Table 2.4. Hydrogen Infrastructure Challenges

Table 2.4. Hydrogen Infrastructure Challenges

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Challenge Status Remaining Barriers and Strategies
Technology Challenges    
Fuel Cell Performance The NRC reported fuel cell "stack" operating life has grown from about 1,000 hours in 2004 to more than 1,500 hours. In 2008, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory documented an independent validation of 140 fuel cell vehicles that showed nearly 2,000 hours under real world conditions. More recently, fuel cells have lasted as long as 7,300 hours in laboratory testing.

Fuel cells also are beginning to match the fossil-fueled distances between refuelings about 300 miles
The Federal goal for fuel cell stack life is 5,000 hours, equivalent to 150,000 miles of engine life for gasoline-powered driving.

The goal for on-board hydrogen storage systems is $2 per kilowatt hour and $30 kilowatt for fuel cells. NRC reported that Toyota testing did exceed the 300-range goal but at an estimated cost of $15 to $18 per kilowatt hour for on-board storage.

The size and weight of current fuel cell and fuel storage systems must be further reduced for commercial success.
Vehicle Supply DOE has been working with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to test and demonstrate 140 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. NRC estimates hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are not likely to be cost-competitive until after 2020 where they could comprise about 2 million of the nation's 280 million light-duty vehicles. Federal incentives potentially could bridge the cost gap between HFCV and traditional vehicles.

California's mandate for zero emissions vehicles offers an opportunity to increase vehicle supply.
Fuel Supply DOE has funded research to produce hydrogen from electricity, nuclear energy and clean coal. Key research areas include electrolysis, thermochemical conversion of biomass, photolytic and fermentative micro-organism systems, photoelectrochemical systems, and high-temperature chemical cycle water splitting.

Depending on the technology used to produce the hydrogen, the cost per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) now ranges between $3 and $9. The DOE target is $2 - $3 per gas gallon equivalent.
New hydrogen production technology is needed to increase the output of hydrogen production, reduce its cost, as well as reduce greenhouse gases.

These technologies will need additional research, development, testing and funding to bring to maturity.
Refueling DOE has achieved its milestone of a refueling time of 5 minutes or less for 5 kg of hydrogen at 350 bar dispensing pressure.

DOT is funding researchers to explore fuel cell bus operations in 14 cities and some of these conveyances will be fueled with hydrogen.

DOE and DOT also are working to discover how innovative composites can permit higher capacities of hydrogen storage.
More research is needed to find lighter materials that can store more hydrogen and have refueling times similar to traditional vehicles.

Research also is needed to increase supply and availability. Costs for hydrogen production and bulk storage of fuel at retail stations must be reduced for successful commercialization.

Lower cost storage tanks are important for near and mid-term success, while low pressure storage technologies are need for commercial success of all vehicle types.

Methods for greater vehicular hydrogen storage capacities within the packaging constraints of a vehicle (e.g. cryocompressed and materials options) still require R&D and refueling approaches must be addressed.
Public & Private Sector Organizational Challenges    
Federal, State & Local Coordination DOE, DOT, industry, and codes and standards organizations are facilitating and expediting codes and standards development to recognize hydrogen as a fuel gas.

Standardized rules for transport & in-transit handling. PHMSA has adopted requirements similar to those contained in the UN Model Regulations into 49 CFR based on a series of rulemakings which harmonize domestic regulations with international requirements.
Today, there are approximately 44,000 jurisdictions with their own planning processes. More work is needed to facilitate common codes and standards.
Land Use & Site Planning Siting is a State , regional or local decision.

DOE launched a web-based permitting compendium to promote standardization of permitting hydrogen and fuel cell installations and conducted workshops to education code officials to improve the permitting process.

The Technical Reference on Hydrogen Compatibility of Materials (; the Regulators' Guide to Permitting Hydrogen Technologies (; and the Web sites "Hydrogen Safety Best Practices" ( and "Permitting Hydrogen Facilities (
Land use authorities' lack of awareness of what is needed for a hydrogen fueling station leads to reluctance to approve facilities.
Public Perception & Education Some work initiated. Broad understanding is key to acceptance. DOE is conducting public outreach to increase knowledge and understanding of hydrogen technologies.

Last summer, DOT, DOE and California Fuel Cell Partnership participated in a national media tour of hydrogen vehicles to increase public awareness and acceptance.
State and local planners and officials, as well as private sector decision-makers, need training and opportunities to collaborate about making safe and smart investments. The public will need similar opportunities to better understand the societal benefits of these investments. More work is needed to facilitate conformity.

Future Federal programs will need to integrate these considerations in all of its future program requirements as it invests in research and technological innovations.
Commercial Sector Challenges    
Station Start Up DOE estimates there are about 60 hydrogen fueling stations across the nation. Investment strategies for alternative fueling stations including hydrogen have similar variation in cost and level of investment. The costs for starting a station can vary greatly based on the type created. In its 2009 Action Plan, the California Fuel Cell Partnership estimates its station startup costs at about $3M - $4M each.
Network Maturity There are 700 miles of DOT-regulated hydrogen transmission pipeline in the United States Energy Information Administration estimates that there is another 500 miles of distribution pipeline. DOE estimates there are about 60 hydrogen fueling stations across the nation. Decisions are needed on whether specific markets or regions, such as California, should be targeted for hydrogen investment (DOE) or if a national strategy of a station every 25 miles should be pursued (NRC). Coordination of fuel supply with vehicle distribution will be an important area of public/private cooperation.
Station Standardization Stations are currently being built with both 350 and 700 bar dispensing pressure. Dialogue will continue with auto manufacturers and fuel providers regarding preferred technology, performance, and cost issues.

As part of learning demonstrations, DOE is working on increasing the compatibility of components and standardizing the process. Twenty stations have been successfully opened a result.
Requirements for planning, constructing and operating refueling stations must be standardized. This standardization includes the use of model codes for planning and construction, pump performance standards and proper siting of storage tanks.
Fuel Quality & Quantity At present, DOE, International Standards Organization (ISO), the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP), and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)/Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI) are working to improve hydrogen quality, quantify impacts and mitigate effects. Identify and exclude potential contaminants on the automotive fuel cell or on-board hydrogen storage systems, as well as assess their impacts and cost/ performance trade-offs. Balance extremely high costs of providing extremely pure hydrogen with the life-cycle costs of the complete hydrogen fuel cell vehicle "system."
Insurance & Liability DOE is developing a strategy to address the issues and concerns associated with insurance for deployment of hydrogen infrastructure. Insurance and liability requirements could deter many potential investors from financing hydrogen refueling stations. It will take Federal , State and local officials, the insurance industry and station investors and operators working together to over come this barrier.
Safety Codes & Standards Challenges    
Standards Codes & Permitting Code framework was created, code officials were trained and hydrogen specific code documents were prepared.

DOE and its Federal partners are working to identify needed codes and standards, facilitate their development with the pertinent stakeholders and support publicly available research and certification investigations necessary to provide the data and science for promulgating them.
To enable the commercialization of hydrogen in consumer products, new model building codes and equipment and other technical standards need to be developed and recognized by Federal , State , and local governments.

Among the challenges government faces are:

Limited government influence on model codes;

Limited State funds for adoption of new codes;

Large number of local government jurisdictions Needed to adopt these standards;

Lack of consistency in training of officials;

Limited US role in the development of international standards including inadequate representation at international forums;

International competitiveness and the resulting conflicts between domestic and international standards;

Lack of national consensus on appropriate codes and standards requirements;

Jurisdictional legacy issues;

Insufficient technical data to revise standards.
Safety & Emergency Response Basic trainings have been initiated. An on-line educational package on hydrogen safety information for first responders was published by DOE and has been completed by over 7,000 users to date.

DOT's PHMSA administers and enforces Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations requirements for the transport and storage of hydrogen, along with other fuels and hazardous materials. This includes specifying approved shipping containers, including pipelines, have testing, maintenance, and inspection requirements for safe transport and handling. DOE and DOT have developed and are continuing to develop hydrogen safety programs for emergency responders.
More work needed to reach broader audience with better trainings and tools.

A suitably trained emergency response force is an essential component of a viable infrastructure. Training of emergency response personnel is a high priority, not only because these personnel need to understand how to deal with a hydrogen-related emergency situation, but also because firefighters and other emergency workers are influential in their communities and can be a positive force in the introduction of hydrogen and fuel cells into local markets.
Sustained Commitment Challenges    
Federal The Federal Government already funds R&D programs developing technologies, fuels and fuel supplies. Government policies are being developed to support infrastructure development and to facilitate the development of business cases to support private sector investment. Tax credits and other financing tools support vehicle conversion. NRC estimated the Federal Government's required contributions as roughly $55 billion from 2008 to 2023 for R&D and support for the demonstration and deployment of the vehicles, which initially are expected to be more expensive than conventional vehicles. NRC supports R&D for hydrogen production and demonstration projects as key to acceptance and broad deployment. These include fuel cell vehicle components and systems, hydrogen production, delivery and storage and safety, codes and standards activities, emergency response, and technology validation.
Marketplace Hydrogen technologies will need additional research, development, testing and funding to bring to maturity.

According to NRC, $40 billion of the $55 billion Federal investment for hydrogen between 2010 and 2030 is to make fuel cell technology more affordable to consumers. Private sector investment (consumer and industry) is expected to be in excess of $140 billion.
Private sector research and innovative approaches to private/public partnerships are key to acceptance and broad deployment. NAS notes that the private sector cost for hydrogen infrastructure would be about $400 billion by 2050 to support 220 million vehicles. This total also would include 180,000 stations, 210 central plants, and 80,000 miles of pipeline.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Research & Innovative Technology Administration and U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Fuel Cell Technologies Program.