Carto Grafiassono Blog How Hydrogen Refueling Stations Work

How Hydrogen Refueling Stations Work

hydrogen refueling stations

As hydrogen refueling stations become more common and fuel-cell electric vehicles take to the road, it’s important to understand how the technology works. After all, from the outside, a hydrogen station looks a lot like your local gas pump: touchscreen, nozzle, overhead lights under a canopy, etc. But the differences lie underneath.

Hydrogen is stored as a liquid or a gas in above-ground tanks at pressures of 10,000 psi (H70) for light-duty vehicles and 5,000 psi (H35) for heavy-duty vehicles and material handling equipment. Liquid storage requires more space than gaseous storage. When a vehicle is fueled, the liquid hydrogen is pumped into a cylinder for dispensing as a gas.

Hydrogen Refueling Stations: A Sustainable Solution for Clean Energy Vehicles

Most refueling stations are built for light-duty, passenger vehicles. Some are designed for heavier-duty, trucks and buses. Those that do are part of public networks and support government-backed policies to decarbonize heavy-duty transport. For example, our first hydrogen bus station in the Netherlands is a high-capacity facility that serves 20 Qbuzz hydrogen buses and offers round-the-clock operations.

This station is powered by a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer, which uses the power generated from wind and solar to produce hydrogen. This hydrogen is then used in a combined cycle system to generate electricity. The surplus is fed back into the grid, helping to balance energy demand in the region.

The refueling station itself is a highly-engineered system with many safety and operational features. Depending on the application, the station may require cascade buffer storage or reduction valves to control the flow of hydrogen between the tank and the car. During the refueling process, a precooler chills the hydrogen being dispatched to the vehicle to avoid excessive temperature rise in the car’s tank. PI controllers regulate the system to ensure that the process is safe and consistent with the chosen fueling protocol.

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