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True Zero hydrogen network fuels more than 3.7 million miles in 2016

True Zero Filling Station

The company says that its California filling stations serve around 1,200 vehicles

California-based hydrogen refuelling firm True Zero claims to have supplied over 3.7 million miles worth of hydrogen to fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) in 2016. What is more, it claims to have eliminated over 2.3 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions in the process, Joel Ewanick, CEO of True Zero parent company, FirstElement Fuel, said in a January 17 announcement.

Currently the only two fuel cell vehicles available in California are the Toyota Mirai and the Honda Clarity, but both Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai are lining up their own fuel cell vehicles.

Adoption has been slow for both of the vehicles currently on the market, but True Zero remains optimistic. The company reportedly serves around 1,200 fuel cell vehicles in California, and the number of such vehicles on the road is set to increase dramatically in the coming years. For example, the California Energy Commission believes that by 2019 there will be almost 14,000 such vehicles in that state alone, which is significant although it would still only represent 0.4% of today’s numbers. The fact that the company fuelled 2.7 million miles in its last 4 months having spent the previous 9 months trying to reach 1 million would indicate a recent growth spurt for the industry.

Nonetheless, fuel cells have their many critics, whose main bones of contention include infrastructure and emissions.

Currently, it is impossible for current models of Toyota Mirai to make the full journey between San Francisco and Los Angeles due to the significant lack of filling stations en route. Indeed, there appear to be no such plans to develop stations along this road in 2017. In order for people to adopt in significant numbers, they will need to have the ability to drive longer distances than simply crossing a large city.

Moreover, 96% of all hydrogen fuel is produced by emitting a significant amount of carbon dioxide, calling into serious question the cleanliness of fuel cell vehicles in the long run compared to battery vehicles. Manufacturing hydrogen fuel completely cleanly by electrolysis, but is currently more expensive than the alternative methods.

That said, True Zero and a number of other companies are working on improving both of these pitfalls in the near future. True Zero themselves plan to start work on several larger stations in California in 2017 and the hydrogen truck start up, Nikola Motor Company is helming an especially ambitious plan to build 364 hydrogen filling stations across North America by 2020.

As far as the cleanliness of the energy is concerned, True Zero already runs two stations at which the hydrogen produced is from 100% renewable feedstock and states that its other 14 stations are still responsible overall for 60% less emissions than an average gasoline station. The aforementioned Nikola Motor Company is hoping to build a giant electrolysis plant to supply fuel to their trans-continental network.

The future of hydrogen FCVs is still an open question, and will depend very much upon the trajectory of these ambitious projects. Nonetheless, True Zero’s significant boost in custom towards the end of last year could well be a promising sign of things to come. With major companies such as Toyota and Honda still committed to the idea of fuel cell vehicles, and start ups such as Nikola joining them, there is still a lot of room for the industry to flourish.


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