Exploratory Field Test of Early Fleet Niches for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles and Fueling Infrastructure

Document Date: 
Wed, 2009-04-01
Number of pages: 

Over the last several decades, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) have emerged as a zero tailpipe emission alternative to the battery electric vehicle (EV). There are key questions about consumer reaction and response to operations and refueling of FCVs. This report presents the results of a “ride-and-drive” clinic series (n=182) held in 2007 with a Mercedes-Benz A-Class “F-Cell” hydrogen FCV. The clinic evaluated participant reactions to driving and riding in an FCV, as well as witnessing a vehicle-refueling event. The respondents entered the clinic with a strong interest in alternative fuels, but less than 15 percent had any prior experience with hydrogen. Roughly 95 percent of respondents finished the clinic with either a positive or very positive impression of the F-Cell. More than 80 percent left with a positive overall impression of hydrogen. The majority expressed a willingness to travel five to ten minutes to find a hydrogen station. More than 90 percent of participants would consider an FCV driving range of 300 miles (480 kilometers) to be acceptable. Fifty percent stated that they would pay at least a $4,000 purchase price premium for a zero-emission vehicle over a similar gasoline vehicle. The techno-economic barriers to FCV deployment are still considerable, but recent progress has been made in several key areas. Remaining issues that require improvement include fuel cell system cost reduction and durability, hydrogen storage, as well as the costs and technical complexities associated with developing a hydrogen refueling infrastructure. In addition, and arguably less well recognized, are potential challenges for consumer exposure and acceptance. This study explores these latter issues with a sample population that is mostly reflective of early adopters. The results show that short-term exposure can improve consumer perceptions of hydrogen performance and safety among people who are more likely to be early adopters of hydrogen.

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