FirstElement Fuel Inc. has entered into a renewable hydrogen supply agreement with Air Liquide, which, in turn, will invest more than $150 million to build a new liquid hydrogen production facility in the Western U.S.
The arrangement will enable FirstElement Fuel to provide 100% renewable hydrogen for customers of its True Zero Network across California. The plant will also support other fuel cell vehicle and transportation markets in the region, such as material handling and forklifts and heavy-duty trucks, says Air Liquide.
“This signals a transitional moment for the hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) market,” says Joel Ewanick, founder and CEO of FirstElement Fuel Inc. “Air Liquide is bringing significant private investment to build a key piece for growing California’s hydrogen network. It’s yet another indication of the momentum for hydrogen as a replacement for gasoline.”
“The California Energy Commission has strategically invested in launching a backbone network of hydrogen refueling stations to enable the state’s transition to vehicles with no tailpipe pollution,” says Janea A. Scott, commissioner of the California Energy Commission (CEC). “A critical next step in establishing a stable hydrogen market is increasing supply while bringing down costs; today’s announcement by FirstElement and Air Liquide takes that step.”
FirstElement Fuel has been growing its True Zero Network in California with financial assistance from the CEC, Toyota, Honda, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. In addition to the new long-term hydrogen supply agreement, Air Liquide has also signaled its intent to make an equity investment into FirstElement Fuel to assist the California-based company in further expanding its retail hydrogen station network.
According to Air Liquide, a dedicated hydrogen production facility will drive down costs and add reliability to the fuel supply chain for the rapidly expanding FCEV market. Further, the facility’s increased scale is expected to help FirstElement reduce its price at the dispenser faster than previously anticipated.
“Global companies like Air Liquide do not make investments of $150 million unless they see a clear path to a return,” adds Ewanick. “This is another indication that the fuel cell electric vehicle market in California is here to stay.”
Currently, FirstElement operates 19 True Zero retail hydrogen stations, with 12 more under development.
Michael Graff, executive vice president and executive committee member of L’Air Liquide S.A. and chairman and CEO of American Air Liquide Holdings Inc., says, “This new investment in hydrogen production and our collaborative relationship with FirstElement Fuel further demonstrate our long-term commitment to the development of hydrogen energy for mobility and accelerate the deployment of new hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles – cars, trucks, buses – planned by automotive manufacturers like Toyota, Honda and other leading OEMs. We are convinced that hydrogen is an essential sustainable energy vector of the future and a cornerstone of the energy transition.”