According to the China Hydrogen Alliance (CHA) the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) sector will be the major driver for growth of the hydrogen energy industry. Earlier versions of FCEVs suffered from “range anxiety,” but most hydrogen vehicles built in China today have a range of 500 km or greater. FCEVs are not limited by range but by the small number of hydrogen refueling stations (HRS) available, with only about 50 operating in China out of a total of about 90 built.
The surge in HRS building was supposedly in response to demand from FCEV fleets but about one-third of HRS built in China today have little to no refueling business. What caused the mismatch between the routes of FCEVs and locations of HRS in China?
Locating a HRS in a central area enables local FCEVs to operate around the HRS in a circle inscribed by a radius defined by the vehicle’s range in a model known as the “hub-and-spoke” system. Locating multiple HRS close enough to overlap these “range circles” creates a corridor in which the FCEV can operate, known in China as a “hydrogen corridor.” While China has about 35 hydrogen technology parks, the country only has seven hydrogen corridors. Despite this low number, these hydrogen corridors nevertheless cover a geographic area that accounts for 50% of China’s GDP.