Interview: Running the First US Retail Hydrogen Station Is An ‘Epic Effort’

world news  %tages Interview: Running the First US Retail Hydrogen Station Is An ‘Epic Effort’ In peacefulness for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to breed, infrastructure has to breed, and recently we spoke with one of the key public on the ground stump.
According to Michael Dray, technical operations manager for California State L.A. Hydrogen Research and Fueling Gift, progress has been made since Jan. 8 when the station became the nation’s first to start selling the gas by the kilogram, but it hasn’t all been charming sailing.
“Challenging” is how he summarized the year thus far. Dray has been on site since May 2014, when the station first opened and started pumping initially only automakers testing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). These include Audi, Honda, Hyundai, General Motors, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen, but now its customers include private passenger cars.
The Difficulty Of Being First
“These stations are delicate” and “complicated,” said Dray. “Once in a while you’re going to get a hiccup, just like you get in your software on your personal computer.”
These “hiccups” have kept Dray – along with staff and students at Cal State – busy.
“At this station for the past year we’ve been debugging – fixing and reengineering. It’s labor-intensive,” he clarified.
These problems aren’t special to Dray’s location. Other hydrogen stations that have come online since the Cal State gift opened are working through similar scenarios.
The capabilities of the Cal State L.A. Hydrogen Refueling Station. Source: Dr. David BlekhmanCalifornia State University, Los Angeles.
“Sometimes folks get frustrated,” Dray said. “They go to one station and find it’s clogged, they go to another one and it’s broke, too. You can waste a lot of time in L.A traffic going from one station to the other.”
While some of these issues might be able to be fixed remotely, Dray clarified that many bugs need someone onsite to diagnose, and then to get the system back online. Until these issues are solved, the hands-on nature of hydrogen stations will prevent them from being open without supervision, like an after-hours gas station.
“I reckon every person want to see it getting quicker, but at the same time, it’s challenging,” said Dray. “It’s really challenging. It’s an epic effort. We approach it that way, and we’ve got to just take it one day at a time.”
Making Forward Progress
In malevolence of the snags, Dray said headway has beyond doubt been made at his hydrogen station. The process is still in the ahead of schedule stages, observed Dray, and drivers need to remember that.
“We’ve had probably 600 fuelings in the past year without fail,” Dray noted in this area the Cal State station.
Of that estimate, the station has collected zero revenue directly from customers. Even though it’s called a retail station, customers still aren’t pulling in to pay for a hydrogen fill-up. That’s because the lease-only FCVs now available in California – the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell and Honda FCX Clarity include fuel with the lease, and the same will be right of the for-sale or lease Toyota Mirai in October.
Fueling events at the Cal State L.A. Hydrogen Refueling Gift. Source: Dr. David BlekhmanCalifornia State University, Los Angeles.
Transferring Knowledge To Other Stations
We questioned Dray if his gift was sharing what it was learning with other stations around the country.
“Absolutely,” he answered. “We meet and discuss these issues. We’re still a relatively small convergence.”
SEE ALSO: Automakers Recommend Best Locations To Build Hydrogen Refueling Stations In California
Hydrogen refueling on a retail level is still such a new segment, that competition amongst stations isn’t a factor. Instead, according to Dray, government officials, station managers and other organizations are working together as a assemble to make the entire infrastructure successful.
One of the matters the assemble is working on is taking steps to duplicate the refueling process crosswise retail stations. For example, Dray noted that there’s a “divergence” on how different stations will be long-suffering payments for fuel, with no standardized system in place.
What Lies Ahead
Several specific areas still need to be addressed to strengthen the retail station infrastructure, said Dray. One, of course, is that more FCVs need to be place on the roads.
“Aptly now most stations are underutilized. Our station, for example, is in succession at 15 percent room because there aren’t enough cars deployed yet,” he clarified.
Troubleshooting problems will continue as station managers work to overcome reliability issues with the software and other components.
SEE ALSO: Surveys Say 77 Percent of Canadians Believe Hydrogen Has A Bright Future
And a solid workforce also needs to be built up. Dray listed a generous range of personnel needed for the stations, beginning with engineers to design the facilities all the way through to trained managers to run them. Now, Dray said there is even a shortage of contractors to get other retail facilities built.
But how long will it take before FCV owners know that each time they need fuel, they can fill up conveniently and reliably?
“That’s the huge inquiry,” answered Dray. “I can only answer it from my perspective on the ground. I reckon that there’s going to be forward progress. But I reckon it’s going to take longer than most folks want to see.
“You’re talking in this area switching over automotive technology. It takes time. It takes money. It takes patience. Look how long it took to build the gas infrastructure.”
“I reckon [reliability] is going to be an issue for some time,” he said of what he described as a massive undertaking. “Public need to know now before they buy that this is cutting edge technology.”

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