The first hydrogen fueling stations could arrive at Texas truck stops within five years.
A $70 million grant to the North Texas planning agency from the federal government’s alternative transportation infrastructure program will build the stations at existing truck stops within the Texas Triangle bounded by I-10, I-35 and I-45. Right now, hydrogen-powered trucks can only operate in California and a few East Coast areas where hydrogen fuel is available.
The new funding is part of a $623 billion package announced earlier this month. The North Central Texas Council of Governments, which includes Dallas-Fort Worth, won the hydrogen project in a competitive bidding process, along with an additional grant of $15 million to build electric vehicle charging stations in the 16-county NCTCG region.
“I would characterize it as a transformative award, a transformative project, because there is no hydrogen fueling infrastructure for heavy trucks in the state of Texas right now,” said Lori Clark, senior program manager of clean fleet and energy programs for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “So this is going to enable us to jumpstart a network,”
The planning agency will partner with private companies to install up to five hydrogen fuel stations at existing truck stops on the three major highways that form the Texas Triangle. Those partners will fund at least twenty percent of the cost of the projects, and the planning agency will hold public meetings in communities where stations are set to be installed.
For truckers, fueling up with hydrogen will feel familiar. Clark says it takes around five minutes to fill a truck with hydrogen – it’s not unlike a trip to the gas pump, and a lot more convenient than the time-consuming process of charging an electric vehicle. She says hydrogen offers the same kinds of clean-air benefits that battery-powered vehicles do.
“For the Dallas-Fort Worth area, heavy duty diesel trucks that transport freight are five percent of all of the miles traveled, but 40 percent of the ozone-forming pollution that comes from transportation,” Clark said.
Hydrogen fueling provides greater range for large trucks than electric options do. While electric trucks and other commercial vehicles excel at traveling short distances, within range of charging infrastructure, Clark says heavy trucks need a longer-distance solution like hydrogen, which also doesn’t add the weight of heavy battery packs to a trucker’s load.
But electric charging remains part of the equation for other vehicles. The second grant made to the North Central Texas Council of Governments provides $15 million to fund up to 100 new electric vehicle charging ports in communities Clark calls “charging deserts” – smaller communities and rural areas where private operators have not yet built electric charging stations.
Both awards, plus a $15 million grant to the City of El Paso to build EV chargers in publicly accessible locations, come from the 2021 federal infrastructure law’s competitive grant program for alternative transportation infrastructure. It’s a different pot of federal money from the $5.5 billion National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, or NEVI, which funds EV charging stations on major highway corridors.
The new fueling stations aren’t the only hydrogen-related initiative coming to. The U.S. Department of Energy announced last year that the Hy Velocity Hub, a hydrogen research and development collaborative, will bring together government and private sector organizations to build massive hydrogen infrastructure along the Gulf Coast.