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Help The California Government Realize That EV Charging Is More Important Than Hydrogen — Letters To The CEC

The government of California has previously made it clear that (for some reason) it will be providing considerable support to a planned build-out of hydrogen-fuel refilling stations in the state.

In fact, the government there is actually planning to spend more over the coming years on hydrogen stations than on EV-charging stations. (See: Like It Or Not, $27.6 Million Worth Of Fuel Cell Stations Coming To California)

Now you may be thinking, “Why?” (Especially if you realize that hydrogen vehicles aren’t even greener than conventional hybrids.) And while that is a good question, this is politics after all — I can think of a very large “number” of reasons that no doubt have factored into the decision….

hydrogen fuel cell environment


Anyways, rather than sitting on his ass and doing nothing about it, a commenter on the Tesla Motors Club forum by the name of “gene” recently posted a letter that was sent to government officials in the state questioning the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) choice to spend “$40 million of taxpayer money on hydrogen-infrastructure but only about $150,000 on direct-current fast-chargers (DCFCs) in the last 2 years.”

The letter was sent to and — for those interested in following in his footsteps.

Here’s the letter in its entirety:

Subject: Requesting information on CEC alternative vehicle infrastructure strategy

Dear California Energy Commission,

Thank you for recently publishing your report “2015‐2016 INVESTMENT PLAN
PROGRAM.” I am happy to see that our state is investing in making
alternative technology vehicles more practical to use here, and I
appreciate that you are communicating your work so clearly.

That said, I am concerned and somewhat alarmed by the choice of your
investments of taxpayer funds; they do not seem to be consistent with your
stated goals to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions, petroleum dependence,
and criteria emissions” in an efficient manner. I am particularly
concerned by the fact that you have spent twice as much ($40M vs $22M) on
hydrogen refueling infrastructure than electric charging infrastructure in
the 2013 – 2015 period, with little better planned for 2015 – 2016 (Table
13, p. 4).

I simply cannot understand this severe funding disparity given the current
and near-future distribution of alternative energy vehicles in our state.
There are about 100,000 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in California,
and I assume that there are currently 1000 or less hydrogen fuel vehicles.

The many BEV users in California need and deserve better service. I was
particularly disheartened and perplexed by the fact that you have deployed
only 9 DC fast charging (DCFC) stations to date (late 2014), and you have
adopted a strategy of deploying these in metropolitan areas instead of
along long-distance travel corridors. A rudimentary network of commercial
L2 and DCFC stations exist in our state’s greater metropolitan areas, but
we have nothing along long-distance corridors.

The prompt installation of DCFC stations along long distance corridors is
essential for enabling wider adoption of BEVs in our state. Current BEV
owners are frustrated that we cannot travel long distances along high
traffic (I5, 101) conveniently, and potential owners are put off from
purchasing BEVs because this limitation restricts their utility.

Frankly, it is disappointing to see so much money ($60M including planned
2015 – 2016 expenditures) put into deploying a hydrogen infrastructure
that will serve only a few thousand vehicles, largely in government or
corporate fleets, while less than about $150K has been spent on DCFC
stations that are needed today (9 stations x $15,000 mean cost per Table
14, p. 36). I certainly hope that you have not adopted your strategy in
order to ensure that BEVs fail to be adopted in our state.

I do not understand how your investment decisions could have been made on
concerns over either energy efficiency or the reduction of greenhouse
gasses (GHGs) or other pollutants. As you are likely well aware, a large
fraction (~30+%) of BEV owners in CA have added photo-voltaic solar panels to
their homes, helping our state achieve its renewable energy goals. Current
hydrogen vehicles are considerably less efficient than BEVs (considering
the full fuel cycle), and the use of hydrogen does little to reduce GHG
emissions given that it is derived from natural gas that is extracted with
considerable leakage and then energy must be used to transport it, convert
it to hydrogen and compress it before using in in vehicle fuel cells that
are only about 65-70% efficient (vs ~90% for batteries).

I do look forward to learning about the strategy that has driven your actions,
and I would appreciate receiving any information or links to documents
in this area. I do wish to gain a better understanding on what our elected
officials have mandated and why the CEC is on its current path.


Maybe if enough people send something along these lines there will be an actual response?

It seems as though those in power in the state have already set the course that they want to take, though, so I’m not sure how much can be done anymore. There are probably a lot of people with their hands in that pie already.

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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