Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

5 Things to Know When Filling Up Your Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle

July 19, 2016

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How to Fill Up Your Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle

Watch this video to see just how easy it is to fill up your fuel cell electric vehicle.

So you hopped on board the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) bandwagon, just like Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and enjoyed 300-plus miles of pure, zero-emission bliss from the tailpipe. Now comes the fun part, filling up! It’s quick, easy and isn’t too much different than your traditional gas station.

 

Here are five things you need to know when filling up your FCEV.

1. Price

Three white and silver fuel cell vehicles parked next to one another with only the front of the vehicles showing.
The Hyundai Tucson (left) and Toyota Mirai (middle) are commercially available in California. The Honda Clarity (right) is expected to be commercially available in 2016.
U.S. Department of Energy

The current price at the pump for hydrogen gas is between $13-$16/kilogram (kg) – 1 kg of hydrogen contains roughly the same energy density as 1 gallon of gasoline. But, because a fuel cell is more than twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine, you basically need half the amount of hydrogen to go twice as far! FCEVs use a fuel cell stack to convert hydrogen gas and oxygen into electricity to power the vehicle. Our Fuel Cell Technologies Office is funding research and development efforts to help drive down the total cost of hydrogen fuel (production and delivery included) to less than $4/kg by 2020. Learn more about how fuel cells work.

2. Tank Capacity

The hydrogen fuel nozzle locks on to the fuel receptacle (above) before fueling begins.
The hydrogen fuel nozzle locks on to the fuel receptacle (above) before fueling begins.
U.S. Department of Energy

FCEVs can have a driving range of more than 300 miles on one tank of hydrogen. Due to its low energy volume, most automakers store hydrogen in high-pressure tanks that typically hold roughly 5 kg of compressed hydrogen at up to 10,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. Just like in gasoline cars, there’s a fuel gauge that tells you when you’re low on fuel.

3. Pressure: 35 MPa vs. 70 MPa

Fuel cell elecric pump
Light-weight vehicles use 70 MPa at refueling stations.
U.S. Department of Energy

When you pull up to the pump, you might see two options to choose from: 35 MPa vs. 70 MPa. This refers to the hydrogen storage tank pressure in your car. MPa stands for megapascal, another unit of measurement for pressure. Light-weight vehicles use 70 MPa, which will be the only option at newer refueling stations. Older stations do have a 35 MPa option but that’s primarily used for heavy duty and larger vehicles such as buses that have larger tanks.

4. Time on Task

A man fills up a fuel cell tank.
Jason Marcinkoski of the Energy Department demonstrates how to fill up a FCEV.
U.S. Department of energy

This might be the best part. It takes roughly five minutes or less to refuel a full tank of hydrogen-just the same as a gasoline tank. That’s enough time to read two of our blogs and check out our Facebook page, or just binge watch our YouTube channel! All you need to do is lock the fuel dispenser on to the gas tank and sit back and let the hydrogen flow, you’ll be on your way in no time. It’s also important to note that refueling is extremely safe, just like with gasoline. Dispensers are equipped with breakaway hoses, leak detection sensors and grounding mechanisms to protect from human error such as driving away with the dispenser still connected to the vehicle.

5. Station Availability

A fuel cell vehicle drives by a dmonstration building painted with the words Hydrogen Fueling Station.
The Hydrogen Refueling Station Demonstration Facility in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Energy

Retail hydrogen fueling stations are already up and running in California, with funding in place for 100 more. Stations are also in development in the Northeast with an agreement between eight states across the United States committing to putting 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2025, including FCEVs. You can check out a list of all hydrogen stations on our alternative fuel station locator website, or better yet download our app!

Learn more about the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) efforts to develop affordable, efficient fuel cell and hydrogen technologies on EERE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells page and increase your H2IQ.