California Air Resources Board Proposed Regulation – Clean Fuels Outlet

Over half of California’s 2050 passenger vehicle fleet will need to be powered by fuel cell vehicles in order to meet California’s goal of reducing passenger vehicle emissions by 80% in 2050, according to a projection [PDF] by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).  Automakers expect to increase the number of fuel cell vehicles to 53,000 [PDF] in California over the 2015-2017 timeframe,  but the 24 [PDF] hydrogen stations currently planned or in operation  cannot service this many vehicles. Potential retail fuel providers will be reluctant to invest in infrastructure ahead of significant vehicle deployments. They will likely face initial operating loses until volumes are large enough to make a profit. CARB projects [PDF] that fuel providers would become profitable on a cumulative basis by 2019 or 2020.

On December 8, 2011 CARB proposed an update to the “Clean Fuels Outlet” (CFO) regulation to facilitate hydrogen fueling stations through the changes listed below. In addition to the regulatory approach, CARB continues to work directly with stakeholders to develop a voluntary alternative agreement [PDF].  The CFO is part of CARB’s overall program of promoting clean cars and advanced technology zero emission vehicles

Specific changes would:

  • Add a trigger of 10,000 vehicles in an air basin in addition to the existing 20,000 vehicle state-wide trigger (proposed section 2303.5);
    • Note that the existing 75% discount for fleet vehicles would be continued due to expected central refueling (section 2303.5)
  • Lower the “sunset” clause from fuel availability at 10% of statewide fueling outlets to 5% of fueling outlets of about 9700 total statewide (proposed section 2318);
  • Place the compliance obligation on fuel refiners/importers by market share rather than retail stations (proposed sections 2306.1, 2309);
  • Impose a penalty if the CFO is triggered based on automaker FCEV projections but automakers significantly underperform (proposed 2315(d));
  • Extend the planning horizon for clean fuels outlets (proposed 2307(e));
  • Add station requirements such as requiring SAE J2601 “Fueling Protocols for Light Duty Gaseous Hydrogen Surface Vehicles” (proposed sections 2302, 2309);
  • Study whether the regulation should apply to public chargers for plug-in electric vehicles (proposed section 2302).

Clean air