnered on the program providing 30 hydrogen fuel cell trucks that will call on the station for fuel. He explains why a port environment is ideal for early adoption of hydrogen fuel cell trucks.

Eugene Litvinov: There’s a lot of reasons that we chose to invest in it. But we believe that the decarbonization of ports is a really, really good application for fuel cell technology. Because a lot of the routes that are run are port to a specific point and back, so you can have the infrastructure at the port for the refueling.

And the other advantage of fuel cell is that it can haul a heavy payload and has a pretty high range of 400 to 500 miles so you can really utilize the truck and I think most ports have anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 trucks coming in every day.

So the emissions reductions from something like this is huge. And infrastructure, we’ve learned, is probably the most important aspect of launching technology like this one.

Jerome Gregeois, also of Hyundai, says hydrogen has many benefits when it comes to decarbonizing the trucking industry.

Jerome Gregeois:  There is zero tailpipe emissions. So this is a truck that operates without any emissions locally. The only byproduct of that technology is water vapor.

So that’s one advantage. You know, if you if you’re in a noisy environment, also for a neighborhood, those are electric drives, so they’re very, very quiet. So for the community that can be important. It’s also nice for the drivers. It’s a tough job, very demanding. And then that’s technology that kind of brings comfort and people are usually more rested at the end of the day than they are if they’re driving, you know a more noisy and vibrating technology.