Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Highlighting Hydrogen: Hawaii’s Success with Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles Offers Opportunity Nationwide

September 11, 2014

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A fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) in Hawaii. Engineers from Idaho National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified a new way to launch economically viable hydrogen fueling stations for FCEVs in Honolulu. | Photo by Michael Penev, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

A fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) in Hawaii. Engineers from Idaho National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified a new way to launch economically viable hydrogen fueling stations for FCEVs in Honolulu. | Photo by Michael Penev, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

A recent report on fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) could help accelerate the pace of America’s growing clean energy economy.

Engineers from the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified a new way to launch economically viable hydrogen fueling stations for FCEVs in Honolulu, Hawaii, based on a report titled “Hydrogen Fueling Station in Honolulu, Hawaii.” While that’s great news for the sunny state, the report’s findings could also have a broad national impact.

The engineers assessed the technical and economic feasibility of developing a vacant, undeveloped General Services Administration-owned property into an income-producing site equipped with a hydrogen fueling station and a covered 175-stall parking structure with roof-top solar panels. According to the analysis, the solar energy system could generate about 700 kilowatts of power per day that would be used to produce hydrogen from water, through a process called electrolysis.

The use of hydrogen fuel cells in passenger vehicles improves energy efficiency when compared to standard internal combustion engines that power most vehicles on the roads today. With only water coming out of the tailpipe, FCEVs are both more efficient and environmentally friendly.

The challenge lies in producing the hydrogen. Fueling infrastructure is a major barrier to wide-scale adoption, so innovative ways of building cost-effective hydrogen fueling stations are essential to the technology’s widespread adoption in the United States.

The feasibility study was conducted jointly between the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Federal Energy Management Program and Fuel Cell Technologies Office and the General Services Administration. The report concludes that the proposed station will enable the third-party owner to combine income streams by selling excess solar power back to the grid, leasing the covered parking spaces, and selling hydrogen—at competitive prices—to fuel the FCEVs. These FCEVs could include cars, transit buses, and even shuttle buses.

The multi-purpose station detailed in the report would provide a flagship installation in a highly visible site in downtown Honolulu. This station will also demonstrate that producing affordable, renewable hydrogen that benefits the environment and the community is feasible using technologies available today.