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California's 2023 SB 643 Staff Report Sheds Light on the Future of Hydrogen in Transportation

The United States Hydrogen Alliance sponsored and passed California Senate Bill 643 in 2021 (known at the time as the Western States Hydrogen Alliance). SB 643 is one of our organization's two bills currently in the regulatory phase. The State of California has released its comprehensive 2023 SB 643 Staff Report, offering a deep dive into the potential of medium- and heavy-duty fuel cell electric vehicles to revolutionize the state's transportation landscape.

In line with the state's ambitious decarbonization goals set out in Executive Order N-79-20, the report underscores the pivotal role of hydrogen as a clean energy source. It emphasizes the state's early and ongoing commitment to fostering public-private partnerships, which have been instrumental in advancing hydrogen fuel cell products and infrastructure.

A highlight of the report is its presentation of various scenarios for future hydrogen demand. By 2035, depending on the scenario, California could require anywhere from 117 to 2,157 hydrogen refueling stations. Such projections underscore the state's commitment to a hydrogen-powered future, even as they highlight the challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead.

The report also delves into the potential of hydrogen in supporting grid reliability through utility-scale electricity generation, long-duration energy storage, and microgrids. Projects like San Diego Gas & Electric's Power-to-Gas-to-Power initiative exemplify the innovative ways in which hydrogen can be incorporated into the electric grid, offering both storage and generation solutions.

Furthermore, the success of transit agencies in integrating fuel cell electric buses into their fleets is prominently featured. Ballard Power Systems currently has 115 fuel cell electric buses in service in California, 40 on order, and 117 with funding secured but not yet ordered. These buses not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also serve as a testament to the viability and efficiency of hydrogen technology in real-world transportation scenarios.

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