Fuel Cell Vehicles: First Hydrogen Fueling Network Stretches Across California | Black & Veatch

Fuel Cell Vehicles: First Hydrogen Fueling Network Stretches Across California

Fuel Cell Vehicles: First Hydrogen Fueling Network Stretches Across California

Ewanick, CEO of FirstElement Fuel Inc., is bringing hydrogen fueling stations to California under the consumer-facing brand True Zero to encourage mass adoption of the zero emission vehicle option. FirstElement Fuel selected Black & Veatch to engineer, permit and construct the hydrogen fueling stations across California. The project currently represents the largest retail hydrogen network in the world. It’s backed by grants from the California Energy Commission and by loans from Toyota and Honda.

“Since the early 1960s, hydrogen has been one of the ‘Holy Grails’ of the automotive industry,” Ewanick said. Now, he noted, major car manufactures are in the beginning stages of introducing the world’s next generation of vehicles powered by fuel cells.

“True Zero symbolizes the ultimate goal – a vehicle fuel with zero pollution, zero use of fossil fuels and zero greenhouse gases in both its production and use. It’s about the drive toward zero emissions from well to wheels – toward zero impact on the environment from a motor vehicle.”

Joel Ewanick, CEO of FirstElement Fuel Inc

Establishing a Hydrogen Network

The True Zero stations are located at existing gas stations across Northern and Southern California. The stations represent a critical step in supporting greater adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology. Fuel cell cars use an electrochemical process with hydrogen to generate electricity and power an electric motor. When consumed in a fuel cell vehicle, the only byproduct is water vapor with zero harmful emissions.

When it came to finding a partner to engineer and construct the network, it was not as simple as a Google search for “hydrogen fuel station builders.”

“Since no one had ever done this before,” Ewanick said, “we were looking for experts who had built analogous networks, whether it be telecommunications, cell towers or super charger networks for electric vehicles. It had to be somebody who understood this kind of construction and these types of applications that we were going to use. That’s where Black & Veatch came in.”

“There’s a lot of pride that comes from doing something that we believe will change the world.”

Joel Ewanick, CEO of FirstElement Fuel Inc.

Building Multiple Fuel Cell Stations Simultaneously

Black & Veatch adapted time-tested distributed infrastructure methodologies from its telecommunications deployment to support the project.
  • The team focused on development of processes and templates that maximized repeatable design and deployment.
  • Construction was managed by Overland Contracting Inc. (OCI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Black & Veatch.
  • The process led to uniformity of design and lower overall costs.


Subject Matter Expert
Maryline Daviaud Lewett: LewettMD@bv.com

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