Shell is pulling the plug on hydrogen for cars in California

The oil and gas giant is closing all its hydrogen refilling stations in California with immediate effect. Shell executives quote "supply complications and other external market factors" as a reason to seize operations. And this is not an isolated issue.

Image: Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership

Shell had made a similar move in 2022 when it closed all H2 stations in the UK. At the time, the company said the prototype had reached its end of life, but the more considerable argument was another. Shell, like others, figured that light-duty hydrogen solutions hardly make for a business case and is now focusing on heavy-duty applications.

The company confirmed this strategy when speaking to Hydrogen Insight last autumn. At the time, Shell had already scraped plans for 48 new sites it had previously announced it would build in California. Already there were plans to close down this year.

In California, the decision to pull out of the market will leave Toyota Mirai, Hyundai Nexo, and Honda Clarity Fuel Cell drivers with seven fewer stations out of 55 in the state. 

Moreover, Inside EVs reports long queues and broken stations on the ground. Many also suffer from a lack of hydrogen.

A note at an Iwatani hydrogen filling station illustrates the general state: 

“Our primary hydrogen supplier has experienced a disruption that will impact our access to hydrogen for the Hawaiian Gardens station. We currently do not have an ETA to return to normal service levels and will provide updates as soon as we have more information. We greatly appreciate your patience for the additional downtime this will cause.”

The Japanese gas company is active in the American hydrogen filling market but is currently suing its core technology provider. In a court filing viewed by Hydrogen Insight, Iwatini alleges that the company did not test its equipment in a real-world scenario, hid defects, and misled the client.

Be that as it may, the impact won’t be felt by many. While California is one of the few markets for hydrogen-powered vehicles, only 3,143 were registered in 2023 — less than 1% of battery-electric cars in the same period, according to the California Energy Commission.

As for Shell, all seven sites were located in the north of the state, specifically in Berkeley, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. The Group continues to operate three H2 refuelling stations for commercial vehicles in California but says it will focus on the charging infrastructure for battery-electric vehicles when it comes to passenger cars.,


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