California lawmakers have agreed to set aside 15% of funds from a billion-dollar climate program. The funds, totaling an estimated $106 million, will be dedicated to building hydrogen fueling stations for cars and trucks.
This allocation comes at a time when hydrogen vehicles make up only about 1% of the total zero-emission vehicles in California, with approximately 12,000 hydrogen-powered cars on the road. The limited popularity of hydrogen vehicles is primarily due to the dominance of electric vehicles in the market and the scarcity of hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
The California Hydrogen Coalition, a group that includes industry giants like Chevron, Shell, and Toyota, originally sought $300 million to create a statewide network of 1,000 fueling stations. While the final allocation falls short of their initial request, Teresa Cooke, the executive director of the coalition, considers this a win for the hydrogen industry.
“This is just the beginning,” Cooke stated, emphasizing the need for continued investment in hydrogen technology and infrastructure.
The funds will not only support passenger vehicles but also medium- and heavy-duty trucks powered by hydrogen. However, industry experts point out that electric trucks are strong contenders in this segment, casting some uncertainty on the future demand for hydrogen fueling stations.
Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at UC Berkeley Law, expressed reservations about the allocation. He argued that the funds could be better utilized for expanding electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which is in higher demand.
The funds for hydrogen stations are part of the Clean Transportation Program, financed through fees paid by car owners, including $2 car registration fees and $4 smog abatement fees. The program aims to provide approximately $1.2 billion for zero-emission vehicle infrastructure until 2035.
While the allocation decision has faced scrutiny, supporters view it as a positive step in advancing hydrogen technology and reducing carbon emissions. California Governor Gavin Newsom is in favor of the funding agreement, citing its importance in the fight against climate change.
The future of the program now hinges on legislative approval, with the requirement of a two-thirds majority vote. If approved, it will provide crucial support for building a more extensive hydrogen fueling infrastructure in California.