Comparative Infrastructure Cost: EV Versus Fuel Cell

Sometimes I have to laugh at myself for coming up with the scintillating headlines for our articles, seriously “Comparative Infrastructure Cost: EV Versus Fuel Cell”? This is not the most exciting headline I could have come up with, instead likely to elicit a collective groan, sigh, snore. But our previously published article on fuels cells (by way of the New York Times) begged for our curiosity. Yes, Pace Charging is an electric vehicle charging company, but our overriding purpose is to facilitate a cleaner more sustainable future for transportation, so if there’s a better technology out there we should give it due respect.

In our book, the best technologies are those that are relatively easy to integrate into our existing infrastructure. While hardly The New York Times article pointed out that a hydrogen re-fueling station, by itself, costs between $1 million and $3 million depending upon whether hydrogen was produced onsite. We could probably safely say that rounded off its $2 million per station, with that number in mind we thought it might be interesting to run some quick numbers on infrastructure cost – electric vehicle charging versus hydrogen fuel cell stations.

For fuel cell stations it would be safe to say that if we were to convert to a fully fuel cell based transportation network we would need to replace or at least equal the current 120,000 (roughly) gas stations out there, at $2mm a pop that’s going to be about $240 billion.

Figuring out the number needed for EV charging stations: the US is about 3.7 million square miles in size, if we wanted to have at least one level III unit every 25 miles so that any EV anywhere could get a quick recharge any time, that would mean we would need about 148,000 stations, lets double that to 296,000 so that each location has at least two stations. We’ll estimate that each unit costs about $60,000 to purchase and install, total cost only $17.7 billion.

Needless to say this is not a one or the other type decision we have to make, inevitably our transportation network, for many decades to come will be a mix of fuels. But on a basic cost comparative basis and considering the reality of daily driving needs for the average commuter, electric is the easier and less expensive option – plus, its amazingly convenient to leave your home each morning with a fully charged car rather than having to hoof it over to the local hydrogen station.