Considering the high cost of building hydrogen fueling stations, and the unwillingness of businesses to build them before a sufficient number of hydrogen vehicles is produced, every idea that could help reduce the construction and installation costs for fueling stations is more than welcomed. One such idea was recently proposed by a groups of students at the Washington State University, who have been working on a project for an innovative hydrogen fueling station that would be easier and cheaper to build and would contribute to the efforts for installing a proper and extensive infrastructure for hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles.
The students submitted their idea to the annual Hydrogen Student Design Contest that was held recently, and won first place. It’s a competition that invites students to create economic, engineering, marketing, and design solutions that can be applied in the hydrogen and fuel cell industries. This year’s contest was all about designing an economical and transportable fueling station.
There were several requirements that all submissions had to comply with. For starters, the station would have to be able to fill up a vehicle with 5 kilograms of hydrogen in less than 5 minutes, which equals to a range of about 300 miles. Additionally, it would have to be transportable, low maintenance, and be ready for mass production. The design that was submitted by the WSU students meet all these requirements.
The production costs for the station designed by the students are 75% lower than those required for the stations that are currently built, which along with the short fueling time, makes it a pretty viable solution. What’s more, the students said that it would only cost about $48 to fill a hydrogen vehicle with 300 miles worth of hydrogen, which is more or less the same amount you would have to pay to travel 300 miles with a gasoline-powered vehicle. Another great thing about their design is that it can be implemented in existing gas stations, reducing the costs of installation even further.
It’s a very interesting idea, that could be easily implemented and has what it takes to be commercially viable. Jake Leachman, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, who took part in the project as an advisor, said: “The design the students developed looks to be completely implementable right now.” He went on to say that it’s an innovative business model that is a good foundation for a startup company.
The reason why this design could be the solution that the auto industry has been looking for while trying to make hydrogen vehicles a viable alternative to conventional cars, is that it addresses the key challenges the existing fueling infrastructure faces. Perhaps the most important benefit it would bring is that it could help make construction and installation of fueling stations more economically feasible, given that at the moment, stations are just too expensive to build, which is the main factor that prevents a more significant expansion of the infrastructure that is needed to support hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. This is a second significant innovation originating from WSU students in the past month, right after unveiling the drowsy driver detection technology.