TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Now that Toyota and other automakers are preparing to introduce fuel-cell vehicles in California, entrepreneurs are starting to build a network of hydrogen fuel stations.
FirstElement Fuel Inc., based in Newport Beach, Calif., has gotten a state grant to install 19 hydrogen fuel dispensers in various locations in California. The installations are part of the state’s effort to create a network of 68 hydrogen stations for fuel-cell powered vehicles that will go on sale next year.
President Shane Stephens-Romero says FirstElement hopes to expand its network to a total of 40 dispensers in the next few years.
The company hopes to be profitable in five years or so, said Stephens-Romero, following his presentation today at the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars.
“I think it’s going to be a labor of love for a few years, but in 2019 or 2020 we hope to start seeing some profits,” he said.
FirstElement will buy the dispensers from a supplier, then install them on the premises of traditional gasoline stations. The company will own and maintain those dispensers, and keep them supplied with hydrogen.
Later, the company may install some dispensers at shopping malls and other retail establishments.
Stephens-Romero is trying to set up his network of dispensers as the initial wave of fuel cell vehicles come to market. Hyundai has introduced a fuel-cell version of the Tucson, and Honda will roll out the FCX Clarity next year.
Daimler is developing a fuel-cell vehicle, and Toyota will introduce a production version of its FCV fuel-cell vehicle in the summer of 2015.