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First commercial hydrogen fueling station in the nation for big rigs set to open in West Oakland

Kristin J. Bender, The Mercury News on

Published in Automotive News

OAKLAND, California — The first commercial truck hydrogen fueling station in the nation, set to open this summer in West Oakland, has the potential over the next six years to stop nearly 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from fouling the air and harming nearby residents, the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from nearly 28,000 cars, environmental experts say.

The station’s arrival comes just a year after California air regulators approved first-in-the-nation rules to ban the sale of new diesel big rig trucks statewide by 2036, the latest step in the slow but steady phase-out of fossil fuels in the Golden State. The rule will affect 1.8 million trucks in California — everything from 18-wheeled semis to delivery vans, garbage trucks and so-called drayage trucks that move shipping containers at ports like Oakland’s.

While most of the attention on transitioning the commercial fleets to clean technology has focused on electric vehicles, some say that hydrogen fuel offers many benefits that big rigs powered by heavy electric batteries cannot.

Mary Nichols, the former chair of the California Air Resources Board, said hydrogen-fueled trucks can carry more cargo and heavier loads.

“Overall the efficiency is good and you don’t have to keeping charging all the time,” said Nichols. “It’s been a policy for a long time to try and support this type of change.”

There are fewer than 2,000 zero emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles on the road in California, according to the California Energy Commission. Of those, 1,369 are school and city buses, 306 are trucks and 268 are delivery trucks.

 

One nagging problem in the move to cleaner trucks is the lack of refueling stations that enable fleets to travel long distances. A typical EV big rig has a 200-300 mile range. A rig powered by a hydrogen fuel cell can more than double that range before refueling.

Some help may be on the way. California is on track to build the nation’s largest clean hydrogen hub by 2030. The $12 billion project will include pipelines, trucks and buses, fueling stations and liquefaction facilities, according to the University of California, a project partner.

The new ecosystem is expected to reduce up to 2 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year and create 220,000 green jobs, UC officials said. Federal, state and industry money is earmarked for the project, which is expected to generate $2.95 billion a year in economic value, including healthcare savings from reduced pollution, officials said.

Truckers in the Bay Area, however, won’t have to wait until the state builds its hydrogen network.

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