True Zero Long Beach charging station

It’s not an avalanche just yet, but the number of hydrogen filling stations for the small-but-growing number of fuel cell vehicles is beginning to rise in California. True Zero, headquartered in Irvine, California hopes to entice consumers with its consumer-focused filling stations owned by FirstElement Fuel.

One of the founding partners of FirstElement Fuel is Joel Ewanick, formerly marketing head at General Motors and later Hyundai and now chairman and CEO of FirstElement Fuel. The other two founders are Tim Brown, chief operating officer, and Shane Stephens, chief development officer.

Together the three faced a daunting challenge: making the world’s first hydrogen network a reality. Now, with the goal of 19 operational hydrogen filling stations in sight, there’s still a long way to go, but incredible progress has already been made.

True Zero Santa Barbara charging station

The most recent fuel cell filling station to open is in Santa Barbara, where the True Zero dispenser is located at Conserv Fuel, 150 S. LaCumbre Road. There, consumers can stop for a short four-minute refuel and be on their way in their fuel cell vehicle. The current generation of fuel cell vehicles can travel more than 300 miles on a single charge.

What makes the Santa Barbara facility important is that it’s the first in California’s Central coast. Not only will it serve the local market, but consumers will be able drive their hydrogen-powered vehicles throughout the state, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and from San Diego (where a hydrogen filling station will open soon at 3060 Carmel Valley Road) to Lake Tahoe.

Just like they can in a gasoline-powered vehicle.

It’s also important to note that two-thirds of True Zero hydrogen comes from fossil fuels, such as natural gas. In compliance with California law, one-third comes from renewable resources, such as bio-mass.

Check out the full map of hydrogen filling stations open now and opening soon at the True Zero website.

Toyota MIrai charging at a True Zero station

Three Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Currently Available

Getting the infrastructure in place for consumers to feel comfortable and not experience range anxiety is one of the biggest hurdles in the widespread adoption of electric fuel cell cars. Another is the fact that there are currently only three hydrogen fuel cell vehicles available in the marketplace and one of them goes on sale this year.

2016 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Toyota has sold 210 of its Mirai sedan in California, while the Hyundai Tucson fuel cell has about 100 leased customers. The Honda Clarity FCV (second-generation Clarity) goes on sale this year.

Indeed, Toyota and Honda are serious about convincing consumers the viability of this mode of transport. Together they provided $13.8 million in loans to jumpstart construction of the True Zero stations. In addition, FirstElement received $27.6 million in grants from the California Energy Commission, along with another $2 million in grant funds from regional air-quality management districts.

Would You Consider a Fuel Cell Vehicle?

The question iSeeCars has is whether you’d consider a hydrogen electric vehicle (HEV)? If it can be “refilled” in four minutes, has a range of 300+ miles, drives just like a gasoline-powered car, and the costs are about the same as conventional vehicles, would you look into buying or leasing one?

It is, after all, consumer choice. Our take is that it might be interesting to have one as an additional vehicle in a multi-car family.

 

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