Bay Area experiences hydrogen shortage after explosion

ByMelanie Woodrow KGO logo
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Bay Area hydrogen shortage after explosion
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An explosion at a chemical plant in Santa Clara County last weekend has the drivers of hydrogen fueled vehicles going nowhere fast.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- An explosion at a chemical plant in Santa Clara County this past weekend has the drivers of hydrogen fueled vehicles going nowhere fast.

The facility is owned and operated by Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., a hydrogen supplier.

It's supposed to be the fuel of the future but along with innovation there are growing pains.

Hydrogen fueling stations across the Bay Area were down Monday following the explosion.

RELATED: Hydrogen explosion shakes Santa Clara neighborhood

Air Products tells ABC7 News there were no injuries. As a precaution, the company says it has pulled all hydrogen vehicles off the roads to do an inspection to be certain they're safe.

There is no timeline for when service will resume, according to Air Products.

Dr. Shane Stevens is a founding partner of True Zero, which owns seven of the Bay Area's hydrogen retail fueling stations.

"We do anticipate some hiccups and some teething pains during these early years, but of course when you have every station in the Bay Area down that's a pretty major hiccup," said Stevens.

It's one customers like Krista Hanson hadn't anticipated.

"Which is a pain. What can I say but if more people were using these it would be more available and any sort of a problem would be less of an issue," said Hanson.

Hanson says she traded in her Prius a year and a half ago and loves her hydrogen fueled vehicle.

"Clearly, we could have a problem with filling it up I guess, but this is the first time I've encountered that and unlike with the electric cars, it doesn't take you 10 hours or 3 hours,

it takes you five, ten minutes," Hanson continued.

Stevens estimates there are 3,000 to 3,500 fuel cell vehicles in the Bay Area. He expects as many as 1,000 True Zero customers will be impacted this week and anticipates True Zero will be able to get some of its stations back online in the coming days. Air Products would not confirm nor dispute that timeline.

In the meantime, Hanson says she plans to use her husband's gas-fueled vehicle instead.

Honda says customers can use their free rental program without impacting their 21-day allowance by calling customer service. Toyota says they are also providing rental vehicles on a case-by-case basis with no impact to customers' 21 swap days. Hyundai says they are monitoring the situation closely.

Honda's full statement is below:

"American Honda is aware of a hydrogen supply and delivery issue that has temporarily reduced the availability of hydrogen at certain northern California refueling stations. While Honda does not own these stations, in the interest of our customers, we are in communication with the hydrogen supplier, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. They have not yet provided a specific date for resolution, but we will provide updates to Clarity Fuel Cell customers as they become available.

We regret that this situation has inconvenienced a number of our Clarity Fuel Cell customers. We encourage them to utilize the HondaLink App or to check for updates and determine the nearest operating hydrogen refueling station prior to seeking fuel. If a Clarity Fuel Cell lessee is temporarily unable to refuel because of this issue, they may utilize the free luxury car rental program that Honda provides as part of each lease without impacting their twenty-one day allowance. Any lessees who want to take advantage of the rental option during this supply disruption should contact Honda Customer Service at 800-999-1009 for more information."

Toyota's full statement is below:

"Toyota is aware that certain fuel cell vehicle owners in Northern California may experience refueling challenges because of limited hydrogen supply at several local fueling stations. We are working with our Mirai customers to help identify alternative fueling options, If needed. We are also engaging with Mirai owners directly on a case-by-case basis to address their concerns. We sincerely regret any current inconvenience for our customers. We remain committed to working with stakeholders to expand California's hydrogen refueling infrastructure and to continuing our investment in the future of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle technology. Customers are encouraged to continue to use for the most up to date information related to the Mirai, Toyota's hydrogen technology and station availability.

On a case by case basis, Toyota will provide rental vehicles and the rental days for this special circumstance do not impact customer's 21-day Mirai swap days."

Hyundai's statement is as follows:

"We are monitoring this situation closely and don't any details for you at this time. We will continue to monitor this for the concerns you mention below."