Toyota and Shell could build 7 hydrogen refueling stations in California
By Megan Geuss
Oil giant and automaker hedge their bets on fossil fuel dependence.
Toyota and Shell will likely build seven hydrogen refueling stations around California if the state’s Energy Commission approves a proposed $16.4 million in grants.
Both Toyota and Shell see their current products—combustion-engine vehicles and gas, respectively—being phased out in the long term (think 2050). They’re diversifying now to be ready if and when the economics are more favorable for the switch. The announcement of the California stations comes after Toyota, Shell, and 11 other energy and transportation companies jointly agreed to invest nearly $11 billon in hydrogen technology in January.
Toyota has worked for years on developing iterations of its hydrogen-powered Mirai. The Japanese car manufacturer expects only 10 percent of its fleet to include combustion engines by 2050. Shell, too, has worked on the fuel angle of hydrogen fuel for years. It argues that hydrogen fuel advances are needed because no single low-carbon solution—like battery-powered electric vehicles—can fit every situation.
Hydrogen has a number of advantages as a transportation fuel: it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases to power the vehicle, and the fuel’s byproduct is water (H2O, a substance harmless to humans in moderate quantities). Refueling hydrogen takes only a few minutes, as opposed to a much longer wait time to charge an electric vehicle. But fuel cells have downsides, too. Making, compressing, and storing H2 can be energy intensive, and if that energy’s not from renewable sources, it mitigates the benefits of moving to hydrogen vehicles. Storing hydrogen can also be difficult, unless it’s in a high-pressure environment or kept at a very cold temperature.
But oil companies like Shell have an interest in keeping drivers refueling at their stations. Shell has conducted a number of pilot projects in Germany to advance hydrogen fuel-cell research, and the Anglo-Dutch company currently has two hydrogen filling stations in California.
In a press release from Toyota North America, Advanced Technology Vehicle Senior Manager Craig Scott said that “Shell’s partnership will bring the expertise and resources of a major energy company to hydrogen infrastructure efforts in California. The team of Toyota and Shell will bring us one step closer to a hydrogen society.”
A “hydrogen society” seems far-fetched for the near- and medium-term future, as California only has 25 hydrogen fuel stations currently, according to Bloomberg. Hydrogen refueling stations are even rarer in other parts of the country. Still, California buyers can purchase hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, and Daimler today, the news outlet reports.