GreenTech: Portable Hydrogen Becomes A Reality

When we think of where in America things that are “first of its kind” tend to crop up, a few places come to mind. Among the top of the list, Texas and California, because they both stand as beacons of what the rest of us can expect to see coming to a town near us at some point. That’s shaping up to be true once again when it comes to the green energy transition, while we have observations about both, we’d like to start with California.

Very soon, Pomona, California will see the deployment of an operational advanced hydrogen mobile fueler (AHMF) supplied by Air Liquide to public transport agency Foothill Transit. It’s believed to be, yup you guessed it, the first of its kind. The reason behind the deployment of the mobile refueling station is to help promote the adoption of cleaner fuels. The 45-foot split axle trailer uses cryogenic cooling technology for storage and liquid nitrogen in place of electricity.

Beyond California

A hydrogen fueling station operates by dispensing hydrogen fuel for powering hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. While they’ve been around for about ten years, we’re now starting see them really gain in popularity. As hydrogen fuel cell vehicles become the norm, we’ll need these fuel stations to keep up with demand. These vehicles run off the electricity generated from a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, which only produces water vapor.

A key reason Air Liquide is taking this step in California now is that it has become plausible to scale hydrogen infrastructure, they plan to push that forward through enabling regional and localized deployment of hydrogen solutions across sectors. They plan to establish regional hydrogen ecosystems, beginning in high-demand areas. After that, it should ripple out through the rest of the country.  

What’s an example of this technology deployed in the wild? We give you the hydrogen fuel stations network, compliments of Hyperion. A few month ago, Hyperion announced ‘Hyper:Fuel’ portable hydrogen fueling stations for its XP-1 Supercar. They are mobile, so they are independent of the grid. This is advantageous, as it means their location can change as needed to fit changing demand… think about how smart that is.

They won’t go out of business, because the station follows business where it goes. Each Hyper:Fuel charging bay is both an electric vehicle charger and a hydrogen fuel cell charger. They use electrolysis and solar energy to make hydrogen to replenish fuel cells. Whatever isn’t being used, get stored in backup power sources. They hope to solidify, in the minds of the people, the Hyperion XP-1 as green due to the reusable energy utilization throughout the lifecycle.

Follow The Money

Are you wondering just how much demand there could actually be for portable hydrogen fueling stations? We did too… and it seems, there’s enough that America recently saw the first hydrogen-powered truck hit the road in Houston, Texas. A freightliner semi-truck, to be exact, converted to run on hydrogen, and part of a pilot program at the Port of Houston a few months ago. As an aside, the drivers of the inaugural route said it was so quiet in the cab, that you could hear the gravel ping off the bottom of the truck.

The pilot program, which involved delivering plastic resins from Mont Belvieu to the Port of Houston for Exxon Mobil, is expected by Ship Channel leadership to help jumpstart the space. The U.S. Department of Energy is looking to disburse $7 billion in federal funding for hydrogen projects across as many as ten regional clean hydrogen hubs… and you know there are people clamoring for a piece of that pie, including names like Air Liquide, Chevron, and The Center for Houston’s Future.

There are funds to be had in this space, including those that will be doled out as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is at least $400 billion going toward clean energy… this includes lowering emissions at ports. While there are logistics and infrastructure issues to work out, this may be good because it means there will be problems to solve, and someone will need to jump in and solve them. This will push the space forward, which is what we want.

Hydrogen fueling stations have evolved to meet scaling challenges, through things like designs which increases efficiency by fueling faster. Through improved safety, like onboard fire suppression systems, which are now the norm. And let’s talk about the flexibility factor… one can pop up faster than a food truck. Between electric vehicles taking off in popularity, government investments in infrastructure, and the cost of hydrogen fuel going down, we expect to see more as time goes on. Come back next week, we’ll have more from the green tech space.